After months of anticipation and speculation, it’s ‘game on’—as Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has called for a federal election to take place on October 19th, and immigration is set to be one of the most debated topics during the campaign.
For many months, Canadian political observers have expected that Conservative leader and prime minister Stephen Harper would make good on his promise to call a federal election upon completion of his fourth year in office. Unlike in the United States, the Canadian prime minister has some discretion as to when an election is called. However, some had thought that given the recent downturn in Canada’s economy, Harper may have wanted to stretch out his term into a fifth year.
That didn’t happen, but by calling the October election in early August, Harper has set the stage for the longest Canadian election campaign in many years. That’s likely to work to his party’s advantage, given the Conservative’s considerably larger bank account, and its ability to finance a longer campaign.
But recent polls have revealed that there is no clear front-runner heading into the Canadian election, and that places a greater importance on each of the three major federal parties securing as many undecided votes as possible. For Harper’s Conservatives, who have governed Canada since 2006, immigration has in the past been an issue that has worked in their favor. The Harper government has—until last year—been viewed as very much in favor of promoting immigration to Canada, and his government has overseen one of the largest influxes of immigrants of any recent government.
As a result, the Conservatives carried a considerable amount of the new immigrant voting block in the last two elections. However, the changes made to Canada’s immigration laws in last year’s overhaul of the nation’s immigration system have raised doubts as to whether the Conservatives will be able to hold onto the majority of the votes of new, or recent, Canadian citizens.
The much-discussed ‘Express Entry’ system is universally seen as a fundamental change in the way Canada decides who is allowed to enter into the country; both supporters and critics of Express Entry agree that by shifting the focus of Canada’s immigration to the country’s economic needs, the Conservatives undertook to fundamentally alter the traditional, more liberal immigration patterns of Canada.
Express Entry manages the permanent resident applications allowed under the three primary federal immigration programs—Federal Skilled Workers, Federal Skilled Trades and Canadian Experience Class.
In addition, last year’s immigration overhaul—Bill C-24—tightened the rules for Canadian citizenship, and gave the Immigration Minister the power to deny citizenship to any individual found to be unworthy under the law. Hotly contested, this new law is currently being challenged in Canadian courts.
Given those changes to immigration law, Canada’s two main opposition parties—the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Liberal Party—are both seeking to re-establish stronger ties with new and recent Canadian immigrants by opposing the Conservative’s Bill C-24, and pledging to revoke most of the immigration laws passed last year.
Both NDP leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau are making extensive pushes to connect with Canada’s large immigrant population, especially in the critically important urban centers of Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal—the nation’s three largest cities. While the NDP is strongest in Vancouver (where the party has previously governed provincially), all three federal parties are fighting it out for the three vote-rich cities, with polls showing that a large number of urban Canadians remain undecided as to who to support.
As Canada’s economy has slipped in recent months—statistics indicate that, unlike the US economy, it has shrunk for five straight months—Harper’s Conservative Party has faced strong criticism of its financial management of the country. As a result, polls show the election campaign may provide an opportunity for any of the three major parties to form the next government. The immigrant communities in Canada’s largest cities are sure to play a significant role in deciding which party will win the election.
Still, each opposition party also faces its own difficulties on the road to victory.
Questions remain whether Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau, at only 43, brings with him sufficient experience to become Canada’s next prime minister. In addition, after three consecutive election losses, the traditionally strong Liberal party is weaker than it has been historically.
For the NDP, expectations are higher than ever in the wake of finishing second—for the very first time—in the last federal election. However, NDP leader Tom Mulcair is in his first national campaign, having inherited the leadership from his very popular predecessor, the late Jack Layton. Layton passed away soon after the last election, after leading the NDP to its largest victory ever. Whether or not Mulcair can build on that momentum and lead the democratic socialist NDP into power remains a question, with Harper warning Canadian voters against trusting the national economy to such an untested party.
Over the course of the next two months, all Canadians will be faced with a choice as to which party—and leader—they wish to see run their country for the next four years.
