Reforms to the Citizenship Act became law on June 19, 2014. The new law makes major changes to the requirements to obtain Canadian citizen, and also makes it easier for the government to take away citizenship. The new rules are basically as follows.
To qualify for citizenship as a permanent resident:
- To qualify for citizenship, a permanent resident must have been “physically present” in Canada for at least 1,460 days (four years) in the past 6 years prior to applying,
- In the 6 years prior to applying, the permanent resident must have been physically present in Canada for at least 183 days (6 months) for at least 4 of those years,
- In the 6 years prior to applying, the permanent resident must have filed an income tax return for at least 4 years,
- A permanent resident applying for citizenship must show an intention to reside in Canada once granted citizenship, unless they will work for the government outside of Canada,
- A permanent resident applying for citizenship who is under the age of 65 or over the age of 13 must show an adequate knowledge of one of the official languages of Canada,
- A permanent resident applying for citizenship who is under the age of 65 or over the age of 13 must show an adequate knowledge of Canada,
New Powers of the Minister of Citizenship:
- The Minister may consider humanitarian and compassionate grounds in the particular circumstances of each case and may waive the language and knowledge of Canada requirements,
- The Minister may in his discretion grant citizenship to any person to alleviate cases of special and unusual hardship or to reward services of an exceptional value to Canada,
- The Minister may revoke a person’s citizenship if the Minister is satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that it was obtained by fraud, or that the person’s permanent residence was obtained by fraud,
- The Minister may revoke a person’s citizenship if the person is convicted of treason, a terrorism offence, being a traitor, spying, or other security-related offences,
- The Minister may revoke a person’s citizenship if they served as a member of an armed forces or armed group that was engaged in an armed conflict with Canada,
- The Minister may not revoke citizenship if it would render the person stateless – i.e., revocation only applies to dual citizens
- The right to appeal to the Federal Court of rejected citizenship applications is restricted to an application for judicial review, and leave of the Court is first required,
- Court applications must be made within 30 days of notification of the decision,
- No further appeal may be made from the Court’s decision unless the Court certifies a serious question of general importance.
This is a basic review of the major changes to the Citizenship Act. Other changes, such as expedited processing for members of the Armed Forces, and other benefits for those in the government, have not been described since they will only apply to a tiny minority of applicants. It should be noted that some of the new provisions are currently subject to legal challenge as being unconstitutional, which if successful would result in those changes being struck down as illegal.