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How proposed changes to citizenship rules will affect you

Wednesday, March 12, 2014    

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Dear Mr Brown:

You assisted me with admission to Seneca College and my study permit. I am enjoying the school experience and I thank you for all you have done for me. I have also met many other students whom you have assisted. However, I have been reading about proposed changes to Canadian citizenship rules. Please let me know how these changes will affect my plans as per your previous advice. I want you to specifically touch on whether these changes will make it harder to become a Canadian citizen.

-- NC

Dear NC:

The federal government of Canada has encouraged immigrants to come as temporary residents through studies or employment, before they apply for permanent status. The focus on Canadian experience was based on the notion that immigrants with some form of Canadian education and work experience are better integrated. Programmes such as the Canada Experience Class, Provincial Nominee Program and Post-Graduation Work Permit Program may enable the transition from temporary resident to permanent resident, and then ultimately to citizenship.

The legislation, Bill C-24 (Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act) was recently introduced in the parliament of Canada. The purpose of the proposed changes in this Bill is to strengthen the residency requirements and address citizenship fraud. The changes will lead to longer periods of being a permanent resident before becoming eligible to apply for citizenship. It has been reported that there are currently about 320,000 citizenship applications waiting to be processed, with wait times ranging from 24 to 32 months. However, processing times for new applications will be reduced to less than one year under the amendments.

Material changes

The material changes, amongst other things, will include:

* The requirement that permanent residents will have to be physically present in Canada for four years out of six years, compared to the current residency requirement of three years out of four years.

* The expansion of the age range for those required to demonstrate language proficiency and pass a knowledge test, from the current 18 - 54 to those aged 14 - 64.

* The streamlined process of having citizenship officers making decisions, rather than citizenship judges.

* The possible revocation of citizenship from dual nationals who are convicted of terrorism, high treason and spying offences, or those who take up arms against Canada, while permanent residents who commit these acts will also be barred from applying for citizenship.

* Penalties for any individual who commits citizenship fraud.

* An increase in fees for applications for citizenship will go up from $100 to $300 so that an applicant for citizenship would pay a total of $400, including the fee for the right of citizenship for all successful applicants.

* The power of the minister of citizenship and immigration to grant citizenship to some individuals in extraordinary circumstances, as well as the corresponding authority to revoke citizenship for those who obtained citizenship by fraud.

* The ability to deny citizenship to criminals charged with or convicted of serious crimes outside Canada as well as criminals serving a sentence outside Canada.

* Penalties for unauthorised individuals representing or advising others on citizenship matters for a fee.

* The creation of a body that supervises citizenship consultants and holds them to a series of professional standards.

Longer wait time

To answer your question specifically, the proposed changes will lead to a longer period as a permanent resident of Canada. Once you have attained the status as a permanent resident, you will enjoy the vast majority of the rights and benefits of being a Canadian, until you obtain citizenship. As such, it should not cause any undue hardship. Please keep in touch with me.

For further information visit jamaica2canada.com.

Antonn Brown, BA, (Hons), LLB, MSc, RCIC is an immigration counsel, education agent and managing director of Jamaica2canada.com -- a Canadian immigration and education firm in Kingston. Send questions/comments to jamaica2canada@gmail.com.

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