About eight out of 10 permanent residents of Canada apply for citizenship as soon as they become eligible. It looks like Canadian citizenship is a desirable alternative to other nationalities and for some good reasons.
Now, every individual out there will be targeted by different circumstances. There are more factors to consider in the process – both internal and external. Most importantly, you need a clear objective image of the situation as you learn how to become a Canadian citizen.
This article will explain everything you need to know about the benefits and drawbacks of being a Canadian citizen, as well as what steps you need to go through in order to get citizenship or whether or not you are eligible for it.
Assessing the benefits of Canadian citizenshipThere are numerous advantages of becoming a Canadian citizen.
Access to more job opportunities
Certain jobs in Canada are suitable for citizens only. Basically, those holding a permanent residency will still be unable to apply for them, despite having pretty much the same rights as citizens. Obtaining citizenship will open all these jobs up for you.
Jobs requiring a security clearance or citizenship are quite diversified. Apart from security, jobs in governmental institutions will automatically open up as well. Sure, you may not be interested in becoming a politician, but there are many other accessible opportunities.
The possibility to vote
Learning how to become a Canadian citizen will also give you the opportunity to make yourself heard. You will have a sense of community when your small actions can influence the course of the country and not only.
Basically, permanent residents are not allowed to vote in national and provincial elections. The possibility to vote allows you to influence politics. Furthermore, Canadian citizens also have the possibility to hold political office, among many other benefits.
Extra travel opportunities
This is a plus if your goal goes further than Canada – whether it comes to work, moving abroad, or perhaps traveling. The Canadian passport is usually a more powerful passport than the one issued by the country of birth – at least for most people seeking Canadian citizenship.
Given Canada’s reputation and profile, most countries allow Canadians to visit without actually requiring a visa – the same goes for approved purposes. Furthermore, Canada also accepts dual citizenship – make sure your country also does if you want to seek Canadian nationality.
Holding two passports will put you in a privileged position and give you more freedom. Remember that not all countries accept this idea, though. If your home country does not, you will have to sit down and appreciate the pros and cons of each nationality.
Peace of mind about losing status
This one is pretty straightforward – as a Canadian citizen, you will never have to worry about losing your status. Permanent residency is not too risky either, but then, you can still lose it. You have to comply with particular requirements.
For instance, as a Canadian citizen, you can spend as much time as you want out of the country. There are no immigration consequences or issues. With permanent residency, you have some limitations regarding this time.
Plus, as Canadian citizenship, you cannot be deported or lose citizenship if you commit a serious crime.
No need to renew documentation
The permanent resident card only goes for five years. Once the time frame is close to an end, you will need to go through all sorts of procedures, meet some requirements, handle lots of paperwork and spend money and time.
Such cards are needed to travel, but they can also be requested for various benefits – such as finding a job. Therefore, permanent residents will always have to worry about these things – every five years. Citizens do not have such obligations.
You only need to renew your passport every 10 years if you want to travel internationally – nothing else.
Benefits for the family
Most of these benefits actually apply to children and descendants. Having Canadian citizenship means you can transmit it to your descendants. Generally speaking, people born in Canada have Canadian citizenship.
But then, if your baby is born abroad, only a citizen can transmit the Canadian nationality.
The possibility to enter the USAYou can potentially enter the USA from any other country – however, Canadians have little to no restrictions. The USA is famous for the strict border security rules and requirements – people face rejection for the most unusual reasons.
A permanent resident of Canada will have to face the exact same requirements – it depends on the country of citizenship, of course. You may have to apply for a visa just to go away for a weekend or take a quick shopping trip.
Even if you come from a country that is part of the VWP, you still need the visa, electronic passport, a return ticket, land border fees, and so on. Plus, you can only stay there for 90 days – such requirements apply even if you change flights in the USA and you are only there for a few hours.
Canadian citizens can stay in the USA for 180 days, get a job if they want, and faceless questions.
Now that you understand the benefits of Canadian citizenship, are there any drawbacks?
Potential drawbacks of the Canadian citizenship
Learning how to become a Canadian citizen also implies considering the potential consequences.
Most of the potential issues are related to double citizenship and not necessarily the country itself.
Losing the first citizenship
This is a potential risk whenever you apply for new citizenship. Dual citizenship is a possibility if both countries allow it. Luckily, Canada does. At this point, it is up to your country of birth to make a decision – simply check upfront.
Some countries do not allow dual citizenship. For example, China is one of them. If you want to get Canadian citizenship, you will need to lose the Chinese one. You cannot just hide things from the government because they can be found when you enter the country.
