According to recent statistics, individuals who are eligible for Canadian citizenship today may not become citizens in time to vote in the 2015 federal election. Delays in application processing, which range from 21 to 29 months, have left over 24,000 individuals waiting to take the final step in their journey to becoming Canadian.
Since 2006, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) says that an increase in Canadian permanent residents has led to a 30% increase in demand for Canadian citizenship. Without sufficient resources to process this growing demand, significant backlogs have formed. While the government is taking steps to ensure that processing times are reduced, change has been slow for those already waiting in the queue.
In order to be eligible for Canadian citizenship, Canadian permanent residents must meet the following requirements:
- Be 18 years or older
- The parent(s) or legal guardian(s) of a child may apply for citizenship on their behalf
- This status must not be ‘in doubt’, meaning no immigration investigations should be pending
- Proof of proficiency must be provided
Addressing the Backlog
To address the backlog of citizenship applications, the Government of Canada announced in its 2013 Economic Action Plan that it is setting aside $44 million over the next two years to improve citizenship processing. The Immigration Minister has also appointed 8 new citizenship judges, which will help speed up the wait time for applicants whose cases must be determined by a citizenship hearing.
“The government of Canada remains committed to maintaining Canada’s tradition of high numbers of permanent residents taking up full citizenship,” said Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. “We know that newcomers look forward to acquiring their Canadian citizenship and we are committed o helping qualified applicants acquire this privilege in a timely manner.”
To further cut down on backlogs, the government has dramatically scaled up citizenship fraud investigations. As of September, around 11,000 individuals were being investigated to determine whether they were lying to obtain citizenship or maintain permanent resident status. A further 3,100 are in the process of having their citizenship revoked and 5,000 have been flagged for further inspection.
New Rules for Applicants
In addition to eliminating the backlog, CIC has instituted some new rules for applicants. Most recently, on June 3rd 2013, it announced that individuals who fail the citizenship test would be given a second chance to pass. Previously, test takers who failed this step were required to wait months until a citizenship judge ruled as to whether or not they could become citizens.
Another rule change was instituted in September 2012. Since that time, applicants are now required to submit proof of language proficiency. While proficiency in one (or both) of Canada’s official languages has always been required, in the past it was assessed subjectively by officers and by an applicant’s score on the citizenship test.
“After spending so much time re-working Canadian permanent residency programs, a serious look at the citizenship application process was long overdue,” said Attorney David Cohen. “For many Canadian newcomers, the ultimate goal of immigration is securing citizenship for themselves and their families. At the end of the day, speeding up this process will help families achieve their goals faster, and give more Canadians a say in their country by being allowed to vote and fully participate in civil life.”
To learn more about Canadian citizenship, please click here.