Naturalization Act (British subject) [May 22, 1868, to December 31, 1946]
Before January 1, 1947, a person born or naturalized in Canada was considered a British subject. The terms “Canadian citizen” and “Canadian citizenship” used in some statutes before that date did not create the legal status of Canadian citizen.
Canadian Citizenship Act [January 1, 1947]
Up to January 1, 1947, there was no legal status of Canadian citizens, only British subjects. This Act gave legal recognition to the terms “Canadian citizen” and “Canadian citizenship”. The Act established who was and who could become a Canadian citizen. There were many provisions for loss of citizenship, including retention provisions for the first and subsequent generations born outside Canada. The Act also contained provisions which provided special treatment for British subjects. In general, Canadian citizens who acquired citizenship of another country automatically lost Canadian citizenship (dual citizenship was not recognized).
Citizenship Act [February 15, 1977]
The Citizenship Act, effective February 15, 1977, replaced the 1947 Act with a more equitable statute. For example, British subjects no longer received special treatment and dual citizenship became recognized. There was only one provision for automatic loss of citizenship, limited to persons born in the second or subsequent generation outside Canada unless they took steps to retain their citizenship by their 28th birthday.
Bill C-14: An Act to Amend the Citizenship Act (adoption)
On December 23, 2007, Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (adoption), came into force. The changes allow for the granting of citizenship to children born outside Canada and adopted by Canadian parents, without requiring that such children first become permanent residents.
Bill C-37: An Act to Amend the Citizenship Act [April 17, 2009]
Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act, came into force on April 17, 2009. It restored or gave Canadian citizenship automatically on that date to many who had never had it or who had lost it due to previous legislation, and limited Canadian citizenship by descent to the first generation born outside Canada. Bill C-37 also contained an exception to the first-generation limit for children born or adopted outside Canada to a serving Crown servant (i.e., the parent who was employed outside Canada in or with the Canadian Armed Forces, the federal public administration, or the public service of a province or territory, otherwise than as a locally engaged person, at the time of the child’s birth or adoption).
Bill C-24: Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act
Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, received royal assent on June 19, 2014, and represents the first comprehensive reform to the Citizenship Act since 1977. The Act contains a range of legislative amendments to further improve the citizenship program. The changes in the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act came into force at various dates following royal assent. All of the changes came into force on June 11, 2015.
Of the many changes, Bill C-24 extended citizenship automatically on that date to more people who were born before the Canadian Citizenship Act took effect on January 1, 1947 (April 1, 1949, in the case of Newfoundland and Labrador), who did not acquire Canadian citizenship on either of those dates, as well as to their children who were born outside Canada in the first generation. Bill C-24 also automatically extended citizenship on that date to British subjects neither born nor naturalized in Canada (or neither born nor naturalized in Newfoundland and Labrador) and were ordinarily resident in Canada on January 1, 1947 (on or before April 1, 1949, in the case of Newfoundland and Labrador), and who did not acquire Canadian citizenship on January 1, 1947 (or April 1, 1949, or before that date in the case of Newfoundland and Labrador).
Bill C-24 also extended the Crown servant exception to the first-generation limit to citizenship by descent to include the grandchildren of serving Crown servants. This means that citizenship was extended to a child of a Canadian parent who was born or adopted outside Canada to a serving Crown servant (i.e., the child’s grandparent who was employed outside Canada in or with the Canadian Armed Forces, the federal public administration, or the public service of a province or territory, otherwise than as a locally engaged person, at the time of birth or adoption of the child’s parent). This change came into force on June 19, 2014, retroactively to April 17, 2009, the date where the first-generation limit was first introduced.
Since June 11, 2015, individuals with four years (1460 days) of physical presence in Canada as a permanent resident during the preceding six years can be eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship. You must also be physically present for at least 183 days during each of four calendar years that are fully or partially within the six years immediately before the date of application. However, this does not apply to children under the age of 18.
Canada has two official languages – English and French. To become a Canadian citizen, you must show that you have adequate knowledge of one of the languages. Applicants between the ages 14 -64 years have to provide documents with their citizenship application to prove their language (English/French) proficiency.
