Canadian citizenship is obtained automatically by being born in Canada, or by descent where a parent is a first-generation Canadian citizen. In the case of permanent residents, citizenship may be applied for after living in Canada for at least 3 out of 4 years. Permanent residents who become citizens are referred to as “naturalized” Canadian citizens.
Canadian citizenship carries certain privileges that are not enjoyed by permanent residents, such as the right to vote in elections, and the ability to obtain a Canadian passport. In the case of persons born in Canada or descended from Canadians, the status of citizen may not be taken away by the government under any circumstances. For naturalized citizens, citizenship can only be revoked if it is established that it was obtained through fraud.
Citizenship Applications by Permanent Residents
Canadian citizenship may be obtained by persons who have obtained permanent residence and have been resident in Canada for three years in a four-year period. Citizenship applications are made within Canada. As part of the application process the applicant will be required to attend a citizenship test where their English or French language ability and their knowledge of Canada will be tested. As a final stage of the process citizenship applicants will be invited to a citizenship ceremony where they will be personally presented with their Citizenship Card by a Citizenship Judge.
In the course of a citizenship application the citizenship authorities will sometimes issue the applicant a Residency Questionnaire requiring more information to prove the applicant’s residency in Canada during the relevant four-year period. The Questionnaire’s are usually issued where the applicant has a lengthy or confusing travel history, or it is difficult to verify the travel history because of a lost passport or similar circumstance. Applicants served with a Residency Questionnaire may face long delays while the citizenship authorities consider all the circumstances of their case, and may be required to attend an interview with a citizenship judge.
Citizenship Applications where the 3-year residency has not been met
Residence in Canada is usually demonstrated by physically residing in the country but in certain cases a person need not have been physically present for the entire three-year period if they can demonstrate they maintained a substantial connection to Canada during their absence. For example, where a person has their family in Canada, their property in Canada, has paid their income tax in Canada, and has been traveling back to Canada on a regular basis, but has spent more than one year in four outside Canada, it may still be possible to apply for citizenship on the basis they have been “de facto” resident in Canada, especially where the applicant is very close to meeting the residency requirement. In each case a Citizenship Judge will review all the facts and make a decision as to whether a person can be considered resident for purposes of their citizenship application even if they have not been physically present in Canada for the entire 3 years in 4.
Citizenship by Descent for those born outside Canada
The general rule is that those born outside of Canada to a Canadian citizen who was born or naturalized in Canada will automatically obtain citizenship as a result, but subsequent generations born outside Canada will not. Thus, a child born outside Canada to a Canadian born outside Canada to a Canadian will not be a citizen. This limitation does not apply to those children who were citizens before April 16, 2009, when the law was changed to impose the first-generation limitation. There is also an exception for those born to Canadians living abroad who are working for the Canadian government or military. Children born outside Canada who are Canadians need to register as such with the citizenship authorities in order to have their citizenship recognized.
Citizenship Refusal Appeals
In the event that an application for Canadian citizenship has been rejected by the citizenship authorities, an appeal may be made within 60 days to the Federal Court of Canada. The Court will review the Citizenship Judge’s decision and will decide if it was legally made. Issues the Court will consider include whether the Citizenship Judge acted within jurisdiction, whether the decision was fairly made, and whether the decision was reasonable in light of the evidence. If the Court finds that the decision was made in error, it will overturn the negative decision and send the application back for re-consideration by a different Citizenship Judge.
Citizenship Revocation Appeals
If the citizenship authorities believe that a person has obtained citizenship through fraud, they may initiate revocation proceedings against that person, in order to take away their citizenship. In such instances an appeal may be made within 30 days to the Federal Court in order to assess whether the factual allegations made by the citizenship authorities meet the required standard of proof. If the Federal Court decides that the allegations are supported by the evidence, then it falls to the Governor in Council (Prime Minister of Canada) to decide whether to revoke that person’s citizenship