For Canada’s new and recent citizens, Election 2015 is certain to be a lesson they won’t soon forget in Canadian democracy.
As is the case every year, once again Canadians from coast to coast celebrated Canada Day, on July 1st—the nation’s birthday. However, this year, critics of the nation’s recent sweeping immigration law used the occasion of Canada Day to hammer home their arguments that the new law—Bill C-24, threatens to forever change what it means to be Canadian.
The immigration law, which is already facing a court challenge as being unconstitutional, as well as an online petition with over 100,000 people calling for its repeal, is shaping up to be a major issue in what is expected to be a federal election held later this year. The ruling Conservative government, which named the immigration law the ‘Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act’, believes that the new immigration rules are in keeping with the value of attaining Canadian citizenship and will help to meet the country’s economic needs.
Tightening the rules for immigration to Canada, the new law includes several measures such as
- Increasing the amount of time applicants for citizenship must live in Canada prior to attaining their citizenship
- No longer allowing applicants to use time spent residing in Canada as non-permanent residents towards their citizenship application and
- Requiring applicants to pay Canadian taxes to be eligible for citizenship.
Unlike the previous law that only barred those with certain domestic criminal histories from attaining citizenship, under the new immigration law foreigners with convictions in other countries can be barred from Canadian citizenship. The government also now has the power to revoke Canadian citizenship for those charged with terrorism, espionage or treason, a power it did not previously have.
Critics of the new Canadian immigration law say that it will ultimately establish different levels of citizenship. Calgary-based immigration lawyer Raj Sharma said the new law creates “two tiers or maybe even three tiers of Canadian citizenship, with massive amounts of discretion to the (immigration) minister.”
In its online petition, Change.org accuses the Canadian government of seeking to establish a two-tier citizenship. The petitioners accuse the government’s new immigration law of treating Canadian citizens who were born elsewhere as ‘second class citizens’, who will not have the same equal rights as native-born Canadians.
The petition cites as an example of the alleged second-class citizenship established by the new law “those Canadians who were born in another country, who could be at risk of losing their Canadian citizenship if they move overseas to be with a loved one, to take a job, or to go to school.”
For its part, the government has touted the new law—along with the recently-introduced ‘Express Entry’ system—as a means of expediting the processing of immigration applications. It’s still too early to assess just how accurate that projection will be, though some critics point out that the personnel required to process immigration applications is still lacking in numbers.
Since assuming power in 2006, the Conservative government has welcomed a record number of new Canadians, with more than 1.3 million attaining citizenship during that period.
The Canadian government has recently made some changes to the Canadian Citizenship Act which has made it somewhat harder to become a citizen of Canada. However, though the requirements are somewhat stricter, some groups will find that their own immigration pathway has been fast-tracked, as is the case for members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Below you can compare the requirements for citizenship before and after the newest changes, which are currently being applied to citizenship application cases.
|Old Rules||New Rules|
|Permanent residents had to maintain residence in Canada four three out of the preceding four years in Canada.||Applicants looking to file for citizenship now need to show they they have maintained residence for four of the past six years.|
|No physical presence requirement.||Applicants need to have be physically present in Canada for 183 days of every year for the four of six years mentioned above.|
|Permanent residents could use the time they spent in Canada as temporary residents prior to getting permanent residency to meet the citizenship residency requirements.||Permanent residents may no longer do this.|
|No “intent to reside” requirement||Applicants have to show “intent to reside”|
|Language and knowledge test had to be passed by all applicants between the ages of 18 and 54.||The age range has now been extended from 14 to 64.|
|Applicants could use an interpreter to pass the knowledge section of the citizenship test.||Applicants have to pass the test in either English or French.|
|Domestic criminal charges and convictions lead to denied applications.||Criminal denials extended to foreign crimes as well as domestic.|
|Previous legislation didn’t give the government much authority to deter fraud. Penalties were set at $1,000 or one year in prison or both.||CIC now has the authority to refuse applications for fraud. Fraud fines are set at a maximum of $100,000 or five years in prison or both in some cases.|
