Citizenship Grants: How to Become a Canadian Citizen (17:V)

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This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by the Law Students' Legal Advice Program on July 19, 2023.

A. Grant of citizenship under s 5

NOTE: Regulations may change. Please check the regulations and the IRCC website for the most current information on what is required for a grant of citizenship under section 5.

To be granted citizenship, applicants must meet the required qualifications (as set out in s 5(1) of the Citizenship Act). An applicant must:

a) Make an application for citizenship, or, in the case of a minor, has a person empowered to act on their behalf make the application
b) Be a PR with no unfulfilled conditions relating to their status as PR
c) Have, since becoming a permanent resident,
i. been physically present in Canada for at least 1095 days in the five(5) years immediately before the date of submission of the application for citizenship.
ii. file income taxes (if required by the Income Tax Act) for any three taxation years that are fully or partially within the five years before you apply.
iii. Applicants may count each day they were physically present in Canada as a temporary resident or protected person before becoming a permanent resident as a half-day toward meeting the physical presence requirement for citizenship up to a maximum credit of 365 days.
iv. with regard to the period of physical presence, please refer to the Citizenship Act ss. 1.01, 1.02, 1.03, 1.2 & 1.3 for detais of exceptions
d) For those aged 18-54 years old: Submit proof that they can speak and listen at Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) Level 4 or higher.
e) For those aged 18-54 years old: Take a citizenship test, showing adequate knowledge of Canada and of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship;
f) Must not be under a removal order; and
g) Must not be under a prohibition (see C. Prohibitions).
NOTE: The Physical Presence Calculator on the IRCC website is currently accepted by IRCC as a method for calculating presence in Canada. Applicants can print off the results of the calculator and include them with their citizenship application.
NOTE: If the individual is between the ages of 18 and 54, they are required to send proof of their ability to speak and listen in English or French in the citizenship application. Examples of acceptable documents that satisfy this requirement are the results of IRCC-approved third-party tests; transcripts or diploma from a secondary or post-secondary educational institution in English or French, in Canada or abroad; evidence of achieving Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB)/Niveau de Compétence Linguistique Canadien (NCLC) ( level 4 or higher in certain government-funded language training programs. The full list of acceptable documents can be found on the IRCC website.
NOTE: If an applicant studied at a post-secondary program in English or French in or outside Canada, they do not need to write a language test; they can submit their diploma, transcript, or certificate with their citizenship application. If the document is not in English or French, they must be accompanied with a certified English or French translation.

B. Resumption of Citizenship, s 11

A person who was a Canadian citizen in the past, but who lost citizenship, may apply for a grant of citizenship (resumption) under s 11(1) of the Citizenship Act. A former Canadian citizen may resume citizenship if that person:

a) Makes an application for resumption of citizenship,
b) Was a citizen and lost citizenship by means other than revocation,
c) Became a permanent resident after the loss of citizenship,
d) Lived in Canada as a permanent resident for at least one year during the two years immediately before the application, and filed income tax (if required) for the last taxation year immediately before the application,
e) Is not under a prohibition for certain criminal charges and convictions,
f) Is not under a removal order (e.g. deportation), and
g) Does not present a security risk.

Women who lost their citizenship by a law in force before January 1, 1947 because of their marriage or because their husband acquired foreign nationality can resume their citizenship as soon as they notify the Minister of their intention and produce satisfactory evidence to prove they meet the requirements of s 11(2). The applicant should provide the reasons she wants another certificate of citizenship and should surrender all previous certificates either at the time of application or when she receives her new certificate. Where the applicant has lost or destroyed her certificate of naturalization or citizenship, she must provide the details of that loss or destruction.

