The application process towards obtaining Canadian citizenship should take no longer than a year and the current backlog should be reduced by 80 per cent by the year 2015, anticipated the Canadian Government.
Last week, Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander unveiled the first comprehensive reforms to the Citizenship Act since 1977 in the form of Bill C-24, or the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act.
Creating a faster and more efficient process for those applying for citizenship is one of the objectives of the reforms. In order to achieve this, important legislation will be adopted reducing the decision-making process from three steps to one.
“It is expected that, by 2015–2016, this change will bring the average processing time for citizenship applications down to under a year. It is also projected that by 2015-2016, the current backlog will be reduced by more than 80 percent. Citizenship application fees will be better aligned with the actual cost of processing, relieving the burden on Canadian taxpayers who currently subsidize 80 per cent of the cost,” writes the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).
Acquiring Canadian citizenship currently is a lengthy process, which can take up years. After residents have resided in the country for the minimum of 1,095 days in the four years prior to the application, they may submit their request becoming a citizenship of the country. However, after their application their names often end up on the long list of other waiting residents.
With the reforms, the application is simplified. Further, some of the rules and conditions will be amended. Applicants will need to be physically present in Canada for a total of four out of their last six years. In addition, they would need to be physically present in Canada for 183 days per year for at least four of those six years.
The fees for the applicants are likely to change. “The current citizenship fee does not reflect the actual processing cost. Changes will ensure applicants are responsible for more of the actual processing cost,” wrote the CIC.
Measures to ensure a better transitioning to Canadian society will also be taken. In the period before application, residents will be required to pass a knowledge test and meet certain language requirements.
“Our government is strengthening the value of Canadian citizenship. Canadians understand that citizenship should not be simply a passport of convenience. Citizenship is a pledge of mutual responsibility and a shared commitment to values rooted in our history. I am pleased to bring forward the first comprehensive and overdue reforms of the Citizenship Act in more than a generation,” commented the minister.
Meanwhile, additional measures will be adopted to crack down on immigration fraud. Fraud and misrepresentation will be fined with stronger penalties up to CAD100,000 (Dh332,000) and/or five years in prison.
Reforms will also enable denying the application of those with a criminal record, and dual nationals who are convicted of terrorism, high treason, and spying offences will be revoked of their Canadian nationality.
New provisions will also help individuals with strong ties to Canada, such as by automatically extending citizenship to additional “Lost Canadians” who were born before 1947, as well as to their children born in the first generation outside Canada.
In 2013, and average of 10,745 people were granted citizenship per month. While 8,250 people obtained Canadian citizenship in the first month of 2013, this number rose to more than 16,000 people in January 2014.
Accordingly, the demand for citizenship has increased by 30 per cent, and Census data show 86 per cent of eligible permanent residents become Canadian citizens.
“We are proud to have welcomed more than 16,000 new Canadian citizens this past month and we look forward to their full participation in Canada’s economy and Canadian society. We will continue to improve Canada’s citizenship program to ensure deserving applicants can become citizens more quickly,” said Alexander.