Who has a right to Canadian citizenship?

Canadian Citizenship












Mary Keyork
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We previously discussed the current eligibility criteria for permanent residents who wish to apply for Canadian citizenship through a process called citizenship by naturalization. But that is not the only path to citizenship. This week, we will look at individuals that have a right to citizenship.

Born inside Canada (Citizenship by Birth)
If you were born inside Canada but do not have proof of your citizenship – for example, you do not have a Canadian passport, citizenship card or certificate – you have a right to citizenship. You will need to get proof of where you were born, such as a provincial or territorial birth certificate. If you have this, the process is relatively straightforward.

If you do not have a birth certificate, there may be other types of documentation that you can use to demonstrate your citizenship rights.
Generally speaking, individuals born in Canada have a right to Canadian citizenship, even if their parents are not citizens. This does not apply to children born in Canada to foreign diplomats.

Born outside of Canada (Citizenship by Descent)
If you were born outside of Canada to a Canadian parent, or Canadian parents, you might have a right to apply for Canadian citizenship without first becoming a Canadian permanent resident.

This applies to anyone who was born (or granted citizenship status) in Canada before January 1, 1947 but stopped being a British subject and did not become a citizen on that date. For Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, the applicable date is April 1, 1949, which is when the province joined Canada. The same applies to British subjects living in Canada on January 1, 1947 but who were not able to obtain citizenship at that time. Again, the confederation date applies to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Similarly, an individual born to a parent (or parents) who meet one of the situations above have a right to citizenship. There are also rights extended through adoption under the scenarios outlined above. The adoption rules add an extra layer of complication to the citizenship rights, so we won’t get into those details in this blog; however, we will note that there is a one generation limit to citizenship passed down through adoptions. Essentially, children born outside of Canada and adopted by a Canadian are not eligible if either: (1) their adoptive parent was born outside of Canada to a Canadian; or (2) their adoptive parent gained citizenship based on adoption by a Canadian. This does apply if a Canadian-born adopts a foreign child or a naturalized Canadian citizen (i.e. someone who became a permanent resident then applied for citizenship) adopts a foreign child.

While there are limits to the rights of citizenship for adopted children in Canada, that does not mean that adopted children without a direct right cannot become naturalized. In fact, adopted children who do not meet the requirements can still be sponsored by their adoptive parents, allowing them to become permanent residents who can later obtain citizenship by naturalization.

What about children born to Canadian parents outside of Canada? Are they automatically citizens? The answer is likely yes if at least one of your parents was either born in Canada or was a naturalized citizen before you were born. This means that you may not automatically have a right to citizenship if your parents were not born or naturalized in Canada and gained their citizenship status by descent (i.e. having it passed down from past Canadian parents).

Misconceptions about Citizenship Rights
Many people mistakenly believe that they will automatically become Canadian citizens, or be allowed to remain in Canada and enjoy the rights of a citizen, if they marry a Canadian, have a Canadian parent or have lived in Canada for a long period of time.

Although these scenarios do not give rise to an automatic citizenship grant, there are still ways to become a Canadian citizen by becoming a permanent resident and subsequently meeting citizenship eligibility criteria.

We also want to note that if you voluntarily renounced citizenship status, even if you meet one of the situations discussed above, you will have to become a permanent resident and meet the citizenship criteria to become a citizen again. You are not eligible to apply for proof of your status.

We know all of these rules may be confusing. We can help you sort through the details and determine if you have a right to citizenship.

Citizenship: Current rules and application backlog

Citizenship eligibility rules

Mary Keyork
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Since 2014, there have been several significant changes to the Citizenship Act and the requirements to becoming a Canadian citizen. Today’s rules look a lot like the previous rules that were in place before 2014.

Current Eligibility Rules
First of all, what are the current citizenship rules? What criteria does a Canadian permanent resident need to meet to become a citizen and get a Canadian passport?

There are five main areas that you will need to meet, as well as some criteria that will inhibit you from applying for citizenship, outlined in the table below.

