January 22, 2015

Citizenship Act Changes – Time to Move Quickly!

Posted by admin - Bellissimo Law Group PC

On 19 June 2014 the Government of Canada passed changes to the Citizenship Act. The changes introduced in June are to come into force as and when the Governor in Council directs.

One of the changes that will affect all future citizen applicants in Canada are the new rules regarding the residency requirements. These changes include the following:

  1. From 3 of 4 years of “residency” in Canada, to 4 of 6 years of “physical presence” in Canada;
  2. From Citizenship Judges exercising discretion on the meaning of residence, to citizenship officers examining evidence to establish a strict counting of days to establish that the applicant is physically present in Canada;
  3. Now applicants will have to be physically present in Canada for at least half (183 days) of the 4 of 6 years used to calculate physical presence;
  4. Now applicants will have had to file income taxes with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for the 4 of 6 years used to calculate physical presence; and
  5. From the 4-year period before application being under the only period of time under consideration, to applicants having to demonstrate that they “intend” to continue residing in Canada even after the application for citizenship is submitted.

There is a clear shift away from a citizenship system which was criticised for being too discretionary, where a positive or negative decision could depend on the Citizenship Judge assigned to review the file. The old, potentially arbitrary, system will be replaced with greater certainty and consistency in decision making. This is expected to speed-up processing, which is appealing to most applicants. However, this new system does allow for assessment over a longer period of time, meant to demonstrate the applicant’s ongoing intention to make Canada home.

For permanent residents who have – or are about to have – 3 years of residence in Canada, now is the time to apply for citizenship. The changes to the Citizenship Act have not yet been implemented. Applications filed before the changes are implemented are expected to be processed under the old rules: 3 of 4 years of residence. While it is unclear when the changes will be will come into force (the running prediction is Canada Day, July 1st), moving quickly is the best way to ensure one’s application is processed under the old rules.

For more information on filing an application for Canadian citizenship, please click here.