|Citizenship revocation could only be decided by the Governor in Council.||Citizen revocation can now be conducted by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) in routine cases. More complex cases are to be handled by federal courts.|
|Governor in Council had final decision authority for discretionary grants of citizenship.||Minister of the CIC now has this authority.|
|“Complete applications” were poorly defined before.||Now, the CIC has the authority to decide what a complete citizenship application entails.|
|In order to get citizenship, all applicants had to go through a three-step decision-making process.||This has been simplified to only one step and makes the system more efficient.|
|Previous citizenship applicants didn’t need to file income taxes to be eligible.||Adult applicants have to file Canadian income taxes to be eligible for citizenship.|
|Previously, CIC didn’t have the authority to revoke the citizenship of people who act counter to the national interests of Canada.||The Canadian government can now revoke citizenship or deny citizenship to permanent residents if they engaged in armed conflict with Canada, or were convicted of terrorism, high treason, treason, or spying.|
|Up until recently, there was no fast-track type program for the Canadian Armed Forces.||Permanent residents who have served with the Canadian Armed Forces can take advantage of a fast-track program to citizenship in Canada.|
The Canadian citizenship test is administered to permanent residents who have applied for full citizenship. The test is typically composed of two parts. The first being a knowledge test that might be written or oral. The second is that the immigration officer will observe your skill in either English or French.
To learn more about the Citizenship test, please read on. However, if you don’t have a Permanent Resident Card yet, please read more about that.
In order to become a citizen of Canada, permanent residents must first be competent in English or French.
You may have to submit evidence that your language skills have been assessed before your interview, but the immigration officer will also examine your language skills during the course of the interview.
Rights, Freedoms and Responsibilities
There are a number of rights established for citizens of Canada by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Below is a small sampling.
- Canadian citizens can travel throughout Canada without restriction and possess a Canadian passport for international travel.
- The Charter also establishes Canada as being a multicultural country which recognizes many different cultures within the general Canadian heritage.
- People of Canada are also entitled to a freedom of religion, thought, belief, opinion, expression, speech, press and of peaceful assembly among other basic freedoms.
Canada’s Society and Government
Canada’s government is a federal constitutional monarchy and has a democratic parliament. These are some big concepts, so for explanatory purposes we’ll define them in greater depth here.
Canada has a federal government in that it is composed of many smaller entities that govern themselves to some extent.
Canada is constitutional in that there is a document, the constitution that lays out the rules of the government in addition to certain rights people have. It is also a monarchy because the person with the ultimate authority over the government is the Queen.
A democratic parliament is a group of lawmakers who have been elected to their positions by the people of Canada. It is probably a good idea to be familiar with the members of parliament from your riding.
Canada’s history goes back many millennia, but here are some main points in its history:
- Aboriginal peoples were the first to populate Canada
- About 1,000 years ago, Vikings were the first European settlers of Canada
- Later, French trappers came into Canada
- Great Britain took control of all of Canada in the 17th century
- In 1867, Canada became its own country and established Canada day on July 1.
Canada’s Cultural Identity
Canada is a multicultural country. This means that even though Canada has a general cultural identity it also recognizes the sovereignty of all the other cultures which gather within it.
The geography of Canada is quite diverse and includes:
- Sub-tropical rain forests
- Mid-continental prairie
- Mountainous regions
- Great Lakes lowlands
The majority of Canada’s population exists in the southern part of the country. Population density becomes sparser the farther north one goes.
One of the rights reserved for Canadian citizens is that they can help their close family members become citizens as well. Even spouses!
However, citizenship is not automatically transferred to a spouse when they marry a Canadian citizen. Rather, it starts a process which includes immigration, permanent residency and then, finally, citizenship.
The first step in the entire process is, of course, getting married. It is important that the marriage is recognized in some way.
A marriage is considered recognized in a few different ways. Generally, when a couple gets married, they get a marriage certificate, proof of their new relationship.
Sometimes, a couple may be considered to be married simply by being together for a long period of time. This is called common-law marriage and rules about it vary from place to place.
