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Canada Eases Citizenship Criteria

The Government of Canada has confirmed that Bill C-6, an Act to amend the Citizenship Act and make consequential amendments to another Act, has received Royal Assent on June 19, 2017, resulting in significant changes to the Citizenship Act. These include a number of changes to the physical presence requirement for applying for citizenship, the requirement to file Canadian income tax, the intent to live in Canada once granted citizenship, as well as a reduction in the age range in which applicants must meet the language and knowledge requirement to be granted Canadian citizenship.

Many important changes to the Citizenship Act are effective as of June 19, 2017, including the following:

  • Citizenship applicants are no longer required to intend to continue to live in Canada once they are granted citizenship.
  • All citizenship applicants (even for applications received prior to June 11, 2015) must maintain the requirements for citizenship from the time of their application until they take their Oath of Citizenship.
  • The age requirement for citizenship is removed under section 5(1). Minors are now able to apply for citizenship without a Canadian parent, with select individuals able to apply on their behalf.
  • The government has repealed the provision of the Citizenship Act allowing for citizenship to be revoked from dual citizens living in Canada convicted of treason, spying and terrorism offences, or who were part of an armed force of a country or organized group engaged in conflict with Canada.
  • Individuals will no longer be granted citizenship or take the Oath of Citizenship while serving a conditional sentence. Moreover, they can no longer count their time served towards meeting the physical presence requirement for citizenship.
  • Statelessness is now a stand-alone ground for application for a discretionary grant of citizenship.
  • The Citizenship Act now requires that reasonable measures be considered to accommodate the needs of a citizenship applicant who is a disabled person.

Further significant chances are expected to take effect in the fall of 2017:

  • The requirement to be physically present in Canada prior to applying for citizenship will be reduced to three out of five years from the current requirement of four out of six years.
  • Applicants will no longer have to be physically present in Canada for 183 days during four out of the six years preceding their application, as this provision will be repealed.
  • Applicants will be able to count each day they were physically present in Canada as temporary residents (for example as students or work permit holders) or protected persons before becoming permanent residents as half-days towards meeting their physical presence requirement for citizenship, up to a maximum 365-day credit.
  • The requirement to file Canadian Income taxes, if required under the Income Tax Act, will be reduced to three out of five years from the current requirement of four out of six years prior to applying for citizenship.
  • The age range in which applicants must meet the language and knowledge requirement to be granted Canadian citizenship will be reduced from ages 14 to 64 to between ages 18 and 54.

In early 2018, the following changes are expected to take effect:

  • The Federal Court will become the decision-maker for all citizenship revocation cases, including in types of cases previously under the Minister’s authority, unless the individual requests the Minister make the decision.
  • Citizenship Officers will have authority under the Citizenship Act to seize fraudulent or suspected fraudulent documents.

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