Changes to Language and Residency Requirements Cited as Cause of Increase in Citizenship Applications
To make it easier for permanent residents to attain Canadian citizenship, the Canadian Government relaxed residency and language rules for applicants in October 2017. Following these changes, the number of citizenship applications skyrocketed, showing how a slight change and a bit of flexibility can significantly impact the lives of many.
These changes include:
- Applicants must be physically present in Canada for three out of five years, down from four out of six years;
- Part of the applicants’ time spent in Canada prior to becoming a permanent resident—i.e. as a student or a temporary foreign worker—will now count towards the residency requirement;
- Applicants aged 18 to 54 years old must meet the language and knowledge requirements, a reduction from the previous age range of 14 to 64 years old.
According to data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), there was an average of 3,653 applications a week prior to October’s changes. Following these changes, application numbers spiked to 17,500. This number dropped to 12,530 the following week, still significantly higher than the previous average.
This increase in application numbers was expected as the change in the rules made it easier for more permanent residents to qualify for Canadian citizenship. However, the cost of the application may still deter many; financial concerns may present another barrier to Canadian citizenship. The citizenship application processing fee increased to $630 in 2014. Though still comparatively low, this fee poses a barrier to those facing financial hardships.
Addressing these changes in October, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen said they would “make the path to join the ‘Canadian Family’ easier and more flexible.” Hussen acknowledged how the settlement and integration of immigrants into Canadian society is also beneficial to the rest of Canada. These newcomers are able to reunite with family, fulfill labour shortages, and contribute to the economy and Canadian society as a whole.
It’s now easier for more immigrants to meet application requirements for Canadian citizenship. But those who cannot afford the processing fees must still wait to secure a spot in the “Canadian Family.”