The Canadian government has made several comprehensive amendments to the Citizenship Act, the first major reforms to the Act since 1977.
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander announced that the reforms “ensure new citizens are better prepared for full participation in Canada’s economy and Canadian society.” Calling it “a win for newcomers,” Alexander also declared the amendments “a win for Canada in terms of making the most of the opportunities that our fair and generous immigration system provides.”
These have been put in place since June 11th of this year and include the following:
- To ensure strong attachment to the country, adult applicants must now be physically present in Canada for at least 1,460 days (or four years) during the six year period before the date of their application, and must be physically present in Canada for at least 183 days in each of four calendar years within the qualifying period.
- Applicants between the ages of 14 and 64 must meet basic knowledge of Canada and English or French language requirements.
- Citizenship will be automatically extended to additional “Lost Canadians” on June 11th, who were born before 1947 but did not become citizens on January 1, 1947 when the Canadian Citizenship Act first came into effect. This also applies to children born in the first generation outside Canada.
- In order to be eligible for citizenship, adult applicants must declare their intent to reside in Canada once they become citizens and meet their personal income tax obligations.
- Stronger penalties for fraud and misrepresentation — including a maximum fine of $100,000 and/or up to five years in prison — have also been introduced. This is aimed at deterring unscrupulous applicants who are prepared to misrepresent themselves or advise others to do so.
- The newly-designated Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) is the regulatory body for citizenship consultants. Only members of the ICCRC, lawyers or notaries (including paralegals and students at law) can be paid to provide citizenship applicants with representation or advice.
The government expects these citizenship reforms will deter those who become Canadian citizens to access taxpayer-funded benefits without contributing to the economy or having any attachment to Canada. Minister Alexander continued, saying the government is “eliminating long backlogs, and streamlining our own processes. At the same time, we are ensuring Canadian citizenship is highly valued and stays that way — Promise made, promise kept when it comes to strengthening the value of Canadian citizenship.”
This article is for general information only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Canadian immigration laws change frequently; please contact us to discuss your specific circumstances. We have been assisting our clients for more than 25 years in achieving their immigration goals.