During the process of getting a spouse citizenship, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will want to confirm that the marriage is genuine.
Couples can show that their marriage is genuine by having children together, living together, pooling funds and resources and numerous other things that come naturally in a relationship. The reason why the CIC looks at these things is to make sure that the marriage isn’t just taking place to take advantage of the Canadian immigration system.
Permanent Residency is an immigration status in Canada that allows an immigrant to live and work within the country for as long as they want.
Permanent Residency Cards (PR Cards) are documents that prove that an immigrant has permanent residency. However, if a PR Card expires, the immigrant’s permanent resident status does not go away.
Some ways in which someone can lose their permanent resident status is for that person to move away from Canada for a long time or to commit a crime that violates the permanent residency.
After the happy couple has married, the Canadian citizen spouse will apply for sponsorship of the immigrant spouse. The immigrant spouse will then apply for an immigration visa to Canada through one of Canada’s foreign consulates or with the CIC if already in Canada.
Permanent Residency is an important step in this process and must be completed before moving on to getting citizenship.
After a spouse has received permanent residency, they need to meet some other requirements in order to qualify for citizenship.
- A spouse cannot have their permanent residency under examination, meaning that they aren’t being investigated for fraud or removal
- Spouses have to have been physically within Canada for three years within the past four years. This works out to a total of 1,095 days within four years.
- Spouses must be reasonably competent in either English or French (official languages of Canada)
- They must also be familiar with Canada’s history, culture and government.
There will be a test in the citizenship process that tests language competency and knowledge of Canada.
This process may take several years to complete, but the benefits are worth it. With citizenship one can
- Help other relatives immigrate
- Never be removed from Canada
- Carry a Canadian passport
A person may qualify for Canadian citizenship even if they were born outside of Canada if one of their parents was a Canadian citizen at the time of their birth.
In order to confirm one’s citizenship one will have to apply for a citizenship certificate with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), the official governmental body responsible for immigration issues in Canada.
This process does not apply to people who are non-citizens of Canada. People who are not yet citizens of Canada first need to apply for immigration to the country, get Permanent Residency and then wait until one’s residency is completed. Immigrants may then apply for Canadian citizenship.
What Is Citizenship
Citizenship is a status within a state which qualifies a person for a variety of things within that state’s society and government.
In many ways it is the highest status that an immigrant may achieve in a country.
Among the things that a citizen is allowed to do that temporary or Permanent Residents may not are:
- The right to vote in elections, determining the direction of the country’s democracy
- The right to carry a Canadian passport. A citizen travelling abroad with a Canadian passport is protected by all of Canada’s foreign diplomatic missions*
- The right to work for any employer in Canada without first applying for a Labour Market Opinion. However, Permanent Residents are also allowed to do this
- The right to run for office or work for the Canadian government. Immigrants have limited access to government jobs and are generally not allowed to run for an office in the government
*Citizens who already have a citizenship certificate or a birth certificate with a Canadian address can apply for a Canadian passport without applying for a citizenship certificate.
Eligibility for Citizenship
Children born abroad to Canadian parents must prove two things:
- That the applicant is the child of a Canadian citizen
- That the parent was a full Canadian citizen at the time of the applicant’s birth
In order to show that these requirements are met, certain documents must be included in one’s application.
To show that one is the child of a Canadian citizen one can produce their long-form birth certificate which lists both one’s mother and father.
Then, one will need a copy of one’s mother’s or father’s certificate of citizenship or birth certificate with a Canadian address.
Applying for a Citizenship Certificate
The form that an applicant will have to fill out to apply for a citizenship certificate is called Form CIT 0001, The Application for a Citizenship Certificate.
This form also includes instructions on how to fill it out and a checklist of necessary documents.
In order for a document to be accepted by the CIC it must be filled out properly and the required associated fee must be included. Fees may be paid online in some circumstances.
The two primary English languages are English and French.
Applicants who are younger than 18 or 55 and older may be exempt from this requirement.
There are a few different ways to show that one is competent in English or French.