Eligibility CategoryRule
Permanent resident statusYou must be a Canadian permanent resident
Time present in Canada before you fileYou must have been physically present in Canada for at least 1095 days during the five years before you sign your application formsnnAny time spent in Canada as a legal temporary resident during the five years before you sign your application can be counted as a half day of physical presence, up to a total of 365 days out of the 1095 day requirement
Income tax filing requirementsIf you are required to file Canadian taxes under Canada’s Income Tax Act, you must have filed taxes in three tax years within the five years before the date you apply
English and/or French language skillsYou must be able to show that you are proficient in English and/or French. Anyone between 18-54 needs to demonstrate that they can speak and listen at the required level in order to be eligible
Knowledge of Canada’s culture and historyAnyone between 18-54 will have to take a citizenship test to show that they have an understanding of Canadian values, history, symbols, institutions, rights, responsibilities and privileges of citizenship
Prohibitions – You cannot apply ifYour permanent resident status is in question or you have not fulfilled conditions of conditional permanent resident statusnnYou are subject to a removal order
In some cases, have committed a crime in or outside of Canada (there are rules relating to criminality, citizenship applications and periods when anyone who falls under a specific category of criminality cannot apply)

We want to be clear that the rules above apply to individuals applying for a grant of citizenship, or who want to become naturalized Canadian citizens. Different rules apply to those who have a right to citizenship and need to obtain proof of their citizenship. Look out for a future blog for details on who can apply for proof of citizenship, or get in touch and ask our firm.

What Changed After 2014?
Before 2014, the rules were very similar to those we have today (which just reverted back in 2017). From 2014 to 2017, the main differences included: applicants needed to prove their intent to live in Canada after becoming citizens, applicants had to have resided in Canada for four of six years before applying (compared to three out of five years currently), applicants needed to show income tax returns for at least four years out of those six years, applicants between 14-64 needed to prove language abilities and take the citizenship test (compared to 18-54 currently) and applicants were not able to count days in Canada as a temporary resident toward their physical residence requirement.

What was the point of all the back and forth? Partly, a change in government saw changes to many immigration policies and laws, including citizenship rules. In 2014, there was a significant backlog of applications in the citizenship processing queue – some applicants had to wait 3 years or more for a decision. With the stricter rules that came into effect in 2014, people had to wait longer to become eligible and there was a dip in the number of people applying. This allowed the government to get some breathing room to work through the backlog of applications.

In 2016, the government increased the filing fees for citizenship applications which seemed to also lower the number of applicants applying that year. There was a 50% decrease in the number of applications received from January to August 2016, compared to the same period in 2015 [Sources: 1 2]. This gave the government another opportunity to work through the backlog and cut down on application processing times.

At the close of 2017, we saw citizenship application processing times down to one year, as published on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) website. We will have to wait and see how the latest rule change will impact processing times and if it will lead to a marked increase.

On a positive note, the rule changes have benefits for those who have been waiting to apply. Permanent residents can apply as soon as they accumulate three years of physical residency within the five years before they submit an application (including any qualifying time as a temporary resident).


New rules regarding citizenship revocation in effect

citizenship revocation

Mary Keyork
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In our last two blogs, we covered some of the ways that individuals can become Canadian citizens, either through naturalization or birth.
This week, we look at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (“IRCC”) latest announcement regarding revocation of citizenship and the rights of people going through the revocation process.

The old revocation process
As always, we like to give our readers a quick overview of the past rules before we explain what has changed.

Before this year, any Canadian citizen who was facing revocation of citizenship based on misrepresentation, fraud or knowingly concealing material circumstances (for example, using fake documents or information to obtain citizenship) would have their case reviewed by the Immigration Minister, or a Minister’s delegate.

If a case involved security, human or international rights violations or organized crime, it was heard by the Federal Court.

If a citizenship officer suspected misrepresentation or fraudulent behavior, they had no right to seize documents provided in support of citizenship or proof of citizenship applications.

What has changed? The new revocation process

Now, with the latest changes in effect, citizenship officers can seize documents that they suspect are fraudulent or were gained through fraudulent means related to citizenship applications. In revocation cases, an IRCC official will review the facts and evidence to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to bring the matter to Federal Court, which could result in some revocation cases being terminated.

