March 9, 2015

Citizenship Changes: In Force or Yet to Come?

Posted by Legal Team - Bellissimo Law Group PC

There has been a tremendous amount of discussion, debate, and concern surrounding the passing of Bill C-24, (the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act), which introduces significant changes to the citizenship regime in Canada. While the Bill received royal assent and became law on 19 June 2014, a number of important amendments are not yet in force. It is extremely important for citizenship applicants to know what provisions are already operational, and which ones have yet to be introduced.

Certain provisions came into force as soon as the bill received royal assent in June 2014, including (among others) fast-tracking applications for members of the Canadian Armed Forces, implementing a First Generation limit on citizenship on individuals born abroad, and awarding the Minister the authority to decide Discretionary Grants under section 5(4) of the Citizenship Act.

On 1 August 2014, a number of other changes were implemented, such as the new decision-making process wherein citizenship officers alone decide most citizenship applications (as opposed to the three-tiered model involving a citizenship officer, then a citizenship judge, and then a citizenship officer), as well as a leave requirement to access the Federal Court of Canada. It is also important to note that new rules have also been released, called the Federal Courts Citizenship, Immigration and Refugee Protection Rules.

However, many of the most contentious provisions have not yet been rolled out. The new residency requirements, for example, will require that applicants be physically resident in Canada for four of the last six years, including 183 days in Canada for each of these four years. Importantly, time spent in Canada before obtaining permanent residence will not be counted towards citizenship. For more on this, please click here.

Language requirements will also apply to applicants aged 14-64, as opposed to 18-54 as is presently the case. This is significant, as permanent residents who struggle with Canada’s two officials languages will have to wait until age 64 to obtain citizenship without having to demonstrate proficiency in English or French. Interpreters will also not be made available during the knowledge test.

Revocation proceedings will also see significant changes, as dual citizens who were involved in armed forces or groups engaged in conflict with Canada may have their Canadian citizenship revoked. The Governor in Council will no longer be the final authority in the revocation process, as the Minister will decide most revocation cases. Some types of cases will still require a declaration from the Federal Court of Canada, but not all. A permanent bar on citizenship, will also apply for including those convicted of terrorism, treason, and spying offences (depending on the sentence received). Finally, the crackdown on citizenship fraud will continue, as those who obtained citizenship through fraudulent means will face a possible fine of up to $100,000 and/or up to five years in prison.

The changes introduced by Bill C-24 are monumental in scope and complexity. If you are considering your own eligibility to apply for citizenship, it is very important to keep on top of the current state of the law and obtain legal advice!

For more information on Canadian Citizenship, please click here.