On June 17, 2016, legislation to change the Canadian Citizenship Act, also known as Bill C-6, passed the Canadian House of Commons following its third reading. The very same day, a first reading took place in the Senate. The government of Canada had hoped to have the new legislation passed into law in time for Canada Day, which took place on July 1. However, it is now more likely that this will take place after the Senate re-adjourns following a summer break.
The government proposes sweeping changes to the Citizenship Act that would allow immigrants to apply for Canadian citizenship earlier and more easily than is currently the case. Changing the existing Citizenship Act is considered an important aspect of the government’s legislative agenda.
In June, 2014, the previous Conservative government of Canada brought into law the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act (also known as bill C-24). Among other measures, this controversial legislation made eligibility requirements for immigrants seeking citizenship more onerous than had previously been the case. It also allowed the government to revoke citizenship from dual Canadian citizens convicted of terrorism, treason or espionage.
Among the proposed amendments in Bill C-6 is a reduction in the amount of time permanent residents have to live in Canada in order to become eligible to apply for citizenship, from four out of six years to three out five years. In addition, applicants who spent time in Canada on temporary status-such as on a work or study permit-would be able to count a portion of this time towards the three-year requirement.
The proposed amendments would also repeal the intent to reside provision and remove language proficiency requirements for certain applicants. In addition, the new legislation would repeal the contentious provision that allows for the revocation of citizenship.
Proposed changes to the Citizenship Act
The proposed changes to the Citizenship Act are outlined below.
Repeal of revocation provision
Current act: Authority to revoke citizenship for certain acts against the national interest of Canada. These grounds include convictions of terrorism, high treason, treason or spying offences, depending on the sentence received, or for membership in an armed force or organized armed group engaged in armed conflict with Canada.
Proposed amendment: Repeal national interest grounds for revocation.
Repeal of intention to reside provision
Current act: Applicants must have the intention to reside in Canada if granted citizenship.
Proposed amendment: Repeal intent to reside provision.
Physical presence in Canada
Current act: Physical presence for 4 out of 6 years before the date of application.
Proposed amendment: Physical presence for 3 out of 5 years before the date of application.
Counting temporary status
Current act: Time spent in Canada as a non-permanent resident may not be counted.
Proposed amendment: Applicants may count each day they were physically present in Canada as a temporary resident or protected person before becoming a permanent resident as a half-day toward meeting the physical presence requirement for citizenship, up to a maximum of one year of credited time.
Less burdensome annual physical presence requirement
Current act: Minimum of 183 days physical presence in 4 of the last 6 years.
Proposed amendment: Repeal the minimum 183 days physical presence in 4 of the last 6 years.
Fewer people need to prove language proficiency
Current act: Applicants aged 14-64 must meet language requirements and pass knowledge test.
Proposed amendment: Applicants aged 18-54 must meet language requirements and pass knowledge test.
Canadian income taxes
Current act: File Canadian income taxes, if required to do so under the Income Tax Act, for four taxation years out of six years, matching physical presence requirement.
Proposed amendment: File Canadian income taxes, if required to do so under the Income Tax Act, for three taxation years out of five years, matching proposed new physical presence requirement.
Conditional sentence now a bar
Current act: Time spent serving a conditional sentence order can be counted towards meeting physical presence requirements. Convicted individuals who are serving conditional sentence orders (sentences served in the community with certain conditions) are not prohibited from being granted citizenship or taking the oath of citizenship.
Proposed amendment: Time spent under a conditional sentence order cannot be counted towards meeting the physical presence requirements; and those serving a conditional sentence order are prohibited from being granted citizenship or taking the oath of citizenship.
Canadian citizenship oath
Current act: Provision prohibiting applicants from taking the oath of citizenship if they never met or no longer meet the requirements for the grant of citizenship, but does not apply to applications received before June 11, 2015.
Proposed amendment: Provision prohibiting applicants from taking the oath of citizenship if they never met or no longer meet the requirements for the grant of citizenship also applies to applications still in process that were received prior to June 11, 2015.
New provision to counter fraud
Current act: No explicit authority for citizenship officers to seize fraudulent documents related to the processing of applications.
Proposed amendment: Authority to seize documents provided during the administration of the Citizenship Act if there are reasonable grounds to believe they are fraudulent, or being used fraudulently.
We’re getting closer
“I know that many people across Canada, as well as their families and friends, have been waiting patiently for the changes to Canadian citizenship legislation to become law. Thankfully, we are now edging closer to that day, and not a day too soon,” says Attorney David Cohen.