In addition, in the summer of 2017, IRCC repealed the rule that citizenship could be revoked for dual citizens (i.e. anyone holding Canadian citizenship and citizenship to another country at the same time) if they were convicted of treason, terrorism or spying, or were engaged in armed forces that were engaged in conflict with Canada. As a result, dual citizens are not subject to revocation but instead face prosecution in Canada for their crimes, no matter what the sentence, just like every other Canadian citizen. Essentially, having dual citizenship no longer gives these individuals lesser rights under Canadian laws.

The Federal Court will be the primary decision maker for all citizenship revocation cases. Individuals facing revocation will still have a right to have their case heard by the Minister if they choose, but it will not happen automatically.

What does this really mean for individuals potentially facing revocation? It means an opportunity for greater fairness in the revocation process. By having cases heard by the Federal Court, people facing revocation have the chance to be represented in an independent court and play an active role in the proceedings.

Approved for Canadian permanent residency-What do I do now?

canada permanent residency

Photo by Eye for Ebony on Unsplash

Mary Keyork
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I was finally approved for my Canadian permanent residency! What do I do now? #HelpMe

Well first of all, congratulations!

We know how hard and long the process can be, but you made it through to the end. If you are wondering when you are going to receive your PR card, it can take about 1-2 months and this is completely normal. But you don’t need it in order to start getting some of your documents in order as you will have the Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR), which you received during your landing at the border or at an IRCC office.

Once you have landed in Canada, we recommend that your first stop be at the Service Canada office and get your Social Insurance Number (SIN). This is the number you will need in order to be able to work in Canada and of course, to pay your taxes.

Next, we recommend that you schedule an appointment with the department of motor vehicles in your area (the SAAQ in Quebec, Service Ontario in Ontario) if you wish to obtain a Canadian Driver’s License.

With respect to your health care coverage, you will need to apply for this at the designated office. We recommend that you inquire about this at the respective health office immediately after you land as each province has different instructions and requirements in applying and obtaining health care coverage – note that there is usually a delay from the date that you become a permanent resident to the day that you will have your health care coverage. In most provinces, there is a period of a few months where you will not have health coverage as this is a federal policy – we, therefore, recommend that you take the necessary precautions in order to have travel health insurance for that period of time in the event of a medical emergency.

Once you receive your PR card, it will be valid for a period of 5 years. In order to be able to renew your PR card when it expires, you will have to meet the residency requirement of 2 years out of 5 of physical presence in Canada. If you travel very often outside of Canada, we recommend that you keep all the dates and details of your travels as this can be helpful in calculating your residency at the time of your renewal.

Finally, as a Permanent Resident of Canada, if you live in Canada 3 years out of 5, you will be eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship. Once you become a Canadian citizen, you will no longer be a Permanent Resident and you will be issued a Canadian citizenship certificate, which you can use to apply for a Canadian passport.

We wish you all the best in your new life in Canada!

I want to move to Canada. Is it possible?

Moving to Canada

Nancy Elliott
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I want to move to Canada. Is it possible?


As the dust settles after the hard-fought US presidential battle, many Americans are considering a move to Canada. Of course, threatening to go to Canada in exasperation is not the same thing as analyzing, planning and relocating, and many Americans do not know where to begin.

Here’s what to do:

1. Decide that you want to transfer
Consider all of the advantages and disadvantages of moving to Canada. It’s tough to leave home, and relocating can be both intimidating and exciting. Canada is a beautiful, clean and diverse country with sophisticated political and legal systems, universal healthcare, advanced technology infrastructure and world-class education. Research employment, business and investment opportunities, taxation, housing and education, and consider where you would like to live. For example, the climate is warmer in Vancouver, but Toronto is Canada’s centre of commerce.

2. Consider the time frame
Maybe you are ready to move tomorrow, but your kids have just started a new school year. Obtaining permanent residence (a Canadian green card) can take many months and often over a year. Perhaps you are qualified for a work permit that could allow you to relocate within weeks or months. Which would work better for you?

3. Get proper advice
Canadian immigration law can seem daunting, as there are many different categories with specific requirements. We can assess your situation and provide you with the best solution to successfully immigrate or work in Canada.

