Making Canadian Citizenship More Canadian: Bill C-24 Proposes Major Reforms to the Citizenship Act  

publication 

February 2014

Immigration Bulletin
On February 6, 2014, the Canadian government announced a number of proposed amendments ("Bill C-24") to the Citizenship Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-29 (the "Act"), which, if passed, would mark the first comprehensive set of changes to the Act since 1977. Below is a summary of some of the highlights of Bill C-24 as they compare to the current Citizenship Act.

Residence

Currently, a permanent resident must physically reside in Canada for three of the last four years before becoming eligible to apply for citizenship. Under the new scheme, the residency requirement will be increased to four of the last six years and applicants will need to be physically present in Canada for at least 183 days per year for four of those six years. There is also a provision that mandates an applicant declare his or her intention to reside in Canada once granted citizenship.

Taxes

Under the current Act, there is no requirement for Canadian permanent residents to file Canadian income tax returns on their worldwide income in order to be eligible for a grant of citizenship. Bill C-24 would require adult applicants to file Canadian income tax returns to be eligible for citizenship.

Language Requirements

Bill C-24 will require applicants aged 14-64 to meet language and knowledge tests in English and French, which represents an increase from the current range of 18-54.

Timing and Fees

The citizenship process will change from a three-step to a one-step process and the government filing fees will increase from $100 to $300. These changes are expected to decrease the processing time from 24 months for a routine application to under 12 months.

Citizenship Fraud

Bill C-24 will grant CIC the authority to refuse an applicant for committing citizenship fraud, and the fine and penalties associated with such a crime will increase from a maximum of $1,000 and one year in prison, to a maximum of $100,000 and five years in prison. Applicants could also be barred from reapplying for citizenship for ten years, rather than five.

Furthermore, the amendments will make it an offence for unauthorized immigration consultants to knowingly represent applicants or aid applicants in committing residence fraud. Penalties for such offences can include fines of $100,000, or up to two years in prison, or both, in the case of an indictable conviction. For a summary conviction, the penalties can include fines of $20,000, and, or up to six months in prison.

Consequences of Bill C-24

Bill C-24 has been viewed by some as controversial; however, it should be emphasized that the Bill is still in its infancy and may change or not be passed. What is clear is that the current government intends to tighten the process for obtaining citizenship and enact requirements in an effort to ensure that a person who obtains citizenship wants to remain in Canada once citizenship is granted.

An individual who is eligible to apply for citizenship under the current rules should strongly consider submitting the application now in case Bill C-24 is passed in its current form.

by Katie Van Nostrand, Dave McKechnie and Ruba El-Sayegh

a cautionary note

The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.

© McMillan LLP 2014