Canadian citizenship is one of the most sought after citizenships in the world, and it’s easy to understand why. Citizens of Canada can build their lives and grow their careers in one of the most successful countries that has ever existed. See our list of frequently asked questions to learn all you need to know about obtaining Canadian citizenship.
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For the purposes of this article, we will be dealing with the process of obtaining Canadian citizenship through naturalization.
Who is a Canadian citizen?
A person is a Canadian citizen if he or she:
- Was born in Canada;
- Became a citizen through naturalization;
- Was born outside Canada and one parent was a Canadian citizen at the time of birth, because the parent was either born in Canada or naturalized in Canada;
- Was born outside Canada on or after January 1, 1947, up to and including April 16, 2009 to a Canadian parent who was also born outside Canada to a Canadian parent; or
- Was adopted outside Canada by a Canadian parent on or after January 1, 1947.
For the purposes of this page, we will be dealing with the process of obtaining Canadian citizenship through naturalization.
What are the requirements to become a Canadian citizen?
To become a naturalized citizen of Canada, applicants must:
- have permanent resident status;
- have resided in Canada for at least three years (1,095 days) out of the previous five years*;
- have filed personal income taxes for at least three years within the five-year period, if required under the Income Tax Act;
- demonstrate knowledge of Canada, and knowledge of English or French (if between 18 and 54 years of age, inclusive); and
- not be under removal order.
*Under rare circumstances, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will allow an applicant to count time spent outside Canada towards the physical presence calculation. If you resided outside Canada because your, your Canadian citizen or permanent resident spouse or common-law partner, or permanent resident parent was employed outside Canada in or with the Canadian Armed Forces or the public administration of the federal government or a province or territory, these days may be counted.
What are the advantages of becoming a Canadian citizen?
Canadian citizenship bestows a number of rights. In addition to the rights held by permanent residents of Canada, including the right to live and work in any part of Canada, Canadian citizens may:
- vote in federal, provincial, and municipal elections;
- run for political office;
- leave and re-enter Canada as and when they wish, without needing to accumulate residency days to maintain status in Canada; and
- apply for a Canadian passport, one of the most valuable passports in the world.
In addition, a child born to a Canadian citizen, whether that child is born in Canada or not, is automatically a Canadian citizen. And lastly, citizens don’t need to renew their immigration documentation, as a Canadian citizenship certificate is valid indefinitely.
What changes were made to Canada’s citizenship laws in 2017?
In June 2017, Bill C-6, an act to amend the Citizenship Act, was passed into law, bringing significant changes to how Canadian citizenship is obtained and maintained.
Though C-6 became law in June 2017, some of its most important measures only came into effect on October 11, 2017. The number of days an individual must spend as a resident before becoming eligible for citizenship was reduced, and applicants who previously spent time on temporary status in Canada are now able to count a portion of that time towards the eligibility requirements.
Before October 11, 2017, permanent residents had to accumulate 1,460 days (four years) of residence in Canada within a six-year period before becoming eligible to apply for citizenship. As of October 11, 2017, only 1,095 days (three years) in Canada within a five-year period is required. Further, applicants who had spent time in Canada as a worker, student, visitor, or protected person before acquiring permanent resident status may count up to 365 days of this time as a temporary resident towards their residency days. Each actual day spent in Canada on such a temporary status is counted as a half day, while each day with permanent status is counted as a full day.
In addition, the government no longer requires applicants to be physically present in Canada for 183 days or more in four out of the six years preceding their application, as was the case previously.
The government also exempted a larger portion of applicants from having to pass the citizenship test and prove language ability. Only applicants aged 18 to 54, inclusive, must prove this knowledge and ability.
Some changes came into effect immediately upon C-6 being passed. Significantly, applicants are no longer required to intend to continue to live in Canada once granted citizenship, providing more flexibility to individuals and families who may need to live outside of Canada for work or personal reasons. Other changes that came into effect at that time allow minors to apply for citizenship without the consent of a parent, and dual citizens convicted of treason, spying and terrorism offences will no longer face having their citizenship revoked. Instead, they face the Canadian justice system, just like any other Canadian citizen. This latter change removed what many considered to have been a “two-tiered” system.
How does Canada’s law on naturalization compare with other countries’ laws?
