Immigrants initially come to Canada as temporary residents or permanent residents, but for many, the ultimate goal is to obtain Canadian citizenship. Becoming a Citizen of Canada grants individuals with several rights and privileges greater than those granted as part of permanent resident status in Canada. The law that governs Canadian citizenship is the Canadian Citizenship Act, which was enacted on February 15, 1977. The Canadian Citizenship Act enumerates the rights of citizenship, as well as other intricacies, such as evidence of citizenship and how citizenship can be lost.

Since the Canadian Citizenship Act came into force, it has been amended many times, with six amendments since 2019 alone. In May 2024, another amendment to the Canadian Citizenship Act was tabled. If the proposed amendments are adopted, it would have a profound impact on the right to Canadian citizenship.

The Benefits of Canadian Citizenship

Canadian citizenship confers significant rights in Canada to those who hold the status of being a citizen. Canadian citizens have the right to vote in Canadian elections and can live and work anywhere in Canada. These rights are the same for people who obtain their citizenship through birth in Canada and those who become naturalized Canadian citizens.

The Path to Citizenship

Citizenship in Canada can be obtained in a few different ways. However, the process to obtain citizenship may differ depending on where an individual was born. For individuals with no parental connection to Canada, they must first become a permanent resident of Canada as a prerequisite to applying for Canadian citizenship. There are multiple avenues through which someone can become a Canadian permanent resident such as Express Entry, Family Sponsorship, Business Immigration, and more.

After permanent residency is obtained by an individual, they can then apply for citizenship in Canada by showing that they have lived in Canada for at least 1,095 days out of the previous five years. Additionally, an applicant will need to be able to demonstrate their language skills in either French or English, and pass a test relating to their knowledge of Canada’s history, its government, and its laws.

Currently, applications for citizenship take many months to process, with some taking up to 8 months in order to be processed. Citizenship can be applied for on an urgent basis in certain scenarios for:

  • job applications or job security;
  • attending a Canadian school; or
  • travel outside of Canada for a death or serious illness in a family that requires a Canadian passport.

If a citizenship application is rejected, it is able to be appealed, or the individual may reapply but they will be required to pay the application fees again.

Citizenship by Descent

There is another way for individuals to obtain citizenship in Canada that is not by birth or naturalization by becoming a permanent resident in order to make a citizenship application. An individual can be a Canadian individual by descent. Citizenship by descent is contingent on the citizenship of the parents of the person who is applying for citizenship. If one, or both of the parents of a person was born in Canada or was naturalized as a citizen of Canada before the birth of the child, the child can be a Canadian citizen by descent. A person who can be a citizen by descent can apply for Proof of Citizenship from Canada in order to obtain their citizenship.

Currently, citizenship by descent is restricted to the first generation of children who are born outside of Canada to a parent who is a Canadian citizen. This restriction was the subject of a Bill tabled in parliament to broaden the right of citizenship by descent.

Bill C-71 – Proposed Amendments to the Canadian Citizenship Act

On May 23, 2024, Immigration Minister Marc Miller tabled a new bill, Bill C-71, an Act to Amend the Canadian Citizenship Act in parliament. The announcement emphasized that Canadian citizenship is highly valued and recognized throughout the world, and Bill C-71 is being proposed to address an issue with Canada’s citizenship laws.

The right to citizenship by descent in Canada was codified in a change to the Canadian Citizenship Act in 2009. At that time, the first generation limit to citizenship by descent was established. The first generation limit means that Canadian citizens through descent born outside of Canada cannot pass their citizenship down to their children born outside of Canada and cannot apply for a direct grant of citizenship of a child born outside of Canada and adopted.

Bill C-71 aims to extend citizenship by descent beyond the first generation by extending automatic citizenship to anyone who was born outside the country to a Canadian parent before the legislation came into effect. Bill C-71 will also address restoring citizenship to people referred to as “Lost Canadians” which are people who were never able to become a citizen or lost citizenship due to outdated legislative provisions.

If Bill C-71 becomes law, the first generational limit for citizenship by descent would no longer apply. Rather, children born to Canadian citizens who were born outside of Canada must have their parents show that they have a substantial connection to Canada. The parent must show they have accumulated three years of time spent in Canada before the birth of their child in order to pass down their Canadian citizenship.

This legislation will also apply retroactively. In other words, if Bill C-71 is implemented, it would allow children who were previously exempted from obtaining citizenship by descent to gain citizenship. Ultimately, the proposed amendments will fundamentally change who is eligible for citizenship by descent by eliminating the first generation limit.

Contact Garson Immigration Law for Canadian Immigration Assistance and Advice

At Garson Immigration Law, we are dedicated to helping individuals navigate the uncertainties and complex processes involved in immigration law. We understand that waiting for your immigration application to be processed can be stressful. Our experienced immigration lawyers can help successfully guide you through the immigration process and find solutions for your individual immigration needs.

We work to find effective solutions in not just Canadian Citizenship, but also other immigration matters, including permanent residenceinadmissibility, and US immigration. If you have any questions about an immigration application, reach out to us online or call us at 416-321-2860 to speak with a member of our team.

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