Canadian citizenship entitles the bearer to rights and responsibilities not held by Canadian permanent residents, including:
- Political rights, such as voting in federal, provincial, and municipal elections;
- Diplomatic rights, such as a Canadian passport and assistance from Canadian Embassies and Consulates around the world; and
- Mobility rights, such as the right to enter, remain within, and leave Canada.
There are three routes to Canadian citizenship:
- Citizenship by birth for individuals born in Canada
- Citizenship by descent for individuals who are the first generation born abroad to (or adopted by) a Canadian citizen who was born in Canada or acquired citizenship by naturalisation
- Citizenship by naturalisation for permanent residents of Canada who then apply and qualify for Canadian citizenship
Citizenship status in Canada provides many fundamental and inalienable rights and protections under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which do not attach to permanent residence status.
We recommend that you apply for citizenship as soon as you are eligible, if you hope to make Canada your home. Personal circumstances change, and it is difficult to know now whether you might need to leave Canada for an extended period of time in the future and become unable to comply with residency requirements. You may also become unexpectedly charged with a criminal offence, which could result in the loss of your permanent resident status or a bar on applying for citizenship.
Parliament has changed eligibility laws a number of times in recent years and so these laws may also change again in the future. At present to be eligible, if you are a permanent resident and are 18 years of age or older, you must:
- Have lived physically in Canada as a permanent resident for at least three of the five years before the date you apply;
- meet your personal income tax filing obligations in at least three taxation years that are fully or partially within the five years before you apply;
- demonstrate adequate knowledge of English and/or French and some knowledge of Canada and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship (unless under age 17 or over 55);
- Note that persons with a criminal record, who are facing criminal charges or who are subject to an immigration enforcement action may be ineligible for citizenship.
If you are considering applying for Canadian Citizenship, we are available to provide you advice and assistance in navigating the process.
If your citizenship application has been refused, we can help you understand the reasons for refusal and help you challenge this decision to the Federal Court of Canada. A Notice is to be filed to the Court within 30 days of receiving the decision.
The Federal Court application is a ‘Judicial Review’, meaning that the Court will review the documentation and information that was before the Citizenship Officer / Judge and determine whether the decision was reasonable, correct in law and/or procedurally fair. If the Federal Court agrees that the decision was not reasonable, the Court cannot grant citizenship (except in very rare circumstances) and will instead send the application back to a different Citizenship Officer / Judge for reconsideration.
The Government of Canada can seek to take away Canadian citizenship from a person who acquired citizenship (not a Canadian citizen by birth), if it is found that citizenship was acquired by fraud, false representations, or by knowingly concealing material circumstances.
If it is determined that the citizen obtained permanent residence through fraud, false representations, or by knowingly concealing material circumstances, the person will not only lose Canadian citizenship under the Citizenship Act, but will also lose status as a permanent resident and a finding of misrepresentation under the IRPA.
If the Government of Canada is seeking to revoke a person’s citizenship, the process commences with a letter wherein the grounds of revocation are set out. The letter will request a response from the citizen, and the response can directly address the allegations and/or can provide ‘personal considerations’ as to why – even if the allegations are true – citizenship should not be revoked.
Our office can provide assistance at all stages of the citizenship revocation process, including by assisting with the preparation of a response to the allegation letter and also before the Federal Court of Canada.
When applying for citizenship, the initial application relies primarily upon uncorroborated statements. An applicant is to declare his or her absences from Canada, but need not provide evidence proving their physical presence in Canada. For many applicants, this will be all that is needed.
In some cases, IRCC will request additional information often by sending out a ‘Residency Questionnaire” and a request for supporting documents. If you receive such a request, our office can assist with understanding the types of evidence that can be provided and responding to the IRCC request.
The right of Canadian citizens to obtain a passport is governed by the Passport Order, and the program is managed by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Upon properly filling out an application and paying the applicable fees, a passport will generally be issued to citizens under the order. However, there are circumstances where passport services can be denied or passports can be revoked for up to ten years. These may include persons who:
- face criminal charges or are serving a criminal sentence
- have used the passport to engage in criminal activity
- have let someone else use their passport
- obtained the passport by means of false or misleading information
- are considered a threat to national security
Individuals facing the loss of passport privileges should speak with competent counsel prior to having any further communications with passport or immigration authorities.