Citizenship can be “revoked” only in rare circumstances, such as for a serious misrepresentation on an issue material to the original application to enter Canada. Permanent Residents (PRs) (also known as “landed” immigrants), however, can be deported for a variety of reasons regardless of how long they have lived in Canada, including for criminality and for failing to meet the residency requirement. For these reasons, we recommend that PRs apply for citizenship as soon as they are eligible.
Recent statistics from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (“CIC”) shows that there are approximately 160,000 citizenship applications approved per year. Between 1970 and 2011, there were 70 citizenship revocations. However, with the trend in enforcement by authorities, CIC has disclosed that 5000 applications are currently being investigated, and 600 proceedings are currently underway to either revoke or refuse citizenship.
In light of the recent changes to citizenship processing, this document is meant to highlight potential pitfalls to be aware of when applying for citizenship.
The current processing time is 23 months for routine applications. The cost is $200 per adult, of which CAD$100 is refundable if citizenship is refused. There is a non-refundable $100 fee for applicants under 18 years of age.
PRs are eligible to apply for citizenship if they:
- are over 18 years old
- have lived in Canada for 3 of the last 4 years, or 1095 days in the 4 years prior to applying (this is the “residency requirement”)
- have knowledge of one official language (English or French)
- have passed the citizenship test (if between 18 and 55 years of age)
- have a criminal record and 3 years have passed since they were convicted AND completed their sentence (including probation or payment of fines).
Barriers to Citizenship
Many applicants face barriers to citizenship, such as:
- Language requirements:
Even with proof of language proficiency, a hearing may still be called. Citizenship Judges will focus on the integrity of the language accreditation; regardless of proof submitted, officers and judges must be satisfied of an applicant’s language competency.
- Knowledge requirement:
Note that Applicants who cannot meet the language and knowledge requirements have the right to request special needs accommodation or a “waiver” based on compassionate grounds. Supporting medical evidence is required.
- Residency requirement:
If you only just meet the 1095 days in Canada in the 4 years preceding your application, it is likely you will be flagged for the residency questionnaire. This is also so if you have had no Canadian income; if other citizenship applicants have used your address; if you have recently lost a passport, or if you don’t have proof of your travels in your passport (indicating you may have another undisclosed passport). When the RQ is issued, applicants will only have 45 days to return it along with supporting documents.
The RQ requests a great deal of information, including:
- colour copies of passport showing entry/exit visas,
- tax information (T4s, Notice of Assessments),
- confirmation of employment,
- school records,
- leases and other proof of housing,
- activities while in Canada (credit card bills, bank statements, cell phone bills with usage information, utility bills, doctor/hospital visits, club/association memberships),
- letters of support regarding scale of commitment to community participation (church, community groups).
Applications are deemed abandoned if a RQ is not returned on time. A hearing will not be scheduled. Once an RQ is issued and returned, applications will face further delay – anecdotally, this seems to set the processing time back by as much as 4 years.
· DO NOT APPLY if residency requirements have not been met (1095 days of physical presence in Canada).
· Documents submitted must be consistent to show residency requirements are met and ties in Canada exist so as not to invite credibility concerns.
· DO NOT return to your home country or country of habitual residence prior to becoming a citizen if you are a refugee or a PR who was formerly a refugee. Cessation of refugee and PR status can occur if it is determined that you ‘availed yourself of the protection of your home country’. In other words, if a refugee or former refugee returns to the country they had fled from claiming persecution, they could lose their status and be deported. This does not apply once citizenship is obtained.
· Do not confuse residency requirement rules to maintain permanent residency with residency requirement rules for citizenship application (citizenship requirement rules are much stricter).
 Bill C-43, also known as the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act has proposed that PRs who have been sentenced to a minimum of 6 months for a criminal offense are deportable and have no appeal rights. Currently, to be deportable without appeal rights, a PR must have been sentenced to a minimum of 2 years.
 Guidy Mamann, “Residency in the Canadian Citizenship Context”, November 26, 2012 presentation at the Law Society of Upper Canada’s 20th Annual Immigration Law Summit