Becoming a Canadian Citizen

Becoming a Canadian Citizen

Although it was coming to live in Canada that prompted me to start writing this blog, I have never discussed the process(es) by which a person can come to live and work in Canada. One week ago, almost 10 years since I first landed in Canada with ‘Permanent Resident’ status, I finally became a Canadian Citizen.  I decided to write a series of posts to help anyone considering a long-term move to Canada. There are different processes for people seeking refuge or being sponsored by a Canadian Citizen.

This post deals with how a person who is already considered a Permanent Resident (PR) of Canada may become a Citizen of Canada. Becoming a citizen of Canada is not essential for living long-term in Canada, provided that you have PR status and continue to meet the requirements but it is certainly beneficial for several reasons:

  • Canadian Citizens are eligible to vote in elections
  • Residency requirements are subject to change – This has happened since I moved here which meant I had to wait longer to apply for Citizenship. You never know if further limitations could be added to PR status.
  • Some jobs (military, government, immigration officer, etc.) require candidates to be citizens of Canada
  • Travel outside of Canada is much less restricted*
  • An increased sense of belonging to your new home country, perhaps.

In order to become a Canadian citizen (other than by birth) a person must first have PR status in Canada. I will write a separate post on obtaining work/study and permanent residency visas here. Once you have moved to Canada as a Permanent Resident there are some additional criterion which must be met before citizenship can be granted. Then the waiting begins. The length of time it takes before applying to become a citizen is really dependent upon your commitment to living in Canada.

Applying for Canadian Citizenship

Officially, the requirement is to be physically present in Canada as a permanent resident for at least:

  • 1460 days in the six years immediately before the date of your application, and
  • 183 days in each of four calendar years that are fully or partially in the six years immediately before the date of your application.
    – taken from Citizenship and Immigration Canada

It’s fairly straightforward to meet these requirements within 4-5 years if you are genuinely living and working within Canada but it is worth considering older children who may be finishing studies outside of Canada or if you plan to take extended trips back home to visit relatives because holding on to PR could be difficult and at the very least obtaining citizenship takes longer in these cases.

Once you have met the residency requirement you are ready to submit your citizeship application. This involves providing proof of language proficiency in English or French – school or university transcripts from the UK are sufficient but for immigrants who did not attend an English or French-speaking educational institution there are official tests that can be taken in Canada to provide a certificate of language proficiency. The application form requires that you list all your absences from Canada for the past 6 years or since you became a landed immigrant. My advice is that you keep a record somewhere of all travel outside of Canada as I really wish someone had told me this sooner. Trying to retrace my airborne steps was a challenge to say the least. You will also submit address and employment history and must declare that you have filed tax returns for at least 4 out of 6 years. Get a couple of mugshots done according to specifics and you’re good to go. If you’re unlucky you may be sent an additional questionnaire with a request for further information but most often it’s just a case of waiting 6-8 months (current average wait time) until you are invited to take your citizenship test.

Canadian Citizenship Test

The citizenship test is a multiple choice test.  Anyone under the age of 14 or over the age of 64 is not required to take the test but must still attend an interview. All of the answers can supposedly be found in the Canada Study Guide which used to be mailed out to all applicants but is now accessible online only, unless you request an alternative format. There are several online website which you can use to help you prepare but the Study Guide is really all you need. For immigrants coming from the UK the test is fairly straightforward  but read the guide because there are a few questions about names and dates. I found the test easy but I have lived in 5 different communities in 3 different provinces and visited an additional three provinces and numerous towns and cities. I am also quite interested in history, politics, and identity studies and love learning about the places I travel to. There were people who failed. If you fail you will be given a second chance on a different day.

Canadian Citizenship Ceremony

Once you have passed your test and all other requirements have been met you will finally be invited to attend a citizenship ceremony which can range from the same day to a few months later. Mine was in Vancouver, three months after my test. Family and friends are allowed to attend. Once again you must present your original documents. Cue: the battered, faded, scrappy record of landing paper you received when you first set foot in Canada all those years back! This, you will actually have to keep forever! Your sturdy PR card however will be taken away from you to which, after carrying it around as ID for 6 or in my case 10 years, you may have become strangely attached. Remember at this stage you are no longer a PR – you are a citizen.

The ceremonies vary in length. My mum’s, held in Winnipeg, was quite long and ceremonious. Mine was pretty rapid. Citizenship candidates will be asked to collectively repeat an oath after the citizenship judge (something along the lines of I swear to be faithful to the Queen blah blah blah) and then sing Oh Canada! Someone is apparently checking that you do say and sing the words but they are provided on a card if somehow you have managed to spend years in Canada and not actually learn the words to the national anthem. Unlike in the UK, the full Canadian national anthem is known by literally everyone. Sign a form, shake a hand and then boom! Congratulations you are a Citizen of Canada with an official-looking certificate to proove it.

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