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Canadian Citizenship Applicants Face Long Delays, Reforms Underway

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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:

  1. Be 18 years or older
    • The parent(s) or legal guardian(s) of a child may apply for citizenship on their behalf
  2. Must have permanent resident status in Canada
    • This status must not be ‘in doubt’, meaning no immigration investigations should be pending
  3. Must live in Canada for 3 of the last 4 years
  4. Must have knowledge of English or French
    • Proof of proficiency must be provided
  5. Must pass a citizenship test
  6. Cannot be prohibited from obtaining citizenship due to criminal activity

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.

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21 thoughts on “Canadian Citizenship Applicants Face Long Delays, Reforms Underway

  1. Hossein Fadaei

    Working as a highly qualified personnel (HQP), I have been doing research for Canadian oil and gas industry for more than 3 years now.
    My PR application, based on CIC processing time (20 month), has been delayed for more than 4 months (24 months total). However, when I initially submitted the application (Jan.2012) the processing time was 8 months! The only response I get from CIC is “we are processing it and please reduce your correspondence to minimum!”.
    I do not believe this is a right way to treat immigrants. Respect is the first step!!

  2. Mohammad

    All permanent residents must protest to decrease Citizenship application process. It is not fair to delay people for years waiting for Citizenship. In total it takes now from 8-10 years to get Canadian Citizenship from the date someone apply for Canadian Immigration. That is so unjust.

  3. Justyna

    Getting my USA born daughters the Canadian citizenship that under C-14 that they are ENTITLED to. It is their RIGHT, as I am Canadian and they are my daughters. Still waiting after a year and a half. Ridiculous! Canada Citizenship, hire more people!
    I agree with previous post, something needs to be done!

  4. Elanie

    My hysband and I are in the beginning stage of immigration to canada, he is applying under the federal skilled trades programme and I would like to know if I his fiance MUST also do the english language test?
    based on the stories here it seems the delay in immigrating is much longer then what it should be, would it be faster if we applied on a temporary visa, we want the paper work to be sorted as quick as possible as we live in South Africa and its really, really dangerous for us to live here now and want to leave the country as soon as possible

  5. Sue

    I have been living in Canada for the past 7 years. I sponsored my husband and he joined me 1.5 years after I permanently moved to Canada. I applied for citizenship in 2010. Long story short, my husband is a Canadian citizen now but I am still waiting for my citizenship judge hearing!
    This is so frustrating for me or anyone who has the same situation. I don’t think it would take 4-5 years to figure out if someone is cheating or not.
    Something needs to be done!

  6. Matthew Paul

    I don’t know why it takes so long to grant some one citizenship, so many people work hard to build our country ! I think the Government should hire more people to process those applications. Maximum waiting time should be 10 months.

  7. Bob

    The requirements for proof of language proficiency are very sketchy. Many applications have been sent back to applicants despite them sending all the correct documents. It is impossible to get any answers as to why.

  8. Rodney Spiteri

    I was born in Canada but when I was eighteen I change my citizenship because I could not find work in Malta, and at the time did not think of going back to Canada, but now I have a family and we want to migrate to Canada, is possible that I migrate with my family to Canada and live till the processing of my paper work is done.

    In the mean time will my kids be able to go to school and would my wife and I be able to work in the mean time?

  9. Alex

    I don’t find a logic in what they are saying that they will invest 44 million dollars in the coming two years, but they are closing processing offices and lowering citizenthship employees.
    Also the processing time is getting worst no because of the number of applicants, it is because of the bad management.
    They left my application one year to open it and give me the status of “They are processing my application ” so now its been another 7 months in processing, if we call the citizenship we cannot have any answer and no body can tell tell whats happening. If find this treatment is not acceptable. In australia it takes 6 months to be granted for citizenship. They always compare Canada as a first wold country but if we look at the rest of the system i would say thirld world country with this kind of treatment . We should let them hear us , i lost many employment opportunities because the priority of Canadians and i think they should give it to us in few months of processing not in few years we already spent 4 years to get the residency, and another 3 years of residency and now two years waiting for citizenship. Canada is an immigration country so they have to enhance the system to fix our problems because we became tax payers as any citzen and we became good citizens.

  10. constantin

    I like canada

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