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How to become a Canadian citizen

KAITLIN JINGCO 

A guide for permanent residents looking to achieve citizenship status in Canada

 

Congratulations. You’ve made the decision to move to Canada, you’ve settled and started your life here, and now you’re ready for the next step becoming a Canadian citizen. While this is an exciting time for you, it can also be intimidating; the process of achieving your citizenship status can seem daunting and complicated. To help ease your worries, we’ve summarized the key things you’ll need to know as you move forward on your journey.

 

Why become a Canadian citizen?

As a permanent resident (PR) in Canada, you enjoy many of the benefits that Canadian citizens have. You can work and study anywhere in Canada, you have access to health care coverage, and you contribute to all levels of government by paying taxes.

However, as a PR you are not able to vote or run for political positions, and there are employment restrictions, as you are unable to hold some high-security roles. If you are hoping to have your say in elections, run for public office, or have the freedom to apply for any job you like, you will need to become a citizen.

 

Are you eligible for Canadian citizenship?

In order to be able to apply for citizenship, first, you must hold the PR status. You may still be able to apply if your PR card is expired; however, if your status is under review due to fraud or other problematic conditions, you will not be able to apply. In addition to being a PR, you will need to have been in Canada for 1,095 of the 1,825 days (or five years) prior to your application date. You will also need to satisfy your income tax obligations in three tax years that are fully or partially within the five years right before the date you apply. And, if you are between 18 and 54, you will need to prove your English or French speaking and listening skills (Level 4 speaking and listening ability). To become a citizen, you must show that you can take part in short, everyday conversations about common topics; understand simple instructions and questions; use basic grammar, and show you can express yourself with common words and phrases.

 

Proof of your language ability can be shown via the following:

  • results of a third-party language test like CELPIP

  • diploma, certificate or transcripts from a secondary or post-secondary education program in Canada or abroad, where the language of study was English or French

  • proof that you have reached the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) level 4 or higher through a government-funded language training programs

If you are between 18 and 54, you must also show some knowledge of Canada, its history, values, symbols, institutions, and rights, responsibilities and privileges of citizenship, such as voting in elections and obeying the law.

 

Who is not eligible for citizenship?

Not everyone is eligible for citizenship. For example, if you’ve been convicted of or are on trial for a crime, or have been denied citizenship previously for misrepresentation, you will not be eligible. Here are some other reasons you may not be eligible:

  • you are on parole or on probation or serving a term of imprisonment in Canada

  • you are serving a sentence outside Canada

  • under the Citizenship Act, or an indictable offenseyou are charged with, on trial for, or involved in an appeal for an offence in Canada (or outside Canada that is determined to be equivalent to an indictable offense in Canada)

  • you are under a removal /deportation order

  • you are being investigated for, are charged with, on trial for, involved in an appeal for or have been convicted of a war crime or a crime against humanity

  • you have had a citizenship application refused for misrepresentation in the past five years

  • you have had your Canadian citizenship revoked(taken away) because of fraud in the past 10 years

  • you have been convicted of an indictable offense in Canada or an offense under the Citizenship Actin the four years before you apply (or outside Canada that is determined to be equivalent to an indictable offense in Canada)

  • you have been convicted of terrorism, high treason, treason or spying offenses while you were a permanent resident, or served as a member of an armed force/group that has engaged in armed conflict with Canada

 

How do you apply for Canadian citizenship?

Once you’ve determined that you meet the requirements to become a Canadian citizen, the next thing you need to do is apply.

There are a number of application packages, which differ depending on factors such as your age, whether you’ve served with the Canadian Armed Forces or whether you are applying for a child. Each application comes with a comprehensive application guide and checklist.

It is very important that all required documents are included, along with the application payment, as overlooked steps can lead to significant time added to your process. Most applications cost about $600, but can be more or less depending on the type of package required.

It is important to note that if you are applying for more than one family member, it is best that you put all the materials in one envelope, as this will ensure that they are processed together. If you send them separately, processing times will likely differ.

The Government of Canada will notify you when they’ve received your application, and they will let you know if they need anything else from you. However, it’s important to know that it can take a while for your application to be processed; depending on the quantity of submissions, processing can take a year’s time.

 

While you are waiting

While you wait, there are a number of things you can do to ensure the rest of the process goes smoothly.

First, it is important to monitor your application online to ensure there are no problems.

Next, if you are between the ages of 18 and 54, it may be a good idea that you use this time to prepare for the citizenship test — a step that the government will contact you to complete following your application submission.

This test — which is typically written but can be oral, depending on your English or French literacy skills — will evaluate your knowledge of Canada. From Canadian rights and responsibilities, society, democracy, and geography, the test looks to ensure that you know the basics of this country.

To prepare for this test, you can find all the answers you’ll need to know in the government’s Discover Canada booklet.

 

Taking your oath of citizenship

Once your citizenship application has been approved and you’ve passed the citizenship test, you have one more step: the citizenship ceremony. This is your exciting last step in becoming a Canadian citizen.

If you are 14 years or older, you will be required to participate in the ceremony, where you will take the Oath of Citizenship, receive your citizenship certificate, and sign the Affirmation of Citizenship. Local community groups typically hold these celebratory events.

 

Note:  this information was compiled using resources from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. It is important to note that each citizenship application varies depending on your personal circumstances. We recommend that you refer to the Government of Canada’s website for complete information on the citizenship process.

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