On June 19, 2017, Bill C-6 received Royal Assent, resulting in a number of changes to the current Citizenship Act. Several changes came into effect on June 19, 2017, and others are expected to come into effect in fall 2017 and early 2018.
These changes, which are summarized in the below chart, are reflective of the Canadian government’s commitment to streamlining the citizenship process, as well as to enhancing program integrity and ensuring that dual citizens receive equal treatment to other Canadian citizens under the Citizenship Act.
Summary of changes:
|Effective date||Previous Citizenship Act||Citizenship Act with Bill C-6 Amendments|
|June 19, 2017||Citizenship could be revoked from dual citizens convicted of treason, spying and terrorism offences, depending on the sentence received, or who were a part of an armed force of a country or organized group engaged in conflict with Canada.||This provision is repealed. Dual citizens living in Canada who are convicted of these crimes will face the Canadian justice system, like other Canadian citizens who break the law.|
|Applicants were required to intend to continue to live in Canada if granted citizenship||This provision is repealed. Applicants are no longer required to intend to continue to live in Canada once granted citizenship.|
|The Minister had the discretion to waive certain requirements under subsection 5(1) of the Citizenship Act so a minor could obtain citizenship without a Canadian parent.||Minors can now apply for citizenship without a Canadian parent, as the age requirement for citizenship has been removed under subsection 5(1). A person having custody of the minor or empowered to act on their behalf by court order, written agreement or operation of law, can now apply for citizenship on behalf of the minor, unless that requirement is waived by the Minister.|
|No provision existed to prevent individuals serving a sentence in the community (a conditional sentence order) from being granted citizenship, taking the Oath of Citizenship or counting this time towards meeting the physical presence requirements for citizenship.||Individuals serving a conditional sentence will not be granted citizenship, will not be able to take the Oath of Citizenship, or be able to count this time towards meeting the physical presence requirements for citizenship.|
|The Minister has the discretion to grant citizenship to a person to alleviate cases of special and unusual hardship, or to reward services of an exceptional value to Canada.||Statelessness has been added as a stand-alone ground that can be considered for a discretionary grant of citizenship.|
|The Department has reasonable measures to accommodate the needs of citizenship applicants. However, there was no explicit reference to accommodate persons with disabilities in the Citizenship Act.||The requirement to take into consideration reasonable measures to accommodate the needs of a citizenship applicant who is a disabled person is now included in the Citizenship Act.|
|The requirement for applicants to maintain the requirements for citizenship from the time they apply for citizenship until taking the Oath of Citizenship only applied to applications received on or after June 11, 2015.||This requirement now also applies to all applications, including those received before June 11, 2015.|
|Fall 2017||Applicants had to be physically present in Canada for 4 out of 6 years before applying for citizenship.||Applicants must be present in Canada for 3 out of 5 years before applying for citizenship.Applicants must be present in Canada for 3 out of 5 years before applying for citizenship.|
|Applicants had to file Canadian income taxes, if required to do so under the Income Tax Act, for 4 out of 6 years.||Applicants must file Canadian income taxes, if required to do so under the Income Tax Act, for 3 out of 5 years.|
|Applicants had to be physically present in Canada for 183 days in 4 out of the 6 years preceding their application.||This provision has been repealed.|
|Time spent in Canada prior to becoming a permanent resident (“PR”) did not count towards the physical presence requirement for citizenship.||Applicants may count each day they were physically present in Canada as a temporary resident or protected person before becoming a PR as a half-day toward meeting the physical presence requirement for citizenship, up to a maximum credit of 365 days.|
|Applicants between 14 and 64 years had to meet the language and knowledge requirements for citizenship.||Applicants between 18 and 54 years must meet the language and knowledge requirements for citizenship.|
|Early 2018||The Minister was the decision-maker for most cases of citizenship revocation on the grounds of false representation, fraud, or knowingly concealing material circumstances. The Federal Court was the decision-maker for citizenship revocation cases involving false representation, fraud, or knowingly concealing material circumstances related to security, human or international right violations, and organized criminality||The Federal Court is the decision-maker in all revocation cases, unless the individual requests that the Minister make the decision.|
|There was no clear authority for Citizenship Officers to seize fraudulent or suspected fraudulent documents provided under the Citizenship Act.||Clear authority for Citizenship Officers to seize fraudulent or suspected fraudulent documents is provided under the Citizenship Act.|
The immediate and anticipated changes outlined above are expected to streamline the citizenship process by simplifying and relaxing physical presence requirements, amending the language and knowledge requirements, and allowing time spent in Canada as a temporary resident or protected person prior to obtaining PR status to count toward physical presence for the purposes of obtaining Canadian citizenship. Additionally, these changes are expected to uphold and enhance the integrity of Canada’s citizenship program by ensuring equal treatment of dual citizens and other Canadian citizens.
For more information about these changes or obtaining Canadian citizenship, please contact a member of our team at PwC Law LLP.