Canadian citizenship comes with rights and responsibilities. The Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act includes a number of amendments to the Citizenship Act to reinforce the value of Canadian citizenship. The changes 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.
Under the old Citizenship Act, applicants must have resided in Canada for three out of four years (1,095 out of 1,460 days), yet “residence” was not defined. As a result, it was possible for individuals who spent little time in Canada to acquire citizenship. The new changes will 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. This will clarify that residence means physical presence in Canada, which promotes integration and greater attachment to Canada. These provisions will come into force in approximately a year.
Under the old Citizenship Act, each day that applicants spent in Canada before they became permanent residents counted as a half day of residence toward fulfilling their residency requirement for citizenship. Under the new measures, designed to ensure applicants have a stronger connection to Canada, time spent in Canada as a non-permanent resident will no longer count toward meeting citizenship residency requirements.
As well, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act requires citizenship applicants to declare their intention to reside in Canada before citizenship is granted. This measure will 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 taxpayer-funded benefits without contributing to Canadian society.
Knowledge of Canadian history as well as the responsibilities and privileges of Canadian citizenship is a key factor in civic participation and economic success. As well, extensive research has consistently shown that the ability to communicate effectively in Canada’s official languages (either French or English) is a key factor in the success of new citizens in Canada.
The Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act expands the age group from 18–54 to 14–64 of citizenship applicants required to demonstrate official language proficiency and take the citizenship knowledge test. Language and/or knowledge requirements may be waived on compassionate grounds and on a case-by-case basis.
In addition, changes will require applicants to file Canadian income taxes, if required under the Income Tax Act, in order to be eligible to apply for citizenship.