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IRCC loosens citizenship requirements

Toronto immigration lawyer Robin Seligman tells she welcomes long-awaited changes to the Citizenship Act.

Federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen recently announced that from Oct. 11, only people between the ages of 18 to 54 will be required to take and pass a knowledge test as part of the citizenship process. The old age range caught prospective immigrants between 14 and 64 years of age.

In addition, the number of years a person must spend physically present in Canada before applying for citizenship will be reduced from four out of six years to three out of the last five. They can also count half the days they spent in Canada as a temporary resident or protected person before becoming a permanent resident toward meeting the physical presence requirement, up to a maximum credit of 365 days.

“This is great news for applicants,” says Seligman, principal of immigration law boutique Seligman Professional Corporation.

“One of the strongest pillars for successful integration into Canadian life is achieving Canadian citizenship and becoming part of the Canadian family. The government encourages all immigrants to take the path towards citizenship and take advantage of everything that being a Canadian has to offer,” Hussen said in a statement announcing the measures.

The changes are part of an ongoing revamp of the Act following the passage of Bill C-6, which received Royal Assent earlier this year. The bill reversed a number of controversial changes made to the Citizenship Act over the last decade during former prime minister Stephen Harper's time in office. Some provisions are already in force, with more still to come as the bill’s phased implementation continues.

“My only complaint is that they aren’t all coming into force at once,” Seligman says.

Those enacted earlier this year include the repeal of the federal government’s ability to strip Canadian citizenship from dual citizens convicted of offences relating to national security, treason or spying, even if they obtained their Canadian citizenship legally or were born in Canada with dual citizenship from another country.

Under the new law, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada said dual citizens living in Canada who are convicted of those crimes will face the Canadian justice system, “like other Canadian citizens who break the law.”

“A citizen is a citizen, and we should all be treated the same in front of the law. That means you don’t get deported for criminality unless your citizenship was obtained by fraud,” Seligman says.

Other amendments already in force include the repeal of provisions forcing applicants to declare their intention to live in Canada after receiving citizenship; and allowing minors the ability to apply for citizenship without a Canadian parent.

However, applicants will have to wait until early 2018 before the return of appeals to the Federal Court in all citizenship revocation cases.

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