Newcomers to Canada who were about to officially become Canadian citizens and whose ceremonies have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic may soon be able to take the oath of citizenship virtually.
In a statement sent to CBC News, Canada’s federal government said it will start “to implement virtual citizenship ceremonies […] as quickly as possible.”
The first online ceremonies will be available to those who “have a pressing need for Canadian citizenship” as well as those who had previously been scheduled to take the oath in person and whose events were cancelled due to special measures that were implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) temporarily cancelled all citizenship ceremonies and tests more than two months ago as part of a myriad of special measures introduced in response to the global pandemic. At that time, the government stated that these events would be rescheduled “in the near future” and did not provide a date for their reoccurrence. It also stated that those affected by the cancellations would be given a new date and time in the coming weeks.
This announcement by IRCC is yet another positive development for prospective immigrants as well those already in Canada and whose lives have been in limbo since mid-March.
IRCC said in the statement the virtual citizenship events would be designed to “protect the integrity of the legal process and reflect the importance of the occasion” and would soon be scheduled. No further details have been made public yet and no timetable has been set.
A person usually takes the solemn oath before a judge or citizenship official, often in the company of other immigrants who also become Canadian citizens. Taking the oath of citizenship is the final legal requirement for applicants over the age of 14 who wish to become Canadian citizens.
Becoming a citizen is a life-changing event for immigrants to Canada. It marks the end of their journey as newcomers and the beginning of their journey as Canadians with the same rights as Canadian-born citizens. These rights include being able to vote, run for office, to get preferential treatment when applying for public service jobs, the right to travel on a Canadian passport, among others.
To become Canadian citizens—a process called “naturalization,”—newcomers must first become permanent residents in Canada. A permanent resident of Canada can apply for citizenship after being physically present in the country for at least three years in the last five years and completing Canadian income tax returns. Those who wish to become Canadian citizens must also pass a test on their rights and responsibilities and prove that they speak and write in one of Canada’s official languages.
An application fee of $530 and a “Right of Citizenship Fee” of $100 are also required as part of the application process.
However, the Liberal Party of Canada—currently in power—has promised to ensure that permanent residents can apply for Canadian citizenship free of charge.
The promise by the Liberal government to waive citizenship fees is one of many recent policy shifts that could improve naturalization rates even further over the coming years.
Citizenship acquisition is high in Canada—some 85 per cent of immigrants become Canadians.