What are my options if my citizenship application is refused?

Vimal Sivakumar
Published: February 27, 2024

Applicants for Canadian citizenship can either reapply or request a judicial review from the Federal Court of Canada if their citizenship application is refused by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

In 2023, over “354,000 people became Canadian citizens in more than 3,000 citizenship ceremonies [conducted] across the country.” This is according to data released by IRCC.

Although this number represents a small downturn from 2022 – a year in which slightly more than 375,000 foreign nationals became Canadian citizens – the number of people transitioning to Canadian citizenship has notably surged over the last four years.

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In fact, in 2019, this figure was just 254,513, meaning that the number of new Canadian citizens in 2023 was roughly 39% higher than four years before then.

More: Click here for more on the number of new Canadian citizens in 2023, including what IRCC is doing to reduce its backlog of citizenship applications and additional information on pathways from permanent residence to citizenship in Canada.

Despite the growing number of foreign nationals transitioning to Canadian citizenship in recent years, it is still possible for many applicants to have their citizenship applications refused by IRCC. If this happens, applicants have two options:

Option 1: Reapply for Canadian citizenship

Having a Canadian citizenship application refused by IRCC does not prevent applicants from reapplying should they want to do so. In other words, applicants may immediately reapply for Canadian citizenship if they choose, as there is no waiting period imposed by the federal government.

IRCC clarifies that new citizenship applications must include payment of a new application fee alongside “all required forms and documents.” In addition, Canada’s immigration department cautions applicants to “make sure [they] meet the requirements for Canadian citizenship before [they] reapply.”

Visit this dedicated webpage for more information on applying for Canadian citizenship, including everything from eligibility requirements to the rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizens.

Option 2: Request a Judicial Review

The other option available to applicants is pursuing a judicial review of the decision from the Federal Court of Canada. Refused citizenship applicants have 30 days “from the date [indicated] on the refusal letter to apply” for a judicial review.

Note: IRCC clarifies that pursuing a judicial review “is not an appeal of the decision.”

Getting a judicial review on a citizenship application refusal is a two-step process that begins with applying for leave.

IRCC notes that “leave”, in this context, means “permission” to have a matter heard by the Court at an oral hearing.

To succeed in this first stage, according to IRCC, “the applicant must satisfy the Court that the application [for their judicial review] raises” either “a serious issue [or] an arguable issue upon which the application might succeed.”

At this time, one of two things will generally occur. Either the Federal Court judge will deny the application for leave, or the judge will grant “leave to commence an application for judicial review.”

In the first scenario, where the application for leave is denied, IRCC notes that the applicant will have their application dismissed. The application thus “proceeds no further because there is no right to appeal the Court’s leave decision.”

On the other hand, when leave is granted by a Federal Court judge, “the Court [then sets] a hearing date [as well as certain relevant] timeframes” pertaining to the case. Examples of things that the Court will set a timeline for include dates by which the parties must file their respective arguments and conduct cross-examinations.

Schedule a Free Canadian Citizenship Consultation with the Cohen Immigration Law Firm

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