In the global context, Canada’s citizenship naturalization process is one of – if not the – most liberal of all. Canada allows for dual citizenship, does not ask new citizens to declare their intention to reside in the state, and allows residents to submit an application for citizenship within a shorter timeframe than other countries – sometimes much shorter. Canada’s laws allow non-citizen residents to live and work flexibly, while planning to eventually become Canadian citizens through a system that sets out clear, objective criteria.
The table below compares Canada’s citizenship regulations with other countries where Moving2Canada.com is popularly read.
|Country||Residency requirement before citizenship||Dual citizenship||Intent to reside provision||Government Source|
|Australia||4 years immediately prior to the application||Allowed||Yes||Migrant with permanent residence - eligibility|
|Canada||3 years in the past 5 years, of which up to 1 year of prior temporary status may be included||Allowed||No||IRCC|
|India||12 years in the past 15 years, including the 1 year immediately preceding the application||Not allowed||Yes||Ministry of Home Affairs|
|Ireland||5 years in past 9 years, including the 1 year immediately preceding the application.||Allowed||Yes||Becoming an Irish citizen through naturalisation|
|Nigeria||15 years in the past 20 years, including the 1 year immediately preceding the application||Not allowed for naturalized persons||Yes||Constitution|
|Pakistan||5 years in the past 8 years, including the 1 year immediately preceding the application||Only if you are from one of 18 countries||Yes||Ministry of Interior|
|Philippines||10 years continuous||Not allowed||Yes||The Administrative Naturalization Law|
|UK||5 years (3 years if applying as the spouse of a citizen)||Allowed||Yes||Become a British citizen|
|USA||5 years (3 years if applying as the spouse of a citizen)||Allowed||No||How to become a U.S. Citizen and USCIS|
Note: The above table was created using information gathered in October, 2017. Moving2Canada cannot guarantee the ongoing accuracy of the information provided in the table.
Do I need to apply for permanent residence before applying for Canadian citizenship?
Except for in a few rare cases involving international adoption, all naturalized Canadians must first apply for and obtain Canadian permanent resident status. Canada welcomes newcomers from across the world under its immigration programs, through which individuals and families may become permanent residents. If you are unsure about your options, or if you are currently in Canada with temporary status and wish to transition to permanent residence, please view our Book an Immigration Consultation page.
Does Canada allow dual citizenship?
Yes, Canada allows dual (or multiple) citizenship. This means that new Canadian citizens may also retain the citizenship of another country (if that country also allows dual citizenship) while enjoying the rights and privileges of being a Canadian.
Do I have to intend to reside in Canada if I want to become a citizen?
No, naturalized Canadian citizens do not have to intend to reside in Canada upon being naturalized. The opposite was previously the case, but this provision was repealed in 2017.
Do I become a Canadian if I marry a Canadian?
No, you do not automatically become a Canadian citizen if you marry a Canadian citizen. It may be possible for your spouse (the Canadian citizen) to sponsor you to become a permanent resident (see our spousal sponsorship article), after which you may eventually become eligible for citizenship. Alternatively, you may apply for permanent residence by other means (such as through an economic immigration program).
What happens if I fail the citizenship test?
Individuals who fail to pass the citizenship test the first time, but who otherwise meet the criteria for obtaining citizenship, will be asked to sit another test around 4-8 weeks after the first test.
If the second test also results in failure, the government of Canada will invite the person to appear for a hearing with a citizenship officer. During this oral hearing, the officer may assess whether this person meets all the requirements for citizenship by testing his or her knowledge of Canada, asking questions about his or her residency in Canada, and assessing English or French ability.
What is the Canadian citizenship ceremony?
New citizens are required to attend a ceremony and recite an Oath of Citizenship. Once the Oath has been taken, you become a Canadian citizen. A citizenship certificate, showing the date, is presented to each new citizen as proof of citizenship. Citizens-to-be aged 14 and above are required to go to the ceremony and take the Oath. Children under 14 are not required to attend, but are welcome to do so.
Citizenship ceremonies take place across Canada and at all times of the year. They are joyous occasions, where people from around the world join the Canadian family together.
The government of Canada provides an online resource on preparing for the Canadian citizenship ceremony.
I would like help with my Canadian citizenship application. Can a qualified person help me in my goals?
The immigration consultants we work with at Moving2Canada are happy to assist you in becoming a Canadian citizen. Simply book a consultation, and continue your journey to Canadian citizenship!