Posted on - Jul 26, 2014

By Catherine Sas, Q.C.

Catherine Sas Q.C.

The summer is always a busy time for immigration reforms. This summer brought in significant changes to Canada’s citizenship laws. On June 19, 2014 the “Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act” received Royal Assent fundamentally changing many key aspects of Canada’s citizenship laws. A bulletin on CIC’s website states as follows:

These reforms will strengthen the rules around access to citizenship to ensure that Canadians are better prepared for full participation and integration into Canadian society with the goal of fostering in new Canadians a stronger attachment to Canadian values and traditions.

So what’s new?


For the first time “residency” is actually defined. In previous Citizenship Acts residency was not defined, which meant that it was left to be interpreted by the courts under judicial review challenges. Judicial pronouncement on what constituted residency varied drastically, resulting in inconsistent decision making in the courts. Over the years, the courts had been leaning more and more towards a physical presence test requiring a person to be physically in Canada for 1095 days within a four year period. Now that trend has become law. However, the time needed to be in Canada has increased from three years of residency within a four year period (1095/1460) to four years of residency within a six year period (1460/2190). To be eligible to apply for citizenship an individual must have been physically present in Canada for 1460 days within a six year window. In addition, you must be in Canada for a minimum of 183 days for four years out of the six. It is not possible to acquire citizenship without being in Canada the majority of each year such that a person is now resident in Canada for tax purposes. If you want to become a Canadian citizen, you must first become a Canadian taxpayer! A further requirement of the new citizenship application process is to file copies of your Notices of Assessment along with your application.


Now all applicants between the ages of 14 and 64 must meet knowledge and language requirements to obtain Citizenship.   Previously, these requirements only applied to persons between the ages of 18 and 54, and it was possible to take your citizenship test with the assistance of an interpreter.   All applicants for Canadian citizenship will need to pass a test demonstrating their knowledge about Canada. In addition, they will need to meet one of the defined language proficiency criteria. These objective requirements are meant to enhance the efficiency of the citizenship application process.


Previously, many individuals were ineligible for Canadian citizenship due to the effect of Canada’s previous archaic citizenship laws which failed to grant citizenship to women or their children in many instances. Changes enacted in 2009 restored citizenship for many of these individuals yet there remained some who were not covered by the new legislation. Bill C-24 restores citizenship to the remaining lost Canadians who were born before 1947 when Canada’s first citizenship act was passed, and it further passes citizenship to their first generation of children born abroad.


Previously, a person was ineligible to obtain citizenship if they were charged with or convicted of a crime in Canada. This new legislation expands the bar on citizenship to persons with foreign charges or convictions.


Canada’s former citizenship laws had few mechanisms to deter fraud, both of applicants and of those persons assisting applicants in the preparation of their citizenship applications. The penalties for committing fraud in the citizenship application process were limited to a maximum fine of $1000 and/or one year in prison. These new provisions have much greater consequences, increasing the penalties to $100,000 and/or five years in prison. Furthermore, the act now specifies who can assist in the preparation of citizenship applications for a fee by limiting this service to regulated and licensed lawyers or immigration consultants. In addition to the penalties above, professionals who commit fraud in the citizenship process face sanction from their licensing bodies.


The new objective requirements of the application process are intended to greatly improve processing times. Current processing standards are in the range of two to three years, and there is a considerable backlog of applications. These new provisions reduce the citizenship application process from three steps to one. The government is projecting that by 2015/2016 processing times for citizenship applications will be less than one year and that the backlog of applicants will have been reduced by 80%.


While the new laws have been enacted, they have not yet come into force and will not for approximately one year.   It is expected that they will come into effect in the spring or summer of 2015. Applicants can still apply under the previous citizenship criteria until official pronouncement of the date that these new laws are in effect.

Catherine Sas, Q.C. is a Vancouver immigration lawyer at Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre in Vancouver, BC Canada. Catherine has been practicing law for over 25 years, and has been voted Vancouver’s Best Immigration Lawyer by the Georgia Straight newspaper for 6 consecutive years.

To learn more about immigrating to Canada, becoming a permanent Canadian resident or bringing your family to Canada, email Catherine Sas or call her at 1-604-689-5444.

Share this article:

Related Topics: , , , , ,

Related Posts

Why Honesty Really Matters in the Immigration Process People often ask me what the most serious immigration infraction is. They expect that I will say something like, “working illegally, living underground without status, or being deported” but actually it’s the consequences for misrepresentation. The Immigr...
Immigration Minister Announces Immigration Levels Plan for 2016 On March 8, 2016, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the Honourable John McCallum, announced the overall immigration targets for 2016. Ordinarily, the Minister is required to provide his annual report to Parliament on or before Novembe...
Maintaining Your Permanent Residence Status: Understanding the Process! Once you have gone through the process of becoming a permanent resident of Canada, you are still bound by legislative requirements to maintain your Permanent Residence (PR) status. Many people misunderstand the ongoing residency requirement or confuse it ...
A primer on BC’s ‘Provincial Nominee Program’ for 2019 Immigration levels will continue to rise in Canada over the next three years – Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is expected to welcome as many as 350,000 new permanent residents per year by 2021.
Canada’s Immigration New Year : What’s In Store for 2015 2015 promises to be a banner year for Canada's immigration program with dramatic changes in virtually every aspect of program delivery: selection of skilled immigrants, processing of inland spousal applicants, and new criteria for both business immigratio...
Canada’s Immigration Program – Honesty is the best policy As a Vancouver immigration lawyer, I am often struck by the frequency with which clients come seeking help with an immigration matter that has arisen because of a lack of truthfulness in the application process. I am further surprised at the number of tim...