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Hoop-Jumping Toward Citizenship

It appears as though Chris Alexander will be starting off 2014 with a bang, and it’s Canada’s citizenship criteria that will be taking the biggest hit.  On December 27, 2013, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada said in the National Post that Canada’s citizenship rules will be facing an “overhaul” in 2014.  So, what does this mean for our want-to-be citizens?

Alexander states that the reform of the Citizenship Act will focus on the number of years one must reside in Canada permanently before they can apply for citizenship.  Currently, a permanent resident must have resided in Canada for three years out of the previous four-year period in order to apply for citizenship. Alexander’s rationale for the proposed for potentially increasing the residency qualification is to allow residents to get a better grip on “what it means to be Canadian, [and] what it means to participate in Canadian life”; an insight that can only be gained by living in Canada longer.

What a difference a year makes.

Surely, there would be benefits for Canadian permanent residents being required to spend more time in Canada prior to becoming citizens – more time to find gainful employment, more time to adapt to our climate and, if nothing else, it would provide more time to study for the citizenship test. With routine citizenship applications currently taking 25 months to process, if Canada increased the residency requirement by 12 months but processed citizenship applications in ½ the time, new immigrants would be able to get their citizenship in the same amount of time and Canada would get to test out the new immigrants commitment to the country for an extra year. In other words, everyone could win.

Alexander also plans on taking a closer look at what it means to be a born Canadian.

According to an article by MWC News, “Canada and the United States are the only developed countries in the world
that grant citizenship to individuals born on their territory”.  The problem here is potential “birth tourism”, or tourists visiting Canada solely for the purpose of giving birth to Canadian citizens – a status attained only by the grace of the geographical location in which they are born.  Alexander confirms that this issue, which has become a growing concern in recent years, will be addressed in the near future. This is an issue that should be looked into. However, one things that should be looked at is maintaining citizenship for children born of  visitors who are here as students and workers. Many students and workers become Canadian immigrants. If their children are born here, they should be able to get citizenship.

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About Reis Pagtakhan

Reis Pagtakhan is an immigration law partner with MLT Aikins LLP. His extensive experience includes assisting businesses obtain temporary entry to Canada and permanent residency for their executives, employees and contractors from all over the world. Reis has lectured on and written papers on immigration law for the Law Society of Manitoba, the Manitoba Bar Association, the Human Resources Management Association of Manitoba, the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association, and the Community Legal Education Association of Manitoba. He has presented position papers before the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Immigration Department officials and Manitoba Labour and Immigration. He has written articles on immigration for the CBC, the Winnipeg Free Press, trade, industry and ethnic publications.

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