Many immigration programs also grant points to immigrants if they can show that they are skilled in one of the official languages of Canada. Additional points may be awarded for competence in both languages.
Proof of Language Skill
Although education is primarily the way that competency in language is measured, a person can take a test to show that they know English or French as well.
There are three general ways by which one can show Citizenship and Immigration Canada that they are competent in either English or French:
- Applicants can take a test from a third party provider who will examine one’s skill and report a level of competency. Third party examiners must be approved by Citizenship and Immigration Canada beforehand.
- Proof of education. Diplomas, school transcripts or other such proof can be used to show that one has skill in English or French. However, these documents must show that the applicant was enrolled in applicable English classes in either secondary or post-secondary school.
- The Canadian Language Benchmark is a government funded language learning program and proof that one meets the required skill level through this program can demonstrate proper skill in English. For French, the organization is the Niveau de competence linguistique canadien.
Third Party Tests
There are a few different third party groups that will assess language abilities for Canadian immigrants.
The International English Language Testing System is a test that is to be taken in person in over 9,000 locations all over the world. It can be taken inside or outside of Canada and will be recognized by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
The Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program General Test (often abbreviated to CELPIP) is a test that was developed at the University of British Columbia and is a Canadian based English test. Immigrants may register for this test online and take their examinations in Canada.
There are two tests for French: Test d’Evaluation de Francais and Test d’Evaluation de Francais adapte au Quebec.
Canadian Language Benchmark
The Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks is the official standard for English literacy in Canada in both English and French.
Depending on which language is being evaluated it is either the Canadian Language Benchmark or the Niveaux de competence linguistique canadiens.
While Citizenship and Immigration Canada is a service that is most often used by immigrants to Canada, citizens already established in the country may find its services useful as well.
The CIC is a governmental organization after all and exists to serve the entirety of Canada.
Below citizens may find categories of CIC service that they may find useful. Permanent Residents who are interested in becoming citizens of Canada should look in to the CIT 0002 application.
Citizens of Canada can sponsor the immigration of their relatives much easier than Canadian Permanent Residents.
Eligible family members include children, siblings, spouses or common-law partners and parents.
The family based immigration process follows this general pattern:
- Eligibility is determined
- Sponsoring family member files a sponsorship application with proof of financial support
- Immigrant relative applies for visa at Canadian foreign mission and attends visa interview
- Immigrant relative enters Canada
Immigrant relatives of Canadian citizens do not need to establish a job in Canada before they immigrate.
Sponsor a Refugee
Many Canadian citizens choose to support refugees during their immigration to Canada.
Refugees and asylees suffer persecution in their home countries and become disenfranchised by the states in which they reside.
Canadians can help these people begin new lives in Canada by sponsoring their immigration and helping to support them while they adapt to their new homes.
Many Canadians form groups to help refugees abroad and the CIC allows groups of five or more Canadian citizens to support multiple Refugees.
Citizenship certificates are official government documents that prove that an individual is a citizen of Canada.
This document is necessary to apply for many benefits in the Canadian government and can even be necessary for job applications.
The CIC is the organization responsible for the distribution of citizenship applications after citizens have applied for them.
Citizens who were born in Canada do not need to obtain a citizenship certificate, they can apply for benefits on the strength of their birth certificates alone.
Records of citizenship certificates can also be searched through Citizenship and Immigration Canada. People may be interested in using this service to prove that a relative was a citizens, therefore making them a citizen.
Canadian citizens looking to adopt from a foreign country will spend a significant amount of time in contact with the CIC.
Finding an orphan to adopt is likely one of the least challenging parts of adoption. Authorizing the emigration of the child from their home country, negotiating a visa to Canada and getting them citizenship is an extensive process.
Canada adheres to the rules decided on during the Hague Conventions for International Adoptions.
One of the greatest benefits of Canadian citizenship is the right to carry a Canadian passport.
Not only does this document serve as identification and not only is it required for international travel, but it also confers the safety of the Canadian government anywhere in the world.
Apply for a passport today!
