Canada requires that any adult who wants to apply for Canadian Citizenship must first live in Canada for a specified period of time before they are eligible to apply for Canadian Citizenship. Although there are other Canadian Citizenship Eligibility criteria in addition to time spent in Canada, this post will specifically address the issue of the question “How long do I have to wait until I can apply for Canadian Citizenship?”.
There are essentially three categories of people who can apply for Canadian Citizenship, and the timeframe to eligibility for citizenship will be different for each.
Permanent Residents of Canada
One of the most common questions we receive when our clients have successfully achieved Permanent Resident status is “How long long after PR can I apply for Citizenship in Canada?” Although the standard requirement is that the applicant must show 3 years physical presence inside Canada within the 5 year period before applying for Citizenship, the timeline to Citizenship eligibility is going to be different for each applicant.
If you achieved PR status on the day you arrived to Canada, you will need to demonstrate at least 3 years living in Canada since you became a Permanent Resident in order to apply for Citizenship.
If you were already living inside Canada as a visitor, student or worker before you became a Permanent Resident, then you can get up to 12 months of credit towards the 3 year citizenship requirement. You are able to count as 1/2 days anytime that you were inside Canada with legal temporary resident status (visitor, worker, student) within the 5 year period immediately prior to the date of your Citizenship application. Note that the maximum credit you can claim is 12 months, as long as you had at least 2 years of time inside Canada as a temporary resident. Even if you were inside Canada for more than 2 years as a temporary resident, you cannot get more than the 12 months credit.
For those who lived in Canada before becoming a PR, you will be eligible to apply for Citizenship according to the equation below:
Number of days in Canada as a temp resident /2 + number of days in Canada as a PR > 3 years
Remember that you can only include days within the five year period before you sign the Citizenship application.
Minor children of Canadian Permanent Residents
Sometimes a family will achieve Permanent Resident status in Canada and part of the family will settle in Canada while other members remain overseas to finish up work or study obligations. A common question in this scenario is “Does a child need to meet the three-year minimum residency requirement to be eligible for Canadian Citizenship if they are applying with their parent?”
The answer is no. Minor children (less than age 18 at time of application) do not need to meet the Canadian residency requirement for Citizenship as long as one of the following conditions applies:
- they are applying for Canadian Citizenship at the same time as one of their parents, or
- one of their parents is already a Canadian citizen
Although the minor child needs to have Permanent Residence status on the day their application for Canadian Citizenship is submitted, they do not need to have lived inside Canada for any specific length of time.
Members of the Canadian military – Canadian Armed Forces Citizenship
Permanent Residents and Foreign Nationals serving with the Canadian Armed Forces are eligible to apply for Citizenship through a fast track program after serving for a 3 year period of time (1095 days) within a 6 year period. Note that physical presence inside Canada is not required, as the eligibility rests upon the amount of time you have served with the Canadian Armed Forces. These applications are processed on a priority basis and normally take much less time to finalize than a regular Citizenship application.
Can I get Canadian Citizenship without first getting PR status?
In most cases, you will need to first obtain Permanent Resident status, and then apply for Citizenship after living in Canada. The limited exceptions to this rule are for foreign military members who are serving within the Canadian Armed Forces, and those born abroad to Canadian parents who are already considered to be Canadian citizens at birth, and just need to apply for proof of Canadian Citizenship.
Can I get Canadian Citizenship Without Living in Canada?
There are also limited exceptions as to who can obtain Canadian Citizenship without living in Canada first – Foreign Military members who serve with the Canadian Armed Forces and children who are born abroad to Canadian parents.
How to Count the Time Lived in Canada (physical presence)
It’s important for anyone intending to apply for Canadian citizenship one day to keep track of all travel to and from Canada. As part of the application for Canadian Citizenship, you will be required to provides the dates of any time spent outside of Canada within the five year period before you apply for Canadian citizenship.
If you spend any portion of the day (even an hour) with your feet on the ground in Canada, it counts as a day of physical presence.
Do I have to apply for Canadian Citizenship as soon as I become eligible?
There is no requirement to submit a Canadian Citizenship application as soon as you are eligible, or anytime really. You can remain as a Permanent Resident forever if you wish, as long as you continue to meet the PR residency requirements of 2 years inside Canada within every 5 year period.
However, it is usually a good idea to apply for Canadian Citizenship when you are eligible because Citizenship gives you many benefits that Permanent Residence does not, including the ability to stop keeping records of your travels. Once you have your Canadian passport, there is no longer any physical presence requirement and you can live anywhere in the world and still retain your Canadian citizenship.
Other Canadian Citizenship Eligibility Criteria
The timeline is not the only important consideration when planning for a Canadian Citizenship application, it’s just the one that causes the most confusion. Other factors that must be addressed by adult applicants include:
- File income taxes for at least 3 years within the 5 year period (not applicable to foreign military)
- Demonstrate language ability in one of Canada’s two official languages – either English or French equivalent to Canadian Language Benchmarks CLB 4 or higher for listening and speaking
- Pass a Canadian Citizenship test on responsibilities, rights and knowledge of Canada
- Attend a Canadian Citizenship Ceremony and take the Oath of Citizenship
Best Citizenship Consultants at Your Service
Our team at the Way Immigration has over 15 years of experience in assisting people to become a Canadian Citizen – and we have dealt with a lot of different scenarios, including foreign military applications for Citizenship. Contact our office today to ensure that your application for Citizenship is approved in the quickest timeframe possible.