October 12, 2018

It Is Citizenship Week: How Long is it Taking to Obtain Canadian Citizenship?

Posted by Mario Bellissimo - Bellissimo Law Group PC

Citizenship week that runs from October 8 – 14 is when Immigration, Refugees, & Citizenship Canada (IRCC) dedicates a week to reflect on and celebrate the rights and responsibilities all Canadian citizens share including the effect of some of the changes implemented by Bill C-6, an Act to amend the Citizenship Act on processing times. So how long is it taking to obtain Canadian citizenship?

Key Citizenship Act Changes

The reduction of the physical residency requirement from four out of six years reduced to three out of five years in October 2017 enabled newcomers to have earlier access to the wide range of benefits Canadian citizenship bestows on new citizens. At the same time though the changes likely created a new backlog in itself, making a number of applicants immediately eligible for citizenship, thereby taxing the system. The changes also allowed permanent residents who spent time in Canada as a foreign worker, international student, or protected person before transitioning to permanent residence to count each day spent in Canada on temporary status as half a day of residency, up to a maximum of 365 days. The government also removed the requirement that applicants had to be physically present in Canada for 183 days or more in four out of the six years preceding their application. Original citizenship fees were $100, then increased to $300 in 2015 and now the total fee for an adult to be granted citizenship is $630, which consists of $530 for the processing fee and $100 for the right of citizenship fee.

What do the numbers Say – How Many People Are Applying for Canadian Citizenship?

– The changes resulted in application surges – it was reported by CBC News that applications jumped from a weekly average of 3,653 to 17,500.

– More than 105,000 new Canadians were administered the oath at an estimated 1,400 citizenship ceremonies in 2017, according to IRCC.

– In May 2018, Canada’s federal government increased the number of citizenship judges it employs from five to fourteen, just months after it relaxed the requirements for obtaining Canadian citizenship. Prior to this, Canada only had 5 citizenship judges.

– Official processing times are listed at twelve months which would be a significant reduction from the three to four years we were seeing before but we have not received final decisions on applications filed after the law changed in the fall last year so cannot confirm yet if that twelve months will be a reality.

Impact of International Students?

It has been reported after the introduction to the Bill C-6 amendments more than half of new applicants for Canadian citizens were former international students. Immigrants contribute greatly to Canada, strengthening and enriching our country first economically with international student tuitions and then in filling employment shortages (i.e.: transport and construction industries) that strengthen the country’s future. They also offer unique perspectives that add to Canada’s diverse culture. Beyond this it is important to clarify that students often transition to employment and then permanent residents of Canada. The permanent residents are applying for citizenship and not students directly. Many other applicants flow from obtaining their status through family class categories as well as economic streams.

What About Family Class Processing – How Long is it Taking?

According to IRCC, in February 2018, the average wait time was amended to one year in about 80 per cent of cases, down from the previous two-year wait. This is a wonderful development, but with any change comes complications, i.e.: it is possible that the remaining 20% could be waiting well beyond the previous 2-year period? It is important to note that the referenced 80% appear to be those with straightforward cases with no admissibility issues or complications, i.e.: criminal, eligibility for sponsors, etc. In general, overseas and in-Canada spousal sponsorships are processed within 12 months as undertaken. Parents/Grandparents are generally still requiring two years. We don’t see many refusals of super visas.

The processing of children is also requiring twelve months I would hope this could be improved as children are most prone to suffer from separation. Our clients have also commented that from their own experiences, being issued an open work permit has been life changing, allowing them the opportunity to work and contribute to their family income, thereby also eliminating potential marriage breakdowns when one spouse is shouldering a financial burden. IRCC informs that the work permit pilot, for now, will remain in effect until 31 January 2019.

So overall processing times seem to be improving which is wonderful for future Canadians and their families. It will be interesting to revisit the processing times once we reach the one-year mark on many of these citizenship applications.

To learn more about how to obtain Canadian citizenship, please click here.