Canadian citizenship comes with rights and responsibilities. Bill C-24 proposes a number of amendments to the Citizenship Act to reinforce the value of Canadian citizenship. The amendments support the government’s commitment to the successful integration of new citizens into our labour market and our communities, ensuring that they are better prepared to assume the responsibilities of citizenship and have a strong attachment to Canada.
Proposed amendments include changes to citizenship residency requirements. According to the current Citizenship Act, applicants must have resided in Canada for three out of four years (1,095 out of 1,460 days), yet ‘residence’ is not defined. As a result, it has been possible for individuals who have spent little time in Canada to acquire citizenship. The amendments would require applicants to be physically present for four years (1,460 days) in a six-year period, and require applicants to be physically present in Canada for at least 183 days per year in four of the six years.
Another proposed change relates to the amount of time applicants spend in Canada before becoming permanent residents (PRs). Currently, each day that applicants spend in Canada before they become PRs counts as a half day of residence toward fulfilling their residency requirement for citizenship. Under the proposed measures, time spent in Canada as a non-PR would no longer meet citizenship residency requirements.
Finally, Bill C-24 would require citizenship applicants to declare their intention to reside in Canada before citizenship is granted. This measure would signal that citizenship is for those who intend to make their home in Canada. Citizenship is not for individuals who solely want the convenience of holding a Canadian passport in order to benefit from generous tax-payer-funded benefits without contributing to Canadian society.
Income Tax filing requirement for citizenship
In addition, proposed changes would require applicants to file Canadian income taxes, if required under the Income Tax Act, in order to be eligible to apply for citizenship.
Language and knowledge requirements
Knowledge of Canadian history, norms and values as well as the responsibilities and privileges of Canadian citizenship is a key factor in civic participation and economic success. Extensive research has consistently shown that the ability to communicate effectively in either French or English is a key factor in the success of new citizens in Canada.
Proposed changes would expand the age group from 18–54 to 14–64 of citizenship applicants required to demonstrate language proficiency and take the knowledge test. Language and/or knowledge requirements may be waived on compassionate grounds and on a case-by-case basis.
Extending citizenship to “Lost Canadians”
There remains a small number of “Lost Canadians,” the majority of whom were born before 1947 such as some first generation children born abroad to war brides and service men who were not eligible for Canadian citizenship. The proposed legislation would address their situations. For more information, see the separate backgrounder on “Lost Canadians.”