C. Prohibitions (ss 19 & 22 of the Act)

Persons will not be granted citizenship under ss 5(1),(2) or (4) or 11(1) of the Citizenship Act, or take the oath of citizenship, if the person:

a) Is under a probation order,
b) Is a paroled inmate,
c) Is serving a term of imprisonment,
d) While the person is serving a sentence outside Canada for an offence committed outside Canada that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an offence under an enactment in force in Canada;
e) Is charged with, on trial for, subject to, or a party to an appeal relating to an offence under the Citizenship Act or any indictable offence under any Act of Parliament, other than an offence that is designated as a contravention under the Contraventions Act, SC 1992, c 47 [Contraventions Act];
f) Requires but has not obtained the consent of the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, under s 52(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, SC 2001, c 27 [Immigration and Refugee Protection Act], to be admitted to and remain in Canada as a permanent resident;
g) Is under investigation by the Minister of Justice, the RCMP, or the Canadian Security Intelligence;
h) Served or charged with, on trial for, a party to an appeal, or has been convicted of an act or omission referred to in s 7(3.71) of the Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c. C-46, (war crimes or crimes against humanity);
i) Convicted of certain crimes against humanity or war crimes;
j) Misrepresent or withhold important or relevant facts that could induce immigration authorities to make an error in administering immigration laws and regulations with respect to your application; or if during the five years immediately before the application, you were prohibited from being granted citizenship or taking the oath due to misrepresentation;
k) In the four year period immediately preceding the date of the citizenship application, or during the period between the date of the application and the date citizenship would be granted or the oath of citizenship would be recited, the person has been convicted of an offence under s 29(2) or (3) or of an indictable offence under any Act of Parliament, other than an offence that is designated as a contravention under the Contraventions Act, or

During the 10 years immediately preceding the citizenship application, ceased to be a citizen pursuant to s 10(1), where the Governor in Council was satisfied that the person has obtained, retained, renounced or resumed citizenship under the Citizenship Act by false representation or fraud or by knowingly concealing material circumstances. Time spent in prison, on parole or on probation does not count towards fulfilling the residency requirement.

Additionally, the Minister may make a report to the Review Agency if the Minister is of the opinion that a person should not be granted citizenship will not be granted where there are reasonable grounds to believe that an applicant will engage in activity that:

a) Constitutes a threat to the security of Canada, or
b) Is part of a pattern of criminal activity planned and organized by a number of persons acting in concert to commit any offence that is punishable by indictment under any Act of Parliament.

Persons not approved for these reasons will have any applications or appeals rejected and this declaration will have effect for three years after the date on which it has been made.

D. Minors

With the 2017 Bill C-6 having received royal assent, minors can now apply for citizenship without a Canadian parent, as the age requirement for citizenship has been removed under subsection 5(1). A person having custody of the minor or empowered to act on their behalf by court order, written agreement or operation of law (s, 5(1.04)), can now apply for citizenship on behalf of the minor, unless that requirement is waived by the Minister (ss. 5(1.05) & 5(3)(b)(v)).

The three-year residency requirement does not apply to children under the age of 18. There is no residency requirement for children applying under s 5(2). Parents who are citizens may apply for citizenship for their child as soon as the child becomes a permanent resident (s 5(2)). Adoptive parents who are citizens may bypass the permanent residency requirement, and may make an application for citizenship on behalf of their child directly (s 5.1(1)). However, in order to do so the adoption must “create a genuine relationship of parent and child”. Additionally, this direct route to citizenship is not available beyond the first generation of Canadians born or adopted abroad (i.e. the parents must derive their own citizenship by being born in Canada or through naturalization).

Children are not required to write the citizenship test, but children who are 14 and over are required to take the oath. If a child turns 18 before the end of the application process, he or she cannot be granted citizenship as a minor, even though they were under the age of 18 at the time of application. They must submit an adult application of citizenship. Stateless applicants under s 5(5) have until age 23 to complete the application process.

E. Special cases

In some cases, the Minister may, at his or her discretion, waive on compassionate grounds (s 5(3)),

a) The requirements of language and knowledge of Canada or of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship, and
b) The requirement to take the oath, in the case of any person who is prevented from understanding the significance of taking the oath of citizenship by reason of mental disability.

Section 5(3.1) requires that for the purpose of section 5, if an applicant for citizenship is a disabled person, the Minister to take into consideration the measures that are reasonable to accommodate the needs of that person.

Section 5(4) allows the Governor in Council, in his or her discretion, to direct the Minister to grant citizenship to any person in order to alleviate cases of statelessness or of special and unusual hardship or to reward service of exceptional value to Canada, notwithstanding any other requirements under the Act. The relevant policy guideline of IRCC can be found here. Exceptions are granted so it is always worth considering this. The policy guideline is vital in this consideration.

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