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How do I become a Canadian citizen?

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For many Canadians, their citizenship is obtained by birth, either because they were born in Canada, or they have a Canadian parent. However, Canadian citizenship can also be granted to Permanent Residents through what is called the “naturalization” process.

To be eligible for Canadian citizenship by naturalization, you must first become a permanent resident of Canada. After they become a permanent resident, they must be physically present in Canada for 1,095 days (3 years) during the 5 years immediately before the day you sign your application. However, there are exceptions to this rule, and some days spent in Canada will not count towards this requirement (for example, any days spent in Canada while serving a term of imprisonment, or while under a parole or probation order).

In addition, if you resided in Canada as a Temporary Resident or Protected Person before you became a Permanent Resident, then you may be able to count some of these days towards your residency requirement. Each day spent in Canada as a Temporary Resident or Protected Person in the five-year period immediately before you sign the application can count as a half-day of residence when applying for citizenship, up to a total of 365 total days (meaning up to 730 days spent as a Temporary Resident or Protected Person can be counted as a half-day each).

Here is an example of how this might work. A citizenship Applicant named Sam came to Canada as a temporary resident on January 1, 2018, with a work permit that was valid for three years. Two years later, on January 1, 2020, Sam became a Permanent Resident. In this scenario, Sam will meet the residency requirement to apply for Canadian citizenship on January 1, 2022. This is because Sam will have spent 2 years (730 days) in Canada as a Permanent Resident, and they will have also spent an additional 730 days in Canada as a Temporary Resident, all within the last 5 years. Since each day Sam spent in Canada as a Temporary Resident counts as a half-day, Sam can count an additional 365 days towards the citizenship residency requirement from their time in Canada as a temporary resident, in addition to the 730 days she spent in Canada as a Permanent Resident. The same rule applies to those who have spent time in Canada as Protected Persons before becoming a Permanent Resident.

Along with the residency requirement, applicants must also show that they have filed a return of income with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for the 3 taxation years that are fully or partially within the 5 years immediately before the date the application is signed.

Applicants who are 18 to 54 years old must also prove that they have adequate knowledge of English or French. This can be shown a few different ways, including proving that you studied at a post-secondary level in the English or French language, or by providing your scores from an approved language test that demonstrates your knowledge of English or French. If you are under the age of 18 or over the age of 54, or if you have a medical condition or disability that prevents you from having adequate knowledge of English or French, you are not required to prove your knowledge of English or French.

After you submit your application, if an IRCC Officer is satisfied that you meet (or are exempted from) the citizenship requirements, then you will be invited to write a test that demonstrates your knowledge of Canada and the rights, responsibilities, and privileges of citizenship. If you pass this test, then you will likely be invited to a Citizenship Ceremony. At this citizenship ceremony, you will take the Oath of Citizenship and become a Canadian citizen.

In cases where applicants clearly meet the citizenship eligibility criteria, hiring an immigration lawyer may not be necessary and you may be able to successfully apply for citizenship without the assistance of a lawyer. However, if you have other less-common factors that could prevent you from becoming a citizen, such as criminal history, or if you have concerns about whether you meet the requirements for citizenship, then I recommend consulting with an immigration lawyer to help you clarify your concerns and confirm whether you are likely to be eligible for citizenship if you apply.


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