You cannot apply/obtain Canadian citizenship if you:
- Now or have ever been in the six (6) years immediately before the date of your application, or since you became a permanent resident, or whichever is most recent;
- On probation in Canada;
- On parole in Canada;
- An inmate of a penitentiary, jail, reformatory, or prison in Canada;
- Are you now serving a sentence outside Canada for an offence;
- Are you now charged with, on trial for, or subject to or a party to an appeal relating to an offence under the Citizenship Act or an Indictable offence in Canada;
- Are you now charged with, on trial for, or subject to or a party to an appeal relating to an offence committed outside Canada;
- Are you now, or have you ever been, under a removal order (have been asked by Canadian officials to leave Canada);
- Are you now under investigation for, charged with, on trial for, subject to or a party to an appeal relating to or have been convicted of a war crime or a crime against humanity;
- In the past five (5) years, were you prohibited from being granted citizenship or taking the oath of citizenship because of misrepresentation or withholding material circumstances;
- In the past four (4) years, have you been convicted in Canada of an indictable offence under any Act of Parliament of an offence under the Citizenship Act;
- In the past four (4) years, have you been convicted outside Canada of an offence, regardless of whether you were pardoned or otherwise granted amnesty for the offence.
While a permanent resident, have you:
- Been convicted in Canada of terrorism, high treason, treason, or spying offences;
- Been convicted outside Canada outside Canada of terrorism;
- Served as a member of an armed force of a country or organized armed group and that country or group engaged in armed conflict with Canada.
Bill C-6: Smoother Path to Canadian Citizenship
On February 25, 2016, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC), Hon. Minister John McCallum introduced legislation to amend the Citizenship Act, providing greater flexibility for applicants trying to meet the requirements for citizenship and help immigrants obtain citizenship faster. The Hon. Minister John McCallum said “The Government is keeping its commitment to repeal certain provisions of the Citizenship Act, including those that led to different treatment for dual citizens. Canadian citizens are equal under the law whether they were born in Canada or were naturalized in Canada or hold a dual citizenship.”
Bill C-6 was passed by the House of Commons on June 17, 2016. The senate approved bill C-6 on May 03, 2017. The Royal Assent was given on June 19, 2017. Bill C-6 became law. Some changes became effective on that day. Hon. Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, announced on October 04, 2017 that some changes in Citizenship Act will be effective starting October 11, 2017. Some changes will be effective in early 2018.
There are many positive changes to the Citizenship Act brought forth by Bill C-6, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Equal treatment under the law: Dual citizens living in Canada who are convicted of treason, spying and terrorism offences can no longer have citizenship revoked, but rather, will face the Canadian justice system, like any other Canadian citizens who break the law. Effective June 19, 2017.
- More flexibility for Canadian immigrants: Applicants no longer have to declare on the application form an intention to continue living in Canada once they are granted citizenship. Effective June 19, 2017.
- Minors can apply for citizenship without a Canadian parent: The age requirement for citizenship has been removed. Further, a person who has custody of a minor can now apply for citizenship on behalf of the minor Effective June 19, 2017.
- Accommodations for those with disabilities: It is now codified law that reasonable measures must be taken to accommodate the needs of a citizenship applicant who is a disabled person. Effective June 19, 2017.
- Less stringent time requirements: Applicants will be required to be physically present in Canada for 3 out of 5 years before applying for citizenship. Under the previous Act, the requirement was 4 out of 6 years. Additionally, the requirement that applicants must be physically present in Canada for 183 days in 4 out of 6 years preceding their application will be repealed. Effective October 11, 2017.
- Prior time spent in Canada counts toward citizenship: Applicants will be able to count each day that they were physically present in Canada as a temporary resident, or protected person, before becoming a permanent resident as a “half-day” toward meeting the physical presence requirement for citizenship, up to a maximum credit of 365 days (1 year of the 3 year requirement). Effective October 11, 2017.
- Income tax filing: Applicants must file Canadian income taxes, if required to do so under the Income Tax Act, for 3 out of 5 years (rather than 4 out of 6). This requirement matches the new physical presence requirement. Effective October 11, 2017
- Relaxed age requirements: Applicants between 18 and 54 years of age (previously those between 14 and 64) must meet the language and knowledge requirements for citizenship. Effective October 11, 2017
- Seizure of fraudulent documents: Under the Citizenship Act, there will be clear authority for Citizenship Officers to seize fraudulent or suspected fraudulent documents. Effective early 2018.
- Federal Court authority: The Federal Court, as opposed to the Minister, is the decision-maker in all citizenship revocation cases, unless the individual requests that the Minister make the final decision. Further, individuals will have a right to appeal the decision if their citizenship was revoked because of fraud. Effective early 2018.
Upon making an application for a Canadian Citizenship, if an officer doubts that the applicant may not have complied with section 28 of IRPA, he or she can issue a questionnaire to be completed in order to determine his or her permanent resident status in Canada. Usually 30 days are given to respond to this questionnaire.