Immigration status in Canada is a multi-tiered system. People (referred to in Immigration parlance as Foreign Nationals or FNs) in Canada illegally without legal status to remain in the country have the fewest rights and hold the lowest position in the system. One level above illegal FNs are FNs in Canada for a temporary purpose. This category consists of visitors, foreign students, temporary foreign workers etc. This category of FNs are defined by the fact that they are in Canada for a temporary purpose and intend to return to their home country.

Permanent Residents are FN’s who have been granted the right to remain in Canada on a permanent basis but are not yet citizens of Canada. Permanent Resident status can be obtained in a number of different ways. For example FNs who gain entry to Canada as skilled workers or spousal sponsorships are provided with permanent resident status. While Permanent Residents share many of the same rights with citizens there are some very important exceptions that limit the rights of permanent residents.

Permanent Residents have the following rights:

• receive most benefits that Canadian citizens receive, including health care,
• the right to live anywhere in Canada,
• the right to apply for Canadian citizenship,
• protection under Canadian law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
• The duty to pay taxes
• The duty to remain in the country for 2 out of every 5 year period (failure to do so risks abandonment of the status)

Permanent Residents do not have the following rights:

• Cannot leave Canada unconditionally,
• Cannot vote or run for political office,
• Commit serious crimes without the possibility of being deported,

The highest level status in Canada is reserved for Canadian Citizens. Citizens gain their status either through birth or “naturalization”. Examples of naturalized citizens are typically permanent residents who have accumulated 4 years of residency in the 6 years prior to applying for citizenship.

Application Process

There are a number of specific requirements a person must meet in order to be eligible for Citizenship. Below you will find a brief summary of the most common requirements.

Age

You must be 18 years old to apply for citizenship. Parents may apply for their children’s citizenship if the child is a permanent resident. In such circumstances children are not required to meet the 3 year residency requirement for citizenship.

Status

Only those with permanent resident status are entitled to apply for citizenship. Permanent Resident status must be unconditional and not subject to inquiries or removal etc.

Residence in Canada

Applications for citizenship are based on residency. Adult applicants must have resided in Canada for 4 years (1,460 days) within the 6 years prior to the time the application is made, during which time you must have resided in Canada for 6 months (183 days) for 4 of the 6 years in question.

Language Abilities

You must demonstrate that you have “adequate knowledge of either French or English”. This can be met by providing test scores from a CIC approved 3rd party which demonstrates that you are a level 4 according to the Canadian Language Benchmark. Other acceptable evidence would be graduation from a high school in Canada. You will also be judged by your ability to converse with the officer who meets with you at your Citizenship interview and who makes the final determination as to whether you meet the language requirements.

Knowledge of Canada

In order to gain citizenship you will be required to take a citizenship test. The information you would be expected to know is published by the government in a guide called, Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship

Note, if there is any kind of ongoing investigation or impression that such an investigation might be undertaken it is best to wait until the investigation is resolved. Applications for citizenship can take more than 2 years to process. If after waiting 2 years, you are charged with an offence pursuant to an ongoing investigation you have wasted time and money on an application that cannot be successful.

Prohibitions

Anyone who has committed a crime in or outside of Canada may not be eligible for Citizenship.

Why Hire a Lawyer to Process Your Citizenship Application

There are a number of different people who can benefit from having a lawyer to process their citizenship applications. The types of applications we most often see fall into two main categories.

First there are people who are very busy with school or work and simply cannot afford to take the time to complete and monitor their application. By retaining our services they gain the benefit of our expertise as well as offloading the time and energy from their busy schedules.

The second category of applicants we see, are people who do not neatly fit the definition of citizen. Some people may have some urgency to their applications and thus require an application based on an exemption from the residency requirements. Others may have complications from past criminal convictions.  In some cases applications are not easily completed because of complicated timeline related to their residency. In these cases much of our work is spent sorting through and accumulating evidence to ensure the application is presented clearly and complies with all requirements of the law. In this way immigration is much more easily able to assess compliance and our clients enjoy the benefits of our expertise to arrive at a clearly written application which does not get bogged down on irrelevancies and or miscommunications.

Permanent Residents who have sufficient time and insufficient funds and whose applications are uncomplicated may wish to process their own applications without the need for assistance from either a lawyer or consultant. If you fit this category do not fall prey to those advising you that you are required to use a consultant to process citizenship applications.

Appeals

In addition to amending the citizenship laws to create more stringent conditions for approval, this government has also indicated that it believes that a large number of citizenship approvals have been obtained either through outright fraud and or misrepresentations.  As a result this government has been appealing positive citizenship applications, often on the basis that the Citizenship judge did not properly assess the residency evidence provided by the applicant.

In the event your citizenship has been appealed, you will either need to decide whether it makes more sense to defend the appeal or allow the Minister to succeed and then re-apply for Citizenship. Citizenship requirements are now substantially more difficult and therefore there may be added incentive to defend your positive decision.  If you have had your Citizenship appealed or the government seeks to revoke your citizenship, contact our office to arrange a consultation. We can then assess the chances of success on appeal and recommend a course of action.

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