People from all over the world are interested in becoming citizens of Canada because of its reputation. There are many benefits one might enjoy when one becomes a citizen:
- Federal Healthcare
- It’s easier to have family immigrate
- Citizens cannot be deported unless it is found that their immigration applications were filed fraudulently.
- Citizens can use Canadian passports and the system of Canadian consulates throughout the world
- Citizenship documents never need to be removed
In order to become a citizen, a person must first meet a set of eligibility requirements, immigrants must:
- Be at least 18 years old when they apply
- Have Permanent Resident status
- Have, in the past 1,460 days, lived in Canada for 1,095 of those days
- Have basic understanding of English or French
- Have basic familiarity of Canadian government and history
- Be willing to attend a ceremony and take the oath of citizenship
- Not be waiting to be removed by Canada, prohibited from citizenship or a security risk
It is very important to file a citizenship application correctly. Incomplete applications will be returned to applicants and further delay the citizenship process.
In addition to a properly filled out Form CIT 0002 applicants will need to include supporting documentation such as:
- Form IMM 1000 Record of Landing
- A Permanent Resident Card
- Proof of competence in English or French
- Biographical pages of applicant’s passport
- School records (if applicable)
- Two forms of identification
- Fee payment receipt
- A copy of Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s On-Line Residence Calculator showing that you have lived in Canada for the required period of time. This document should be signed and dated.
There is only one fee associated with applying for citizenship, which is $100.
However, applicants sometimes find themselves needing more money to obtain certain supporting documents for their applications. This results in the total cost of applying for citizenship to be slightly higher than the $100 fee.
If the application is accepted, Citizenship and Immigration Canada will invite the applicant to a local office for an interview.
The purpose of the interview is to examine the application and associated supporting documentation is true and accurate.
During the interview, immigrants will be tested for practical understanding in two fields.
- Language: applicants must demonstrate that they can read, write, listen to and speak basic English or French to the immigration officer’s satisfaction. Language classes designed to help immigrants pass this portion of the citizenship application are available all across Canada.
- Knowledge: immigrants looking to become citizens in Canada are expected to be familiar with the government, history and culture of the country. Example questions are available on this site.
The citizenship oath is the final step in the process to becoming a full member of Canada. After an immigration officer has acknowledged that the application is complete and correct, the applicant will be assigned to a citizenship ceremony.
One of the best things about being a Canadian citizen is the right to carry a Canadian passport when travelling abroad. Travelling is much easier with a Canadian passport and you can rest assured that if anything goes awry, the Canadian government will be right there to back you up.
If you’re not a Canadian citizen yet, you should consider applying. There are only a few requirements to becoming a Canadian citizen. However, the most prominent requirement for citizenship is Permanent Residency. If you haven’t obtained your Permanent Residency Card yet, you should, and then start on your way to become a Canadian citizen.
There are many other great things about citizenship, but passports are an absolutely ubiquitous example of the benefits of Canadian citizenship.
The Canadian government has its own department for handling the issuance and regulation of passports called Passports Canada. You can find Passport Canada service centers throughout Canada, but it is important to remember that no other organization can speed up your application for a passport and Passport Canada is the most reliable way to apply for a passport.
You can find all of the Passport service centers in Canada here.
What do I need to apply?
In order to apply for a passport you will need to submit some identification. Proof of citizenship will also be required. If you were born in Canada, you will only need your birth certificate to prove this. If you are a naturalized citizen you will need to show your proof of citizenship. If you do not have this document or you have lost it, you will need to have it replaced.
To prove your identity you can show a number of documents such as driver’s licenses or social insurance cards. The important part of identification is that it links your name to other identifying information such as your photograph or other identifying numbers.
After you have gathered you appropriate documentation you can then file the passport application form. As mentioned above, you can go into a Canadian service center to do this, or you can mail in your application.
How much does it cost?
Passports for adults 16 years of age or older are $87, Canadian. For children under the age of three, they are $22. For Children between the ages of three and 15, the cost is $37.
You can pay for your passport with a credit card, a debit card, a check or money order. Keep in mind that certain payment options are only available in person.