Applying For Canadian Citizenship
Becoming a Canadian Citizen is an exciting opportunity. Not only will you be able to live in Canada forever, but you will have one of the most valuable passports, enabling you to travel without a visa to most countries in the world.
Qualifications for Canadian Citizenship
If you are a Permanent Resident of Canada and you meet the following criteria, then you are eligible to apply for Canadian Citizenship:
1. You have been physically present in Canada for at least three years (1095 days) within the past five years.
- Each day spent inside Canada as a temporary resident (visitor, student or worker) can count as one half day, up to a maximum of one year total qualifying time. This means that if you were inside Canada as a visitor, student or worker for at least two years before you became a Permanent Resident, you will be eligible to apply for Citizenship once you have lived in Canada as a PR for two years.
2. You have filed Canadian Income Taxes for at least 3 of the past 5 years.
3. You are proficient in either French or English, demonstrated by taking a language test or having studied in either official language. Those under age 18 or over age 54 do not need to show language skills.
4. You are not in trouble – either due to criminal actions or problems with your immigration status.
Canadian Citizenship Application Process
If you meet the eligibility criteria, there is a 4-step process to apply for Canadian Citizenship.
1. Submit Your Application
You can apply online or submit a paper application. Be sure to include the application forms, supporting documents and the Citizenship fee ($630 per adult, $100 per minor child).
Pay careful attention to the documents requested and the format required. It is necessary to include copies of ALL the pages of relevant passports, some of the documents will need to be in color, and you will need to submit front and back copies of some of your ID documents.
2. Write The Canadian Citizenship Test
After your application has been assessed and you have been deemed eligible for Canadian Citizenship, you will receive an invitation to write the Citizenship Exam. The exam is composed of 20 multiple choice questions and covers topics such as Canadian history, geography and systems of government. You will be provided with a link to the online study guide after you have submitted your application for Canadian Citizenship. A passing mark on the Canadian Citizenship exam is 15 correct answers.
If you don’t pass the exam on your first attempt, you will be rescheduled to take the exam again in a few weeks. If you are unsuccessful on your second attempt, you will be scheduled for an interview with a citizenship official so that they can speak with you about your knowledge of Canada and determine if you meet the criteria to become a Canadian Citizen.
Applicants under the age of 18 and over the age of 54 do not need to take the Citizenship exam.
3. Attend An Interview
On the same day that you write your Canadian Citizenship Exam, you will meet with a government official to present your original documents for inspection and have a brief conversation to verify your language skills.
4. Attend The Oath Ceremony
All Canadian Citizenship applicants over the age of 14 must attend a citizenship ceremony and take the oath of Citizenship. Sometimes your oath ceremony will be scheduled on the same day as your exam, and other times it will be held on a separate day. During the ceremony, you will be presented with your Certificate of Canadian Citizenship and have the opportunity to take a photo with the Citizenship judge.
Apply For A Canadian Passport
Once you have received your Canadian Citizenship Certificate, you will probably be eager to apply for a Canadian passport. You will need to wait at least 2 business days after your Canadian Citizenship oath ceremony before you can apply for a passport.
Applying For Proof Of Canadian Citizenship
In some cases, you may already be a Canadian Citizen and just need to apply for a Citizenship Certificate so that you can obtain a Canadian passport. If one of your parents or grandparents was Canadian, and you were born before 2009, there is a good chance that you became a Canadian citizen when you were born.
For those born outside of Canada to a Canadian Citizen in 2009 or later, the situation is less clear and will depend on where your parents were born. If you find yourself in this situation, it would be a good idea to set up an appointment with a professional in order to review the complex rules with respect to Canadian citizenship and determine what your options might be.
What It Means To Be A Citizen Of Canada
Canadian Citizenship means that you can live anywhere in Canada, you can work in any job, and you can sponsor your family to live with you if they are located elsewhere. You are able to vote in Canadian elections and even run for political office, if you want to. You are eligible for a Canadian passport and you can keep your Canadian Citizenship even if you don’t continue to live in Canada.
Let’s review a quick summary of the differences between Canadian Citizenship and Permanent Residence.
