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The number of people applying to become citizens of Canada increased dramatically immediately after the government relaxed residency and language requirements in October.

The number of people applying to become citizens of Canada increased dramatically immediately after the government relaxed residency and language requirements in October.

Whereas there had been an average of just over 3,500 Canadian citizenship applications received over the six months prior to the changes coming into effect, the number of applications shot up to 17,653 the week immediately after. A further 12,530 were received the following week. Data for November and December has not yet been disclosed.

Canadian citizenship applications increased following changes in 2017
Source: IRCC/CBC

Bill C-6, an act amending Canada’s Citizenship Act, was belatedly passed into law in June. However, many of its most anticipated measures came into effect on October 11.

Prior to that date, applicants had to spend at least four out of the previous six years in Canada with permanent resident status. Now, only three years of residency within the previous five years are required. Moreover, applicants who spent time in Canada on temporary status, such as on a work permit or study permit, before becoming permanent residents may count up to one year of that time towards the residency requirement.

The new act is more liberal than the previous version in other ways too. For example, under the previous act, applicants had to be physically present in Canada for 183 days in four out of the six years preceding their application. Applicants no longer have to meet this requirement.

Other changes mean that only those applicants aged 18 to 54 have to prove language ability in English or French. The previous rules required applicants aged 14 to 64 to fulfil this requirement.

The new criteria make it simpler, and in many cases much quicker, to become eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship. Consequently, the surge in Canadian citizenship applications immediately following the coming into effect of the new criteria was not entirely unexpected.

Canada’s citizenship naturalization laws are now among the most liberal globally. The federal government not only allows dual citizenship, but actively encourages it. Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Ahmed Hussen, is himself a naturalized citizen. Among the tens of thousands of aspiring new Canadians who submitted a citizenship application since Mid-October could be even more future leaders and role models in politics, business, sport, and entertainment.

As more immigrants realize their goal of becoming Canadian, others around the world are planning the initial steps of moving to Canada. This may be to work or study in Canada before settling, or, if eligible, to take their first steps on Canadian soil as newly-landed permanent residents.

Over the next three years, Canada plans on welcoming around one million new permanent residents through its economic, family class, and refugee and humanitarian immigration categories. Many of these new arrivals will go on to become citizens of Canada and enjoy all the rights and privileges that come with it, including the right to apply for a Canadian passport.

Over recent years, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has received around 200,000 new citizenship applications annually.

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