Changes May be Coming in Canadian Citizenship Processes

Study finds that improvements can be made to Canada’s citizenship process as IRCC makes recommendations for simplifying the process and making it more accessible to applicants from all socio-economic backgrounds. This is especially significant as Canada ramps up its immigration efforts for 2021. 

Canada has some of the best immigration programs and processes around the world. However, no system is perfect and a recent department led self-evaluation demonstrated there is room for improvement.

The self-evaluation was conducted as part of Treasury Board’s review of funding for various federal departments and it looked at the years 2013 to 2018.

50% of the 2.8 million permanent residents who entered Canada between 2005 and 2015 become citizens by December 31 2018. Most permanent residents eventually get their Canadian citizenship, however, the percentage varies for different populations.

Source: Statista – Naturalized Citizens

Current Citizenship Process

Under the current citizenship process, before a permanent resident can apply for their citizenship, they must have:

  • Lived in Canada for at least three years out of the last five years (1095 days);
  • Filed income taxes;
  • Meet the language requirements;
  • Have no criminal charges.

In order to get citizenship, applicants will need to pass the citizenship test and an interview (if applicable).

IRCC’s Recommendations:

The findings were published in a report November 2020 and outlined recommendations from IRCC for improving the Canadian Citizenship program. Let’s take a quick look at what they are.

Cost of Becoming a Canadian Citizen

When a Permanent Resident wants to become a citizen, the application fee did not prove to be a barrier or hinder the process for the majority of the people. However, the report found that Refugees and lower income families struggled with the cost of becoming a citizenship resulting in them delaying the process.

The set application fees are rather steep at $630 for an adult and $100 for minors who are under 18.

IRCC stated they will be considering ways in which to make the application costs more equitable and affordable for less advantaged individuals. In that same vein of thought, one of the election promises made by the Liberals in 2019 was a promise to get rid of citizenship fees entirely. Between Trudeau’s promise and IRCC’s commitment, no doubt, something will be done to reduce the costs.

Knowledge and Language Exemptions

One of the requirements to become a Citizen is to demonstrate language and knowledge. Many low income individuals and families or people who are less educated or proficient, may have difficulties meeting this requirement.

There have been cases where the requirement has been waived on grounds of compassion but there are no set or defined parameters for waving it. And it something applicants have to request. Sometimes they don’t know they can do that. The process can be very complex and hard to navigate, especially if an individual is already struggling with things like language.

IRCC is recommending more transparency around this.

Language Verification Process

The language verification process can be very subjective and vary case by case since the officers conducting the tests are not formal assessors and the range for a ‘pass’ mark is very broad. As a result the verification process isn’t always accurate when it comes to evaluating an applicant’s language skills.

IRCC is recommending the creation of a strategy which will equip officers to validate language evidence and provide them with better support.

Knowledge Requirement – New Approach

A glaring inconsistency can be found in the knowledge test which has a higher language requirement than even the verbal language test! So someone may easily pass the language test but fail the knowledge test. This is something IRCC was already looking at revising.

IRCC is recommending that the knowledge requirement should be revised and a new approach should be implemented. Some suggestions include maybe revising the study guide or providing tools to applicants and improving the accessibility of the information.

Active Engagement in Canadian Communities

More often than not, when someone decides to become a citizen, they do so to become part of a bigger community, to have a sense of belonging. In fact, studies have shown that immigrants who have faith in Canadian institutions, who have strong community ties and social connections tend to have an easier time integrating into Canadian society. It is clear that the people who feel the most connected to the country have a greater desire to become a part of the country.

Although community engagement is a significant objective of the citizenship program, there are very few activities or mechanisms in place to help permanent residents become actively engaged with the community or foster these connections. Most of the citizenship promotion activities organized by IRCC are geared towards newcomers only.

IRCC recommends reviewing the objectives, activities and mechanisms currently in place and develop a plan which will better support the achievement of the expected outcomes.

There can be no doubt that becoming a Canadian Citizen is a dream come true for thousands of people around the world. As Canada pushes a very ambitious Immigration Plan for 2021, it is with the hope that all these newcomers will one day become Canadian citizens. With these recommendations and changes in place, it will become easier than ever to gain citizenship.

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