Canada’s Armed Forces is now allowing permanent residents to join the military

Edana Robitaille
Updated: Aug, 21, 2023
  • Published: November 11, 2022

Last week, Canada’s armed forces created an Instagram post announcing that permanent residents will soon be eligible to join Canada’s Armed Forces (CAF). The post came week before Remembrance Day, which is today.

Each November 11, Canadians gather to remember the contributions and sacrifices made by members of the armed forces. The tradition began at the end of World War One in 1918 and marks the moment when the war officially ended, at 11 a.m.

Canadians often attend ceremonies at local cenotaphs to commemorate and remember those who served. Others simply take two minutes at 11 a.m. to stop whatever they are doing and reflect in silence.

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CAF is looking for more force members

The Department of National Defence (DND) is expected to make a formal announcement in the coming days regarding the change to the policy. Until now, permanent residents were not allowed in the CAF due to issues surrounding security clearances. However, the CAF is facing an urgent shortage of recruits.

CIC News emailed DND for more information on the change but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Why are permanent residents now allowed to join the army?

The news comes as a major change in recruitment policy. In March, defence minister Anita Anand said that Canada’s military needs to grow, particularly considering the Russian invasion in Ukraine. However, at the end of April this year the CAF said it was not yet ready to waive the citizenship requirement.

At the same time, the Toronto Star reported that Canada is about 12,000 regular force troops short of it’s “full strength” of 100,000 regular force members.

Canada expects 500,000 new permanent residents by 2025

The change comes as Canada has released the Immigration Levels Plan for 2023-2025. The plan is targeting 500,000 new permanent residents in Canada per year by the end of 2025. This may drastically widen the pool of candidates the military has to choose from.

According to census 2021, nearly a quarter of Canadians are or have been landed immigrants or permanent residents. Immigrants are also prime candidates for the military as they typically arrive in Canada during their younger working-age years where they are likely to be more physically active.

Opening recruitment to permanent residents will also change the demographic makeup of the military, which is presently has less than 12% visible minorities and 16% women. The remaining three-quarters are white males.

Skilled Military Foreign Applicant program

Currently the only way for permanent residents to join the armed forces is through the Skilled Military Foreign Applicant (SMFA) program. The program is designed for individuals with a unique skill set that would reduce the cost of training or fill a special need within the CAF, such as a trained pilot or a doctor.

The program does not expedite the application process for permanent residence. Candidates through the program receive a waiver of citizenship from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that allows them to join the military. Since the program started, only 15 applicants have gained permanent residency through this pathway.

Current criteria

Right now, candidates must be citizens of Canada, over 18 years old (or 16, providing they have parental consent), and have a grade 10 or grade 12 education depending on if they plan to enlist as an officer. This will also apply to permanent residents.

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