The Canadian citizenship oath could just be a click away
Since 1947, swearing an oath is a legal requirement to becoming a Canadian citizen. Swearing an oath is a solemn vow taken by citizenship applicants to abide by Canadian laws and fulfil their duties as citizens. Typically, new citizens must swear or affirm the oath before a citizenship judge at virtual or in person ceremonies.
These ceremonies are usually scheduled on weekdays and during work hours. The immigration department claims that many new citizens must take time off work to attend citizenship ceremonies, and this time is not necessarily paid by employers.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has announced that amendments to the Citizenship Regulations are being proposed that would provide flexibility with the citizenship oath. Starting as soon as June 2023, future Canadian citizens may be able to take the oath on their own, without the presence of a citizenship judge.
Under the proposed Regulations, the Immigration Minister would have broad discretion to allow citizens to take the oath by other means not necessarily before an authorized person. Clients would be able to take the oath via a secure online solution. This “self-administration” of the oath taking would allow citizens to sign a written attestation online without a witness present.
According to IRCC, this flexibility would improve client service. Most notably, the proposed change is an attempt to reduce application backlogs and processing times. IRCC says the change could eliminate up to three months of processing time, reducing the current citizenship processing time of 24 months to 21 months.
Current processing backlogs
Every year, thousands of individuals apply for Canadian citizenship. Increased demand and factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in application processing times well beyond the service standard of 12 months.
Nonetheless, Canada is expected to bring in half a million new permanent residents by 2025. The Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement concerning the proposed amendment provides that the citizenship application inventory is currently at 358,000. This is expected to grow with the new permanent residents and processing times will likely be affected.
This is not the first time that IRCC has used technology to help address long processing times. Other initiatives aimed at modernizing the Citizenship program have shown results in the past year. These initiatives include providing and processing citizenship applications electronically, conducting online citizenship tests, and holding virtual citizenship ceremonies.
As a result of these initiatives, IRCC is on track to process a record 300,000 new citizenship applications during the 2022-2023 fiscal year, up from 34% from the 2021-2022 fiscal year.
The public has 30 days to comment and provide feedback on the proposed regulatory change.
Citizenship eligibility criteria
In order to be eligible for Canadian citizenship, you must:
- Be a permanent resident
- File your taxes (if necessary)
- Pass a Canadian citizenship test (if you are between the ages of 18 and 54)
- Prove your language skills (if you are between the ages of 18 and 54)
- Meet Canada’s physical presence requirements
To meet Canada’s physical presence requirements, you must have lived in the country for at least three years or 1,095 days out of the past five years before applying for Canadian citizenship.
If you were living in Canada as a temporary resident or protected person before becoming a permanent resident, you can use some of that time toward your physical presence requirement. Each day spent in Canada as a temporary resident or protected person in the five years prior to your application would count as a half day, but you can only use a maximum of one year or 365 days towards the requirement.
Will IRCC waive citizenship application fees?
Shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian government announced that it would waive the fees for new Canadian citizenship applicants.
Sean Fraser, Canada’s immigration minister, outlined the fee waiver in his mandate letter. The mandate letter is an important immigration policy document that outlines the priorities the minister is expected to pursue during his time in power.
When asked in an interview with CIC News in 2022, Fraser said there is no date set for IRCC to waive citizenship application fees. The reason the date has not be determined is because the decision to waive citizenship fees does not exist within IRCC authority. Rather, the authority lies with the federal budgetary process and no decisions had been made for the next federal fiscal year.
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