Over 85% of Canadian immigrants become citizens, one of the highest rates in the world.
The benefits of Canadian citizenship include being able to live permanently in one of the world’s most peaceful and economically, socially, and politically stable societies, enjoying one of the world’s most powerful passports, and having the right to vote, among a host of other advantages.
It thus comes as no surprise that hundreds of thousands of permanent residents apply to become Canadian citizens each year.
There are several conditions you need to meet in order to become eligible for Canadian citizenship:
- Be a permanent resident
- Meet Canada’s physical presence requirements
- File your taxes, if necessary
- Pass a Canadian citizenship test
- Prove your language skills
Permanent resident status
Irrespective of your age, you must hold Canadian permanent resident status if you wish to apply for Canadian citizenship. This means you are not under review for immigration reasons or fraud, are not subject to a removal order, and have unfulfilled conditions relating to your permanent resident status (e.g., you have not completed a medical screening). You do not need to have a valid PR card to apply for citizenship and are able to apply with an expired PR card.
Canada’s physical presence requirements
You must have been physically present in Canada for at least 1,095 days (three years) during the five years before the date you sign your Canadian citizenship application. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) encourages you to apply with more than 1,095 days of living in Canada just in case there is a problem with your calculation.
Those who resided as temporary residents or protected persons in Canada prior to becoming permanent residents can calculate some of that time towards their residency requirements. Each day that you spent in Canada as a temporary resident or protected person in the last five years counts as a half-day when you calculate your physical presence. IRCC allows you to use a maximum of 365 days as a temporary resident or protected person toward your time spent in Canada. Temporary residents include visitors, students, workers, or temporary resident permit holders. Protected persons are those who were found to be in need of protection or a convention refugee by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) or who received a positive decision on a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment from IRCC.
Generally speaking, time spent outside of Canada does not count towards your physical presence requirements but there are some exceptions. For example, permanent residents who work in the United States may be able to count days spent in the U.S. towards their physical presence requirement as long as they reside in Canada and return to Canada for at least part of the day.
File your taxes, if necessary
Filing taxes in Canada for at least three years within the five years before you apply for citizenship may be a requirement.
Even if you lived in Canada for only part of a year, you may be required to file an income tax return if you:
- Have to pay tax for the year
- Want to claim a refund
- Want to get benefit and credit payments
Pass a Canadian citizenship test
Those aged 18 to 54 on the day they signed their Canadian citizenship application must take a citizenship test on the rights and responsibilities of Canadians, Canada’s history, geography, economy, government, laws, and symbols. The test is 30 minutes long in English or French, contains multiple-choice and true or false questions, and has a pass mark of 15 out of 20.
Prove your language skills
Those aged 18 to 54 must also show they can speak and listen to English or French at a specific level. This entails demonstrating you meet the Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) level of 4 or higher. IRCC assesses your language proficiency in a number of ways, such as:
- Reviewing the evidence you submit with your application
- Noting how well you communicate with citizenship officials during the application process
- Assessing your language skills during a hearing with a citizenship official, if necessary
One example of proof is evidence you attended a secondary or post-secondary educational program in English or French. The program can have been abroad or inside Canada. Proof can be your educational credential or transcript submitted in English or French (IRCC accepts certified translations).
IRCC also accepts the results of an English or French language test you have completed, for example, as part of your Canadian permanent residence application, or completed a language training program in Canada.
Apply for Canadian citizenship today
Becoming a Canadian citizen is very rewarding and often marks the symbolic end of the “newcomer” phase of one’s Canadian immigration journey. Once you become a Canadian citizen, you can enjoy a variety of perks and continue to make meaningful contributions to Canada’s economy and society. You are welcome to contact Cohen Immigration Law to discuss how to submit your Canadian citizenship application.