Citizenship Changes, You, and Your IELTS Exam
Canadian Immigration is always an interesting topic and recently there have been quite a few changes to the requirements for Canadian citizenship.
Back in June 2017, the following changes were implemented to ease the requirements on citizenship qualification:
- Requirement to intend to live in Canada once granted citizenship was repealed
- Citizenship revocation provisions only applying to dual citizens were repealed
- Minors can qualify on their own without the need to have a Canadian parent
And just this month, the government proceeded to legislate some more exciting changes that many of you may have been waiting for! These changes include:
- Required physical presence in Canada reduced to 3 out of 5 years
- Days spent in Canada before becoming a permanent resident, within 5 years of applying for citizenship, count as half days (up to 365 days) towards physical presence requirements
- Age range for language and knowledge requirements reduced to 18-54 years old
- The time required for applicants to file income taxes before applying for citizenship is reduced to 3 out of 5 years.
These changes are expected to have an impact on your actions – such as your decision to take the IELTS - and bring you closer to establishing a life in the ‘Great White North’. We’re sure you’ve got questions, so we’ve tried to put together some of the most frequently asked ones and answer them for you
What exactly is Canadian citizenship and why do so many people want to obtain it?
In many ways, Canadian citizenship means more opportunities for you and your family. By being a Canadian citizen, you can vote, run for office, not have to worry about visas to re-enter Canada and for many people, this passport really symbolizes their acceptance of being Canadian.
How can you become a Canadian citizen?
There are three main ways to do this. The first two are pretty straightforward: either be born in Canada or have Canadian parents. The third option is to immigrate, meet your residency requirements, and then apply. In order to understand this third option, it's important to know the difference between Canadian Permanent Residency and Canada Citizenship. Generally, when someone immigrates to Canada, they obtain permanent residency.
Currently, there are more than 50 immigration options for people to obtain permanent residence in Canada and after arriving in Canada and starting a life here, the permanent resident can qualify for Canadian citizenship.
To make sure that your transition to becoming a permanent resident and then citizen goes as smoothly as possible, using the services of a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant is a great idea so that they can advise you on which program you are best qualified for. They're also there to make sure that your application is as strong as possible so that you can concentrate on getting ready for your 'big move' instead of spending months trying to navigate immigration paperwork.
Once Permanent Residence is obtained, how long does a person need to be in Canada as a Permanent Resident before they can apply for citizenship?
This is the exciting part because most Permanent Residents now need to stay in Canada for a total of 3 of the last 5 years.
Prior to October 2017, it was 4 out of 6 years. This is definitely great news for future and current Canadians! In addition to this, you can now claim up to a maximum of 1 year towards these 3 years if you were a temporary resident in Canada during the last 5 years!
Time spent as a temporary resident counts as half, so if you studied in Canada for 2 years, then became a Permanent Resident and remained in Canada for 2 years, guess what?!? You might qualify for Canadian Citizenship!
So is that all? I just have to stay in Canada for the required amount of time?
No, not quite. You'll need to have proof that you paid your income taxes and, if you are 18 to 54 years old, you'll need to be able to prove your English or French language skills. You can do this by taking either the TEF, TEFAQ, CELPIP or IELTS General and obtaining a minimum score of CLB 4. For IELTS General, this means obtaining a Band 4 in Speaking and Band 4.5 in Listening. You won't need the writing and reading results for citizenship.
Remember that your exam results are valid for 2 years from the exam date, so you can plan ahead. Some people might not have to take a language exam in order to qualify for Canadian Citizenship, but most do. Here is a list of people who are exempt from this language requirement.
What about the citizenship exam?
If you're 18 to 54 years old, you'll need to take the Citizenship Test, which will assess your knowledge of Canada, including Canadian history, culture, rights, government, etc. Much in the same way that there is a mountain of preparation materials to help you achieve your IELTS goals, there is also a large amount of support to help you pass your citizenship test!
Finally, you will attend your citizenship ceremony, which will definitely be a day you'll remember for the rest of your life.
*For a complete list of changes made to the Citizenship Act and when they take effect, please read the Bill C-6 Backgrounder
By Kyle Broda