Roles and responsibilities of citizenship judges
Citizenship judges maintain an arms-length relationship to both the government and IRCC staff and play a number of roles:
- Citizenship judges are independent decision-makers who assess applications referred to them to ensure applicants meet the residence/physical presence requirements of the Citizenship Act, conduct hearings and provide written decisions setting out the reasons for the decision within prescribed timelines.
- Judges preside over Citizenship ceremonies and administer the oath of citizenship and stress the rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizens.
- Judges promote citizenship in their communities.
- As independent decision-makers, judges play an important role in maintaining the integrity of the citizenship process
Role as decision makers
Citizenship judges are independent decision makers for certain citizenship applications. Applications are first processed by IRCC staff who assess applications to determine if the applicant meets the criteria set out in the Citizenship Act and the Citizenship Regulations to become a citizen. If a citizenship officer is not satisfied that the applicant meets the residence / physical presence requirement for citizenship, the file is referred to a citizenship judge who will make a decision on the application.
Before making a decision, a judge may hold a hearing with the applicant to obtain more information and assess whether the applicant meets the residence / physical presence requirement for citizenship. Depending on the nature of the hearing and at the request of the applicant, they may be accompanied by an interpreter or legal counsel.
The Act requires judges make a determination on an application within 60 days after the day on which the application is referred and provide the reasons for decision without delay. Decisions can be judicially reviewed with the leave of the Federal Court of Canada by either a non-approved applicant or the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.
Citizenship ceremonies and the promotion of Canadian citizenship
Although citizenship judges are independent decision makers, the public is much more aware of their ceremonial and ambassadorial roles.
Judges preside over citizenship ceremonies where they welcome new citizens into the Canadian family. To reflect Canada’s bilingual nature, judges administer the oath of citizenship in both French and English. Citizenship judges speak to new citizens about the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, but it is also at these ceremonies and at promotional events that judges pass on their pride, enthusiasm and respect for the institution of Canadian citizenship.
Citizenship judges are appointed by the Governor in Council. The Government of Canada posts opportunities for Governor in Council appointments. Any Canadian citizen may submit their candidacy if they meet the requisite criteria.
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