June 2015 – Resulting from measures passed by Parliament last year, a series of heavily anticipated changes to the Canadian Act has taken effect this month. The reforms stem from Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act passed in 2014.
According to an official statement from the federal government, the new reforms “will deter citizens of convenience—those who become citizens for the sake of having a Canadian passport to return to Canada to access taxpayer-funded benefits that come with citizenship status, without having any attachment to Canada, or contributing to the economy.”
The latest changes, effective June 11, include the following:
- Adult applicants must physically reside in Canada at least four years (1,460 days) during the six years prior to their application. Throughout the qualifying period, they must remain in the country for at least 183 days every four calendar years.
- Applicants aged 14-64 must meet basic English or French language and knowledge requirements.
- To qualify for citizenship, adult applicants must declare their intention to reside in Canada and pay income taxes.
- Fraud and misrepresentation now incur a $100,000 fine and/or a prison sentence of up to five years to deter applicants from misrepresenting themselves or advising others to do so.
- In addition to lawyers and notaries (including paralegals and law students), only members of the new Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) can be paid to represent or advise citizenship applicants.
On June 11, 2015, CIC updated the application forms on their website to accord with the new eligibility regulations. Any applications submitted on the old forms will hereafter be returned.
Detractors have challenged Bill C-24 as an unconstitutional legislation redefining Canadian citizenship as a privilege that the government can revoke. In their view, the new reforms reduce certain groups of immigrants and Canadian-born citizens who hold dual citizenship to second-class citizens. Actions to oppose the bill have not succeeded, such as Toronto lawyer Rocco Galati’s suit against Minister Alexander, Justice Minister Peter MacKay, and Governor General David Johnston.
Despite the controversy, Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander defends the new reforms as a positive measure for new immigrants.
“Our reforms ensure new citizens are better prepared for full participation in Canada’s economy and Canadian society. This is a win for newcomers, and a win for Canada in terms of making the most of the opportunities that our fair and generous immigration system provides.”
Alexander further stresses that the reforms will improve the efficiency of Canadian immigration.
“We are eliminating long backlogs, and streamlining our own processes. At the same time, we are ensuring Canadian citizenship is highly valued and stays that way—Promise made, promise kept when it comes to strengthening the value of Canadian citizenship.”
Another measure of the new reforms is that citizenship now extends to “Lost Canadians” who were born before 1947 and therefore did not become citizens when the first Canadian Citizenship Act took effect on January 1, 1947. Their children born in the first generation outside of Canada will also be granted citizenship.
As expected, the changes have come into effect before the current Conservative government’s electoral mandate ends in October.
For more information about Canadian citizenship, contact First Immigration Law Firm.