In Canada, just as in most countries around the world, a person who is entitled to enjoy all the rights, privileges, and opportunities provided by the government of a sovereign country or province and also owes allegiance is known as a citizen.
Canadian citizens enjoy the rights and privileges provided under the law governing the country’s and provinces’ conduct. Besides, the citizens owe allegiance and duties to the government of Canada.
The real hurdle to cross is obtaining your permanent residency or landed immigrant status to apply for Canadian citizenship. As long as you have established your permanent residency status, getting Canadian citizenship becomes accessible with just a few steps. Permanent residency status can be acquired in diverse ways. These include:
- The Canada point system.
- Sponsorship as a spouse or common-law partner by a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.
- Provincial nominee programs.
- The refugee/asylum process.
It should be noted that all application and registration for Canadian citizenship is handled by the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the federal agency responsible for immigration and citizenship-related policies, programs and services in Canada.
Steps to Becoming a Canadian Citizen
These are the step-by-step process of becoming a Canadian citizen.
1. Requirements for becoming a Canadian citizen
The Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) have stipulated eligibility criteria. To become a citizen of Canada, these are some necessary hurdles to cross:
- You must be a permanent resident in Canada
(A Permanent resident is a citizen of another country but has been given a permanent residency status through his or her immigration to Canada.
A permanent resident enjoys all the rights and privileges of a Canadian citizen except the right to vote and run for political office and some jobs that require high-level security clearance).
- You must have lived in any of the provinces of Canada for three (3) years out of the last five (5) years. The time spent outside Canada is not counted except for some special occasions.
- You must have filed your income tax returns for at least three years (1095 days) during the last five years (if needed), and any income tax owed must be paid.
- You must provide proof of your language skills. That is, you must be able to speak, listen, and write in English or French, Canada’s official languages.
- You must pass a test (written or oral) on your rights and responsibilities and your knowledge of Canada.
2. How to apply for citizenship in Canada
- Get your application package, which you can download from the IRCC and fill. The application package contains the necessary steps and guidelines to help you complete the forms correctly.
- Gather all other supporting documents or information to submit with your application to the IRCC.
- Pay the necessary application fees and attach the receipt with your applications. The fees must be paid online whenever you are ready to submit the completed application forms.
- Submit your completed application by mail or courier.
- You will receive a confirmation letter if the application is complete. The letter should include a Unique Client Identifier, which invariably means your application is ready to be processed.
- If your application is incomplete, it will be sent back to you to put in order and resubmit.
- You can check the status of your citizenship application online with the IRCC.
- Usually, the application process takes about 12 months. This is the time of submission to the final stage of issuing a citizenship certificate.
3. Cost of a Canadian citizenship application
The cost of application varies and is determined by the age of the applicant and the number of applicants/applications. Officially, the application fee is:
Adult (age 18 and above): $630 (This includes the processing fee of $530 and the right of citizenship fee of $100).
Minor (under age 18): $100.
4. Canadian citizenship test
You will write an examination if your citizenship application is successfully accepted and if you are between the age of 18 to 54 years. Those below 18 years and above 54 years may not necessarily be called upon to write the test except on a few occasions.
Nature of citizenship examination
The Canada citizenship test comprises 20 questions, basically about your rights, and responsibilities, and to test your knowledge of Canada. The test will cover your knowledge of Canadian history, economy, laws, government, geography, and symbols.
The citizenship test will be in either English or French, depending on your preference, for 30 minutes. You must get up to 15 correct answers out of the 20 questions, which is a 75 percent pass mark. The test can be in written or oral form. An interview with a citizenship official follows it.
Upon completing your tests and you meet all the requirements, a date for the citizenship ceremony will be communicated to you by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
The citizenship ceremony
You will be asked to take the Oath of Citizenship at the citizenship ceremony. The citizenship ceremony takes place across the country all through the year and on Canada Day.
You will be presented with a certificate of citizenship and asked to sing Canada’s national anthem at the ceremony. After two business days of presenting your citizenship certificate, you can apply for a passport as a new Canadian citizen.
Types of Canadian citizenship
There are two major categories of acquiring citizenship in Canada. They are:
Citizenship by Birth: These are persons who obtain citizenship by birth, that is, persons born in Canada or by Canadian parents.
Citizenship by Naturalization: These are persons who were not Canadians by birth but acquired their citizenship status by application.
Differences between a permanent resident and a Canadian citizen
Most immigrants to Canada who obtain permanent resident status aim to become a citizen of Canada. Except on a few occasions, permanent residents in Canada enjoy equal rights with Canadian citizens. Below are some significant differences between a Canadian citizen and a permanent resident.
- Permanent residents have no voting right, while Canadian citizens have the full power to elect a candidate of their choice in any election.
- Permanent residents cannot run for any federal office, while a citizen has the right under the law to contest an election into any political office.
- Permanent residency status can be revoked, while citizenship cannot be taken away except if it is obtained under false information.
- Permanent residency must be maintained, while a citizen does not need to maintain his or her status.
- Permanent residents, unlike Canadian citizens, cannot hold some high-level security clearance jobs.
- A permanent resident does not have a Canadian passport and has to apply for a visa when travelling in or out of the country. In contrast, a Canadian passport holder is given a visa-free privilege to the United States and most European countries.
Dual citizenship in Canada
There is no application or certificate for dual citizenship. The government of Canada allows its citizens to take foreign citizenship while still maintaining their Canadian citizenship status.
Some frequently asked questions on Canadian citizenship (FAQ)
- What if my Canadian citizenship certificate is lost or stolen?
A citizenship certificate is not a travel document, so if it is lost or stolen, you should report it to Immigration, Refugees and Citizens Canada (IRCC) and apply for a new certificate, irrespective of whether you are in Canada or outside Canada.
- Do babies born in Canada get citizenship?
Children born on Canadian soil are automatically granted Canadian citizenship (except for children of foreign diplomats), irrespective of the parent’s citizenship status.
- What happens if I miss my citizenship test?
If you fail to appear for your scheduled citizenship test, the IRCC will mail you a rescheduled test interview date. If you fail to honor the interview again, you will be rescheduled the second time. If you miss the two interview schedules, your citizenship application will be closed, and you will need to re-apply and start the process all over again.
- What happens if I do not appear for the citizenship ceremony?
Suppose you fail to appear for your citizenship ceremony without prior notice to the immigration office within 60 days. In that case, your application will be closed, and you will need to re-apply and go through the entire citizenship application process again.
- Do I become a Canadian citizen when I marry a Canadian?
Marrying a Canadian does not give you automatic citizenship. You will have to go through the application process by meeting the requirements.
- Will I get a refund if my application is returned?
You will get a refund if your citizenship application is incomplete and subsequently returned. This can take up to 6 weeks.
- Do I need to apply for permanent residency before applying for my Canadian citizenship?
Naturalized citizens of Canada must first apply for and get their permanent resident status before they can apply for citizenship. The permanent resident status is one of the prerequisites to applying for Canadian citizenship.
- Does a child need to meet the three years minimum residency requirement for citizenship?
Any permanent resident below the age of 18 years is not required by law to have been physically present in Canada for the three years (1095 days) period before applying for citizenship in Canada.