Citizenship: waivers on compassionate grounds
This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by IRCC staff. It is posted on the department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.
On this page
- Accommodations, waivers and compassionate grounds
- Requirements that may be waived on compassionate grounds
- Waivers for minors applying under subsection 5(1)
- Waiver forms
Accommodations, waivers and compassionate grounds
IRCC has a duty to accommodate clients when accommodations are required. This could result in 2 different courses of action for citizenship applicants: waivers and accommodations.
Accommodations are used to enable clients to meet the requirements for citizenship through a lens of equity.
It could include
- ensuring any in-person event venues have accessibility for wheelchairs and service animals, and that interpretation services are arranged
- providing alternate versions of the study guide, oral or Braille versions of the citizenship knowledge test, or extra time on tests
Essentially, accommodations are provided when they are needed by clients who can meet all citizenship grant requirements.
Waivers exist when accommodations can’t fulfill a client’s needs, as they will be unable to meet certain criteria of the Citizenship Act (The Act).
For the waiver of the oath of citizenship, this is specifically for clients 14 years old and over who are unable to understand the significance of taking the oath of citizenship due to mental disability.
For waivers of language or knowledge requirements, there is more flexibility under the category of compassionate grounds.
Compassionate grounds include medical and non-medical factors. Examples of the factors that may be considered for language or knowledge waivers include, but are not limited to
- evidence of severe and prolonged medical condition including serious illness, physical or developmental disability or mental impairment that has lasted, or is expected to last, for one year or more
- evidence of trauma due to war, torture or living in a refugee camp or other similar traumatic circumstances
- evidence of low levels of education or literacy in their first language (mother tongue)
- evidence of any other circumstances that might merit a waiver on compassionate grounds
Requirements that may be waived on compassionate grounds
For any applicant aged 18 years and older but under 55 years of age
- knowledge of one of the official languages of Canada
- knowledge of Canada and of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship
For any applicant aged 14 years and over
- taking the oath of citizenship for applicants who are unable to understand its significance due to mental disability
Applicants 55 years of age or older
For applications received at the CPC-Sydney before June 11, 2015
Citizenship officers may exempt applicants 55 years of age or older or who turn 55 during processing from having to take the citizenship knowledge test or provide evidence that they meet the language requirement. These requirements are waived automatically by citizenship officers in local offices and do not have to be referred to the CMB.
For applications received at the CPC-Sydney on or after June 11, 2015
Applicants 55 years of age or older on the date they sign their application do not have to demonstrate adequate language or knowledge abilities. Therefore, they are not required to take the citizenship test or provide proof of their language ability. Applicants who turn 55 during processing are required to meet the language and knowledge requirements.
Waivers for minors applying under subsection 5(1)
As of June 19, 2017, minors (applicants under 18 years of age) can apply for Canadian citizenship under subsection 5(1) of the Citizenship Act.
In the case of a minor whose file is being processed under subsection 5(1) of the Act, the Minister may waive the requirement respecting
- the length of physical presence in Canada
- the signature on the application form of the parent or person who has custody of or is empowered to act on behalf of the minor
- the taking of the oath of citizenship (for applicants aged 14 years and over who are prevented from understanding the significance of the oath due to mental disability)
When a waiver request for language, knowledge or oath can occur
An applicant can request or be referred for a waiver at any time during processing until a final decision has been rendered. All waiver requests are referred to the CMB.
At the time of application
An applicant can request waivers at the time of application. This may be done through the inclusion of the Waiver Request form (CIT 0116 (PDF,)), the Medical Opinion Form for Citizenship Waivers (CIT 0547 (PDF)), or any other letter or documentation suggesting the client is requesting a waiver.
Clients who identify the need for a knowledge waiver will not be invited to the citizenship knowledge test; instead, the waiver request(s) will be assessed first. Clients who request a waiver of the knowledge requirement will only be invited to a testing event if the waiver is not approved.
If a waiver request is received during processing, the waiver request will be assessed before the client is invited to any further citizenship events.
If an agent or officer is processing a file, and during a citizenship event, such as a knowledge test or interview, it becomes apparent that the client may be eligible for a waiver, the officer can refer the client for a waiver and send the file for waiver assessment.
Waiver not required
If the client self-identified on the application form as having a disability and indicated the need for accommodation through any supporting documentation, a waiver is not required. IRCC has a duty to accommodate, and clients can be given accommodations or supports throughout their process without the need for a waiver. They may require additional planning for citizenship events, such as providing an interpreter or ensuring any in-person venues are accessible for mobility aids.
If the decision-maker at the CMB determines that the application does not meet the criteria for a waiver under the scope of compassionate grounds, the client’s application will not be refused. Instead, the application will return to the stage of processing it was at before the CMB assessed the waiver request. This gives the client the same opportunities to meet the requirements of language, knowledge, and/or oath as applicants who have not requested a waiver. If applicable, the client should be offered accommodations to meet the requirements of language, knowledge, and/or oath.
All waiver requests concerning language, knowledge, oath, or a combination of any of the three are to be processed by citizenship officers at the CMB.
There are 2 forms associated with waiver requests of language, knowledge, and/or oath. In cases where clients do not submit these forms with their application, the CMB will request that the client complete these forms, when applicable.
When an applicant requests a waiver of language or knowledge requirements or has demonstrated to the citizenship officer that they will not be able to meet the requirement for language or knowledge due to compassionate grounds, the applicant should provide a completed Waiver Request form (CIT 0116 (PDF,)) and, if relevant, may also include a Medical Opinion form (CIT 0547 (PDF)). Where applicable, the applicant should also submit an affidavit on power of attorney. Clients who require a waiver of the oath should provide a Medical Opinion form completed by a medical professional licensed to practice in Canada.
Waiver Request form
The Waiver Request form details the medical and non-medical factors and circumstances under which an applicant may not be able to meet the language and/or knowledge requirements for citizenship from the perspective of the client and/or caretaker or legal guardian. It reflects the experience of the applicant and not the opinion of a medical professional.
Medical Opinion Form for Citizenship Waivers
The Medical Opinion Form for Citizenship Waivers provides information from a medical practitioner licensed to practice in Canada regarding any medical conditions that could prevent the client from meeting the citizenship requirements of knowledge, language, and/or oath. This can include serious illness, physical or developmental disability, or mental impairment that has lasted or is expected to last for 1 year or more.
If the medical practitioner is of the opinion that an individual is unable to understand the significance of taking the oath of citizenship due to mental disability, the requirement of taking the oath of citizenship may be waived. The medical practitioner may be a physician, psychologist or nurse practitioner.
The medical opinion is just one of the pieces of evidence taken into consideration. If the request for a waiver of language and/or knowledge is due to personal circumstances and not medical reasons, the applicant will not need to submit a Medical Opinion form.
While the Medical Opinion form is no longer necessary for waivers of knowledge and/or language requirements, it is suggested that clients provide the Medical Opinion form or supporting documentation when they feel it will strengthen their case to be provided a waiver. They should include it to request a waiver of the oath of citizenship.
Important: If attempts to receive additional information regarding a waiver request from the applicant are unsuccessful, but the file contains a request and some information on the reason for the waiver, citizenship officers at the CMB will need to make a waiver decision based on the information available on file. The application can’t be abandoned in this situation.
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