Bill C-6, an act amending Canada’s Citizenship Act, has finally received Royal Assent and is now law, benefiting many thousands of immigrants to Canada and their families. Under the new legislation, permanent residents of Canada may apply for citizenship sooner than previously.
However, it should be noted that some of the measures contained in the legislation will not come into force until later this year or early 2018, while some measures came into force immediately.
Changes that take effect immediately (June 19, 2017)
Outlined below are the changes that came into effect on June 19.
Previous act: Citizenship could be revoked from dual citizens convicted of treason, spying and terrorism offences, depending on the sentence received, or who were a part of an armed force of a country or organized group engaged in conflict with Canada.
New act: This provision is repealed. Dual citizens living in Canada who are convicted of these crimes will face the Canadian justice system, like other Canadian citizens who break the law.
Previous act: Applicants were required to intend to continue to live in Canada if granted citizenship.
New act: This provision is repealed. Applicants are no longer required to intend to continue to live in Canada once granted citizenship. This provides more flexibility to Canadians who may need to live outside of Canada for work or personal reasons.
Previous act: The Minister had the discretion to waive certain requirements under subsection 5(1) of the Citizenship Act so a minor could obtain citizenship without a Canadian parent.
New act: Minors can now apply for citizenship without a Canadian parent, as the age requirement for citizenship has been removed under subsection 5(1). A person having custody of the minor or empowered to act on their behalf by court order, written agreement or operation of law, can now apply for citizenship on behalf of the minor, unless that requirement is waived by the Minister.
Previous act: No provision existed to prevent individuals serving a sentence in the community (a conditional sentence order) from being granted citizenship, taking the Oath of Citizenship or counting this time towards meeting the physical presence requirements for citizenship.
New act: Individuals serving a conditional sentence will not be granted citizenship, take the Oath of Citizenship, or be able to count this time towards meeting the physical presence requirements for citizenship.
Previous act: The Minister has the discretion to grant citizenship to a person to alleviate cases of special and unusual hardship, or to reward services of an exceptional value to Canada.
New act: Statelessness has been added as a stand-alone ground that can be considered for a discretionary grant of citizenship.
Previous act: The Department has reasonable measures to accommodate the needs of citizenship applicants. However, there was no explicit reference to accommodate persons with disabilities in the Citizenship Act.
New act: The requirement to take into consideration reasonable measures to accommodate the needs of a citizenship applicant who is a disabled person is now included in the Citizenship Act.
Previous act: The requirement for applicants to maintain the requirements for citizenship from the time they apply for citizenship until taking the Oath of Citizenship only applied to applications received on or after June 11, 2015.
New act: This requirement now also applies to all applications, including those received before June 11, 2015.
Changes expected to take effect in fall/autumn 2017
Outlined below are measures contained in the new act that the government expects to take effect in fall/autumn 2017.
Previous act: Applicants had to be physically present in Canada for four out of six years before applying for citizenship.
New act: Applicants must be physically present in Canada for three out of five years before applying for citizenship.
Previous act: Applicants had to file Canadian income taxes, if required to do so under the Income Tax Act, for four out of six years, matching the physical presence requirement.
New act: Applicants must file Canadian income taxes, if required to do so under the Income Tax Act, for three out of five years, matching the new physical presence requirement.
Previous act: Applicants had to be physically present in Canada for 183 days in four out of the six years preceding their application.
New act: This provision is repealed. Applicants no longer have to meet this requirement.
Previous act: Time spent in Canada prior to becoming a permanent resident did not count towards the physical presence requirement for citizenship.
New act: Applicants may count each day they were physically present in Canada as a temporary resident or protected person before becoming a permanent resident as a half-day toward meeting the physical presence requirement for citizenship, up to a maximum credit of 365 days.
Previous act: Applicants between 14 and 64 years had to meet the language and knowledge requirements for citizenship.
New act: Applicants between 18 and 54 years must meet the language and knowledge requirements for citizenship.
Changes expected to take effect in early 2018
Outlined below are measures contained in the new act that the government expects to take effect in early 2018.
Previous act: The Minister was the decision-maker for most cases of citizenship revocation on the grounds of false representation, fraud, or knowingly concealing material circumstances. The Federal Court was the decision-maker for citizenship revocation cases involving false representation, fraud, or knowingly concealing material circumstances related to security, human or international right violations, and organized criminality.
New act: The Federal Court is the decision-maker in all revocation cases, unless the individual requests that the Minister make the decision.
Previous act: There was no clear authority for Citizenship Officers to seize fraudulent or suspected fraudulent documents provided under the Citizenship Act.
New act: Clear authority for Citizenship Officers to seize fraudulent or suspected fraudulent documents is provided under the Citizenship Act.
Upon passage of the new citizenship legislation, Canada’s Minister of Immigration tweeted that ‘Two-tiered citizenship has no place in Canada. Bill C-6 has passed, ensuring that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.’
The latter portion of this tweet had previously served as a mantra for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the 2015 federal election campaign, during which he famously issued the ‘Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian’ retort to then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper during a live television debate. Harper’s Conservative government had introduced Bill C-24, Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, in 2014; this legislation was widely perceived as having created the two-tiered citizenship referred to by the current Minister of Immigration in his tweet.
“Canada’s identity has always been shaped by the significant economic, cultural and social contributions of immigrants. Changes to the Citizenship Act will enhance program integrity, while giving more flexibility to eligible applicants to meet the requirements for citizenship so that they can continue building successful lives in Canada,” added Mr Hussen.
With C-6 now law, and some of its measures now in effect readers can find out if they are eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship under the new law using the CanadaVisa Citizenship Calculator. Please note that this calculator evaluates eligibility assuming that all measures of the law that are expected to come into force, notably the reduction in the number of residency days required by an applicant, do indeed come into force in the near future.
To find out more about applying for Canadian citizenship in light of the proposed changes to the Citizenship Act, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include information about your time as a Canadian permanent resident, as well as any information about previous time spent in Canada with temporary status.
To find out if you are eligible to immigrate to Canada through one of the currently available programs, please fill out a free online assessment today.
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