Northern Exposure

Changes to the residency requirement for grants of citizenship now in force

by Thora A. Sigurdson

On June 11, the sections of the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act dealing with the residence requirements for citizenship came into effect. These sections apply to individuals who have obtained permanent resident status in Canada and want to apply for Canadian citizenship. In general terms, it will take longer and require a clearer commitment to residing in Canada to become a citizen of Canada.

Bill C-24—the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act—became the law when given Royal Assent in June 2014, but these sections were not put into effect until now.

What has changed?

1. It will take longer to become a Canadian citizen.

a) Under the old provisions, people could apply for citizenship after they (i) had acquired permanent resident status and (ii) had been resident in Canada for 1,095 days (three years) out of the four years before the date of application for citizenship. Partial credit for time in Canada under a permit before getting permanent resident status was also available.
b) Now, a person needs to be physically present for 1,460 days (four years) out of the six years preceding the date of application for citizenship. There is no credit for time in Canada before acquiring permanent resident status.

2. The type of “residence” required to apply for citizenship has been clarified.

a) Under the old provisions, and the case law, actual physical presence in Canada might not always be necessary. In some circumstances, it was sufficient if individuals could show that their life centered in Canada. For example, if an individual had family, property, and strong community ties to Canada, he or she might be considered “resident” for purposes of an application for citizenship even though work or study demands required the individual to be outside of Canada for long periods.
b) Under the new provisions, physical presence in Canada is required.

3. Time in Canada rules change:

a) Under the old provisions, there were no rules specifying when an applicant spent time in Canada, so long as he or she was present in Canada for at least 1,095 days over the four-year period.
b) Under the new provisions, the applicant must be physically resident in Canada for at least 183 days in four out of six years, as part of meeting the overall residency obligation of 1,460 days out of the six-year period.

4. Intention to reside:

a) Under the old provisions, it was not necessary to show or declare an intention to reside in Canada.
b) Under the new provisions, applicants are required to state in their application that they intend to reside in Canada. According to the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website, if an applicant does not make that declaration then, absent certain extraordinary circumstances, the application will be denied. If the request for a declaration is left unanswered, the application will be returned as an incomplete application. If an applicant declares an intention to reside in Canada but during an interview provides information to the contrary, the officer is directed to consult his supervisor for “functional guidance.” It is not yet known what that guidance might involve.

The newly in effect provisions of the Citizenship Act reflect an interest in granting Canadian citizenship to those with established ties to Canada and an intention to make Canada their home. The intent is to reduce the numbers of those who seek Canadian citizenship for the convenience and security of a Canadian passport.

A final note: There are residency requirements to maintain permanent resident status in Canada and residency requirements for an application for Canadian citizenship. They are different.

a) Residency required to maintain Canadian permanent resident status: A permanent resident must be resident in Canada for 730 days (two years) out of any five-year period to maintain permanent resident status. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act specifies that the residency obligation is met if the individual is physically present in Canada, is working outside of Canada for a Canadian company, or is accompanying a spouse or parent who is outside of Canada working for a Canadian company.
b) Residency for the purposes of applying for Canadian citizenship is as discussed in this article: A permanent resident must be physically present in Canada for four years out of six to apply for Canadian citizenship.