The Pandemic’s Legacy for Canadian Citizenship Applicants: The Self-Administered Oath - Immigration Lawyer Vancouver, Canada | Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre
 

BlogThe Pandemic’s Legacy for Canadian Citizenship Applicants: The Self-Administered Oath

4 April 2023

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The Citizenship Oath is both an essential and final step of the Citizenship process. Applicants must swear allegiance to Canada and commit to abiding by its laws, fulfilling their duties as citizens, and respecting the rights of all Canadians.

However, attending the Citizenship ceremony, which currently take place on weekdays during regular work hours and lasts approximately 90 minutes, can be a significant hardship for many applicants. Many applicants have to take time off (unpaid) from work and travel long distances causing financial difficulties to fulfil their goal of becoming a Canadian citizen.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) implemented virtual Citizenship ceremonies in April 2020. These ceremonies enabled applicants to attend the ceremony via online video conference call and affirm the Oath of Citizenship virtually before an authorized individual. This virtual option has been crucial in allowing applicants to complete the final legal requirement to become a citizen during these unprecedented times.

In recent years, there has been a significant shift towards embracing many types of virtual processes hosted by the IRCC, particularly citizenship cases. According to data from the past three years, virtual citizenship ceremonies accounted for 98.9% of the 15,457 ceremonies hosted during this period. Out of the total ceremonies, only 167 were conducted in person, while the remaining 15,290 ceremonies were held virtually. Based upon this IRCC experience and given the benefits for applicants, IRCC has decided to implement the virtual oath ceremony as a permanent process.

Advancement in the Citizenship Program

Realizing the benefits to both the applicants and department, IRCC has proposed amendments to the Citizenship Regulations to formally adopt the virtual oath taking ceremony implemented during the pandemic. These changes aim to improve processing times and enhance the applicant experience by reflecting a practical new way in which the Citizenship Oath may be taken.

Under the proposed amendments, applicants would be allowed to self-administer the Oath of Citizenship online without the presence of an authorized individual. This new process is expected to come into force in June 2023. It is anticipated that this significant change will not only alleviate the backlog of Citizenship applications but also save the Canadian government significant costs. The virtual Oath will make the process more accessible and equitable for applicants, promoting inclusivity and diversity in Canadian society.

This updated process would provide significant benefits to Citizenship applicants. By allowing applicants to take the Citizenship Oath at their own convenience, the proposal would offer greater flexibility and reduce the financial impact of attending in-person ceremonies. In addition, the introduction of the digital Oath will save applicants time, as the process is expected to be considerably faster than traditional in-person ceremonies. By using a secure online solution, Citizenship applicants will be able to swear the Oath of Citizenship quickly and easily, without the need for additional travel or time off work.

Processing times of a Citizenship application

Citizenship application processing times have become a significant concern for IRCC, with the current wait time standing at approximately 24 months, as of October 2022. This wait time has been exacerbated by the increase in Citizenship applications, which have more than doubled from 113,000 to 243,000 over the past five years.

As the number of permanent residents admitted into Canada continues to rise, it is expected that there will be a corresponding increase in Citizenship applications. To cope with this demand, IRCC has implemented various technological initiatives such as processing e-applications, conducting online Citizenship tests, holding virtual Citizenship ceremonies, and offering electronic Canadian Citizenship certificates. These initiatives have proved to be effective in reducing inventories and wait times.

This proposed change to allow for virtual oath taking in the Citizenship application process will not only address this backlog but will also aim to save applicants on processing times by three months. By allowing applicants to self-administer the Citizenship Oath online, the IRCC hopes to ease and modernize the application process by providing applicants with the flexibility to take the Oath online or in the presence of an authorized individual.

Conclusion

These proposed amendments to the Citizenship Regulations to allow for a digital Oath represent a significant step forward in modernizing the Citizenship program and making it more accessible to a wider range of applicants. By allowing applicants to self-administer the Citizenship Oath online, the processing time for Citizenship applications could be significantly reduced, and the overall experience of the applicants could be improved. These changes align with the IRCC’s efforts to streamline the Citizenship process and address the backlog of pending applications, ultimately benefiting both applicants and the government

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