Canada has a reputation of being one of the most peaceful countries in the world, making it a desirable location for many immigrants to settle. Unfortunately, the slow citizenship application process has been quite a hindrance for people trying to obtain status in Canada. Many immigrant who are living without proper documentation due to the lack of strict regulations, made modifying immigration rules an important agenda of the government. As a result, in 2014, the government introduced ‘Bill C-24’ (Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act) which has brought in several changes to the immigration laws. This bill is known as the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act. Some of these changes were effective immediately while some have yet to be executed.
Here is a brief overview of the bill based on an article by Dalelessmann LLP. It includes the changes that have taken place, and the changes which are yet to be applied. Please note that this article is for information purposes only and should not substitute legal advice. If you need immigration assistance, you should contact an immigration lawyer. We at AG Tax can also assist you with some aspects of the immigration process. Our employees are proficient at speaking English, French, Mandarin, Cantonese, German, Hindi, Punjabi, and various other languages.
The Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act – What is it?
Bill C-24 was passed in June, 2014 after receiving Royal Assent. At the time, a major reform to immigration laws had not been passed in since 1977. The goal of this act was to increase efficiency and improve the citizenship application process, to strengthen the eligibility requirements for citizens while also increasing scrutiny, and to increase the strictness associated with individuals obtaining citizenship. The new legislation provided by this bill has brought in major changes to the citizenship application and approval process and will be impacting Canadian permanent residents who want to become citizens, individuals born outside of Canada who want to claim citizenship, dual citizenship holders, and many others.
Areas of Impact – What does Bill C-24 Mean for Future Canadian Citizenship Applicants?
A few important changes brought in by the Act in regards to qualifying for Canadian citizenship are highlighted below:
- Longer Physical Presence in Canada: Applicants seeking Canadian citizenship would need to prove physical residence in Canada for 4 out of 6 years. This requirement was previously a requisite of 3 out of 4 years. Additionally, for each of the four required years, applicants are required to be physically present in Canada for at least 183 days, excluding time spent in Canada before declaring the intention of becoming a permanent resident.
- Intention to Permanently Reside in Canada: Applicants will now need to declare and substantiate that they intend to reside in Canada, and make it their permanent residence.
- Proficiency in English or French & General Awareness: Applicants between the ages of 14 to 64 (previously 18-54) will need to submit documents to prove their proficiency in English or French, and take a general knowledge test.
- Tax Compliance: Individuals who are required to file Canadian income tax returns should have fulfilled their tax requirements and have copies of their filed returns.
- Citizenship to Pass to Second Generation Descent in Some Cases: As a rule, only first generation individuals born outside of Canada with at least one parent who is a Canadian citizen may obtain Canadian citizenship. The second generation cannot do so. However, with these changes, second generation children who have a parent that is part of the Canadian armed forces or serving in a Canadian embassy or other government position that requires posting outside of Canada will qualify for Canadian citizenship.
Executed & Pending Changes to the Canadian Citizenship Application Process
The bill received royal assent in 2014, and some changes were passed right then. However, some changes have yet to become law. The changes that have been passed and still pending in 2015 onwards are as follows:
- New definition of the first generation limit on citizenship for those born outside of Canada
- Discretionary decision-making authority to the Immigration Minister for granting citizenship
- Stream-lined decision making process, including new judicial review and appeals processes
- Fast-tracked applications for members of the Canadian Armed Forces
- Stricter residence requirement and penalties in case of offence, fraud, or misrepresentation
- New intent to reside requirement and widened age range for immigration language and citizenship test
- New prohibitions for foreign criminal activity
- Extending citizenship to “lost Canadians” and their children born outside of Canada, who were not eligible under the Citizenship Act of 1947
- Extending citizenship to second generation children of Canadians outside of Canada serving the government
- New grounds and process for revoking citizenship
Canadian Citizenship Revocation Provision
One of the rulings that came into force on 29th May, 2015 is the ‘Revocation Provision’ under which a citizen’s dual status may be revoked if the person is found guilty of the following:
- False representation or fraudulently obtained citizenship
- Serving and being a member of an armed force or organization engaged in a conflict with Canada and therefore a threat to national security
- Convicted of treason, spying, and/or sentenced to imprisonment for life
- Convicted of terrorism or an equivalent offence and sentenced to imprisonment for 5 or more years
*This provision does not apply if revocation would lead to the individual becoming ‘stateless’, which is unacceptable as per the UN’s 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
One major criticism of this provision is that most of these revocation situations would not be decided by a Federal Court judge but by a delegate or the Citizenship & Immigration Minister. This would give immigration officials significant power to revoke citizenship and provide no opportunity to due process.
Immigrants applying for Canadian citizenship should properly plan and consider their path to permanent residency and citizenship. They should analyze their existing situation with a professional as any misrepresentation or incomplete documentation could severely impact a person’s citizenship application and impair their chances of obtaining Canadian citizenship. It is advisable that applicants who are in the process of obtaining Canadian citizenship attempt to finalize their applications immediately so as to be subject to the current immigration rules which are more accommodating than what can be expected from the changes still outstanding.
AG Tax LLP Can Help
If you have any tax-related queries or need assistance with tax planning or filing please contact AG Tax. Our tax professionals are highly-experienced with U.S. and Canadian tax laws and can provide you the right guidance to handle your tax situation.
Aylett Grant Tax LLP is a full service accounting firm with a dedicated team of experts, who are highly-qualified and experienced in handling situations related to U.S., Canadian, and other international tax laws.
We can assist with:
- Canadian Personal and Corporate tax returns
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