Qualifying for Canadian Citizenship: Longer Wait Times Faced by Permanent Residents

July 2015

As of June 11, 2015, the final phase of Canadian government’s ambitious immigration reforms, implemented through the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, presented a number of new challenges to permanent residents who had been waiting to qualify to become Canadian citizens.

Particularly, the government introduced much more difficult residency requirements for permanent residents. Some of these key changes include:





Residence in Canada during the qualification period

Residence for three out of four years (1,095 days).

Requires physical presence in Canada for four years (1,460 days) out of the six years immediately before the date of application.

Actual physical presence in Canada during qualification period

No requirement that residents be physically present. Decision maker carried discretionary power to determine whether permanent resident demonstrated sufficient ties and long-term commitments to Canada.

Removes discretion and requires 183 days minimum of physical presence in Canada during each of the four calendar years that are fully or partially within the six years immediately before the date of application.

What counts as a day

Counts as a day if applicant left and returned on the same day, however if gone for two or more days, one of the days is excluded.

Any part of a day is included. Consult CIC’s

Physical Presence Calculator

Value of time spent in Canada as non-permanent resident

Time spent as a non-permanent resident, including a student, worker, or refugee, could be counted toward a credit for citizenship. One day spent here as a non-permanent resident counted as a half-day credit towards the qualification period.

Eliminates use of time spent in Canada as a non-permanent resident for most applicants, with very few exceptions.

Intent to Reside Requirement

No “intent to reside” provision.

Every applicant must state his or her intent to reside in Canada.

Other Notable Changes




Language Requirements

Adult applicants aged 18–54 must meet language requirements and pass knowledge test.

Legislation now requires applicants aged 14–64 to meet language requirements and pass knowledge test.

Tax Filing

No requirement to file Canadian income taxes to be eligible for a grant of citizenship.

Requires adult applicants to file Canadian income taxes for the qualifying period to be eligible for citizenship.

Penalty for Fraud & Misrepresentation

Fines and penalties for fraud are a maximum of $1,000 and/or one year in prison.

Fines and penalties for fraud are up to a maximum $100,000 and/or up to five years in prison.

Revocation Provisions

No authority to revoke citizenship for grounds beyond fraud and misrepresentation.

New expanded powers give authority to revoke citizenship or deny permanent residents citizenship if they are dual citizens* who: 

  • served as members of an armed force of a country or an organized armed group engaged in armed conflict with Canada
  • who are convicted of terrorism, high treason, treason, or spying offences, depending on the sentence received

*This new provision aimed at addressing terrorism has been heavily criticized. Many argue that it creates “second class” citizenship, as it places dual citizens at a higher risk of revocation of what used to be a secure right to citizenship. This is especially problematic as many citizens may not even be aware of their dual status. For example, if a family member was born outside of the country they may have dual citizenship without ever having applied for it. To read more about this issue, visit http://carl-acaadr.ca/articles/70.

Impact of Changes

Undoubtedly, new barriers have been created for those looking to obtain Canadian citizenship. While the government’s intent in these reforms is to “deter citizens of convenience”, one has to wonder whether imposing such strict conditions will go too far in inconveniencing those who legitimately deserve citizenship status and have carried on life here under different assumptions regarding the rules.

For example, foreign nationals who have children attending Canadian schools and intend to reside here, but who often travel abroad for business, will likely face trouble meeting the 183-day per year physical presence requirement.

Moreover, many applicants will face the administrative headache of proving every visit abroad in the past 6 years. This is especially tricky when confirming trips to places like the United States, which often do not get stamped travellers’ passports. Citizenship and Immigration Canada has pointed out that until there are better exit controls, it is up to the foreign nationals to prove their trip dates.

US visitors can access their entry/exit records at the link below, although the information is not always accurate and not all border posts have recorded the information:

Click here to view US entry/exit records

By implementing these new citizenship requirements, Canada is making a bold statement to potential newcomers: you’re in and you stay, or you’re out. Is this too harsh in today’s increasingly globalized world, where international work and travel is much more common place?

Let me know your thoughts at rcarey@ronaleecareylaw.ca.