4. Apply
Many work permit applications can be made right at the Canadian border. Others require prior approval and consideration at a Canadian Embassy or Consulate in the United States. We can guide you through the process.

5. Move to Canada!
Get ready to begin your new life in Canada. Explore places to live, schools and communities.

So how can you successfully apply for residence in Canada?

Get a Work Permit

There are many different types of work permits available to US citizens. They include the following:

  • NAFTA professionals for a large variety of occupations, from scientists to management consultants – the catch is you need to find a job in your profession first.
  • Intra-company transferees – if your company has a parent, subsidiary or affiliate in Canada, you can be transferred provided you are a senior manager or possess specialized knowledge. Your business can even set up a new entity in Canada and send you up to get it started.
  • Owner/Operator – if you are self-employed or an entrepreneur, you can set up your own business in Canada provided you have a decent plan. This category requires careful consideration and planning.

Spouses of these types of work permit holders can also qualify for open work permits and look for employment in Canada. Kids can obtain study permits to go to school.

Often, work permit holders can qualify for permanent residence through one of the economic categories, which means that remaining in Canada permanently

Apply for Permanent Residence

You have probably heard that applications for permanent residence take quite a while to process. Applicants in the Express Entry system who are invited to apply can have their applications processed in six months, whereas self-employed applications can take years.

Canada’s Express Entry system allows applicants to apply through an electronic platform that assesses candidates according to a comprehensive ranking system. Those with higher scores are invited to apply and will have their applications quickly processed. The system allows applicants in various categories to apply, the most common program being the Federal Skilled Worker program.

  • Federal Skilled Worker – The program is based on a points system that considers an applicant’s education, experience, language ability, adaptability and whether there is a valid job offer.
  • Federal Skilled Trades – This program targets people in a variety of skilled trades, but requires them to have a minimum of English skills and a valid job offer or a certification of qualification from a province to apply.
  • Self-Employed – This category addresses athletes, actors, musicians, and others engaged in cultural activities which are either highly skilled or have significant self-employment experience. It is also open to experienced farmers who wish to operate a farm in Canada.
  • Start-up Visas – The Start-up Visa Program allows entrepreneurs to be fast-tracked for permanent residence if they can obtain financial support from a Canadian venture capital or angel fund, or from a business incubator. This underutilized program is very suitable for new and existing innovators and entrepreneurs.

Are you ready to get Started?

We have over two decades of experience handling all types of immigration applications and have a broad understanding of Canada’s immigration and citizenship laws and procedures.

We can expertly guide you through the process and assist you to plan your new life in Canada.

Why do I need to provide a residency questionnaire after applying?

Why do I have to do a residency questionnaire after already applying for Canadian citizenship?

There are some reasons why you would receive this residency questionnaire. Several citizenship offices are conducting due diligence to ensure that applicants have been truthful in their citizenship applications and meet the residency requirement. Citizenship asks application, to complete this questionnaire as well as provide documentation to demonstrate that you did reside in Canada for at least three years before applying for citizenship.

Citizenship applications can take a long time to process and even longer if you are asked to complete the questionnaire. It is important that you consult with an immigration lawyer to go over your residency history and ensure that you do not have any gaps or errors in your application.

How do I proof English proficiency for Canadian Citizenship application?

How do I proof English proficiency for Canadian Citizenship application?

I will be eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship in December 2012. I have heard that I must now demonstrate adequate knowledge of English profiency, but I do not know how to prove this. What proof must I provide?

Citizenship and Immigration have published a detailed list of acceptable documents which you may provide to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of English or French. These materials include:

IELTS – General – either current or previously submitted with your immigration application
CELPIP – either General or General LS
TEF or TEFAQ for French
A transcript, diploma or certificate from a secondary school
A transcript, diploma, certificate or degree from a post-secondary school
Proof of achieving CLB/NCLC 4 in speaking and listening through a Language Instruction for Newcomers (LINC) or Cours de langue pour les immigrants au Canada (CLIC)course

Further details regarding the scores required can be found on the CIC website at http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/citizenship/language.asp

If you would like our assistance, kindly contact us to set up a consultation, and we would be happy to speak with you about the immigration process(es) that you might like to undertake.