Benefits of Canadian Citizenship:
- Can work and live anywhere in Canada
- Guaranteed entry to Canada
- Hold Canadian passport
- Requires Canadian passport to return to Canada
- No residency requirement
- Can vote and run for political office
- Remains in Canada after criminal convictions
Benefits of Permanent Residence:
- Can work and live anywhere in Canada
- Guaranteed entry to Canada
- Hold passport from country of origin
- Require PR card to return to Canada
- Must live 2 years inside Canada in each 5 year period
- Cannot vote or run for political office
- Can be deported for criminal convictions
Canadian Armed Forces Citizenship
A fast track pathway to Canadian Citizenship exists for individuals serving with the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). The program is open to Canadian Permanent Residents serving with the Canadian Armed Forces, or foreign military members who are attached to or seconded to the CAF.
Military personnel who meet the above criteria are eligible to apply for Canadian Citizenship after serving for 3 years with the Canadian Armed Forces. The processing time is usually much faster than the regular Citizenship processing.
Canadian Citizenship Frequently Asked Questions
Can I apply for Canadian Citizenship with an expired PR Card?
Yes, you do not need a valid PR card when you apply for Canadian Citizenship. If you have been inside Canada with an expired PR card, you are still considered to be a Permanent Resident of Canada and you are eligible to apply for Canadian Citizenship.
Can I leave Canada after applying for Citizenship?
Yes, you can leave Canada after applying for Citizenship, as long as you maintain your Permanent Resident status and you can return to Canada to take the Oath of Citizenship when it’s time to do so. Although you can obtain special permission to take the Canadian Citizenship test from outside Canada, you must be physically present in Canada when you take the Oath of Citizenship.
Can I be a dual Citizen if I obtain Canadian Citizenship?
Canada does not prohibit dual citizenship. You will need to check the rules related to your country of origin to understand if acquiring Canadian Citizenship will mean that you lose your original citizenship.
What is the pass mark for the Canadian Citizenship test?
The Canadian Citizenship test is an online, multiple choice test consisting of 20 questions related to the Canadian government and political system. You will need to score at least 15 correct answers, within 30 minutes, to pass your test.
What should I study for the Canadian Citizenship test?
The Canadian government has published a study guide of preparation materials for the Canadian Citizenship test. You can study the guide online, you can order a paper copy to study from, or you can also listen to the audio version of the study guide.
How may times can you take the Canadian Citizenship test?
Applicants are normally given three attempts to take the Canadian Citizenship test. If you do not pass the Citizenship test within three attempts, you will be referred to a Canadian Citizenship judge for an interview to ensure that you understand the rights and obligations of Canadian Citizenship.
How long does it take to get Canadian Citizenship?
Canadian citizenship processing times are generally around 8-12 months from start to finish. Applications can take longer when fingerprints are requested, when the applicant has a criminal record, or for applicants from certain countries where background checks take longer to complete.
Does my child need to live in Canada to apply for Canadian Citizenship?
A minor child does not need to live in Canada for any specific length of time in order to apply for Canadian Citizenship, as long as the child has maintained their PR status and at least one parent has achieved Canadian Citizenship, or will be applying for Canadian citizenship at the same time as the child.
What proof of official languages is required for Canadian Citizenship?
You can submit proof that you studied at the high school or post-secondary level in one of Canada’s official languages, or you can take an English or French exam that is recognized by IRCC. If you are taking an official exam, you need to be tested on only the Listening and speaking components. Furthermore, if you have previously taken an exam for one of Canada’s official languages, you can submit the test score no matter how old the results are. You need to obtain a CLB 4 of higher in each of listening and speaking in order to be eligible for Canadian Citizenship. If you are 54 years of age or older, you do not need proof of language skills.
How to Renounce Canadian Citizenship
In some instances, an individual may wish to renounce Canadian Citizenship in order to acquire the nationality of another country that does not permit dual Citizenship, or for other reasons like wanting to avoid paying Canadian income taxes on world income, for example. In other instances, changes to the Canadian Citizenship act over the years means that someone who has never considered themselves a Canadian citizen, became Canadian due to changes in the law. It is possible to submit an application to formally renounce Canadian Citizenship as long as you meet the following criteria:
- You have Citizenship of a different country
- You are not living in Canada
- You are over 18 years old
- You must have capacity to understand the decision you are making
- You are not already involved in a process of losing your Citizenship due to Canada deciding to strip your Citizenship
As of the date of writing for this article, it is taking 14 months to process an application to Renounce Canadian Citizenship; however it is possible to apply for urgent processing in certain circumstances.