The changes in the Citizenship Act of Canada are being seen as a comprehensive set of reforms that has taken place in more than a generation’s time. The changes are meant to strengthen the process and benefit the immigrants in the long run. What is being professed is that a shorter time will be required to obtain citizenship as those applying would already have been screened comprehensively with respect to the additional and stricter norms. This will also be assisted by allowing the citizenship officers to have authority to decide and approve as to who makes the grade and does not. The authority so far rests with only the citizenship judges.
Permanent residents would now have to live longer in Canada to be eligible to get citizenship. Four years out of the last six years of residency as against three out of the last four. The increase is on both counts. The duration of stay as well the qualifying period under consideration. In effect, the entire length of period that a permanent resident has to reside would have been prolonged. It will be a patient wait in expectation.
Knowing the official languages, that is English and/or French, have to be met by those between 18 and 54 years of age. The earlier requirement was between the age of 14 and 64 years of age. So, a person has to wait till s/he attains the later age requirement of 18 years or on the attainment of adulthood and, of course, achieve the qualifying criteria much before retirement age.
The fee requirements are going to be up by three the times from the present $100. Indications are that only relatively serious applicants are to be encouraged. The increase in regulations for immigration consultants will have a direct effect on fraud attempts and the penalties to be increased to discourage misconduct attempts. The proposed penalties convicted for fraud offence is a $100,000 as maximum and/or a 5 years term in prison.
All the above may seem discouraging to many but the benefits will be forthcoming when the roll out takes place. There is good news for those permanent residents who have served the Canadian Armed Forces who will receive priority to fast track their applications for citizenship. The new bill will also allow the government to strip Canadian citizenship from nationals who have been members of any organized group who have resorted to any form of armed conflict with Canada.
The immigration minister has the final authority to revoke citizenship. Presently, the governor in council has jurisdiction and complete authority over matters of final revoking and acceptance. However, complex cases dealing with crime, security and international violations will still be referred to the Federal Court.
The proposed changes allows the government to retroactively grant citizenship to those Canadians who were denied citizenship for reasons related to outdated legislation in vogue. However, how much it actually helps when implemented is still to be awaited.