Losing the original citizenship may not be such a big thing for some people. However, others will find it emotionally disturbing – it may feel like losing your identity. At the same time, the situation is quite tricky from a technical point of view if you still have some ties in the country of birth.
Jury dutyCanadian citizenship does come with a bunch of rights and benefits. But at the same time, just like any other nationality, it comes with responsibilities as well. In fact, each country has a bunch of responsibilities too.
The jury duty is one of them in Canada. What does it mean? You could be called to serve on a jury, and you cannot say no. It is not really a burden, but some people see it as such – after all, you might lose money for not being able to work for weeks or even months.
Potential legal issues
Just because you become a Canadian citizen, it does not mean that potential legal issues are left behind. In fact, you are exposed to a bunch of different issues that may arise when least expected. Again, most of them are related to your dual citizenship.
Imagine being a citizen of Colombia and Canada. Now, imagine visiting your family back in Colombia and getting into legal trouble. There is not much Canadian officials can do. Foreign interference is usually avoided, and in theory, you are still a Colombian citizen.
On the other hand, those with Canadian citizenship can only seek help from an embassy or consulate.
Things can also get problematic if your country of citizenship ends up in a political or military conflict with Canada. Obviously, such things are less likely to happen, and you are less likely to get in trouble, but you should still consider the potential risk.
Duties in two different countries
Finally, you will need to consider duties in both countries.
For example, you could be called for jury duty in your country of birth – imagine the hassle of finding accommodation, being away from work, or your daily responsibilities in Canada. Some countries excuse citizens living abroad – such as France, but others cannot be bothered.
Then, how about the national service duty? In some countries, you might be able to complete it within a few weeks. But then, other countries – such as Israel – expect a way longer involvement from each citizen.
Other considerations regarding the Canadian citizenshipThe jury duty is probably the most important responsibility for new citizens. It is not a general rule, though. For instance, you may never end up called to serve on jury duty – lots of people simply get away with it anyway.
There are a few other considerations to keep in mind when learning how to become a Canadian citizen.
Tax purposes and considerations
The tax you may have to pay is often a consideration in the process. Here comes the good news – or the bad news – for new citizens. There are no differences. The impact on your Canadian tax obligations is zero.
Whether you have permanent residency or Canadian citizenship, you will pay the same tax on income or your goods. Just because you become a Canadian citizen, it does not mean that you will pay more or less.
Obviously, there are highly specific circumstances where you might need to double-check the provisions of a double tax treaty. However, such situations are extremely rare and less likely to affect the average individual.
Canada is still pat of the Commonwealth and a former colony – as well as most states in this voluntary alliance. With these thoughts on mind, there are still a bunch of ties between the United Kingdom and Canada.
Just because you become a Canadian citizen, it does not mean that your entitlement to British pensions will be altered. Just like in terms of taxes, there will be no changes to your entitlements and rights – permanent residents will have the exact same benefits.
Who can apply for the Canadian citizenshipThere are a few general requirements to take into consideration, meaning you must:
- Be a permanent resident
- Have filled all your taxes
- Prove the language skills
- Have lived in Canada three out of five years
- Pass a citizenship test
There are extra requirements if you are:
- Applying for someone under 18 years old
- A Canadian applying for an adopted child born in another country
- A former or current CAF member using the fast track process
- A past Canadian citizen
Marrying a Canadian citizenIt is important to know that you will not automatically become a Canadian citizen if you marry one. There are no exceptions whatsoever. You still need to meet all the requirements mentioned above, so the marriage makes no difference at all.
Children and grandchildren
Those who have a Canadian parent or grandparent should know that the Canadian citizenship can be transmitted. Such a situation entitles you to the Canadian citizenship – you can apply for a Canadian citizenship certificate to make sure.
The permanent residence is mandatory before applying for Canadian citizenship. Without this status, you cannot even apply. It also means you should not be reviewed for fraud or immigration issues, face a removal order from Canada or have unfulfilled conditions associated with the permanent residence.
It is worth noting that you can apply for Canadian citizenship with an expired residence card too.
Physical presence in Canada
You must have been physically in the country for 1095 days over the five years prior to your application. This means you need to spend at least three years in Canada. Do not make the application on the first day after these three years to ensure there are no calculation errors – give yourself more time.
You can include days spent as a temporary resident, protected person, or Crown servant outside Canada.
You may be prohibited from becoming a Canadian citizen if you committed a crime – even if in a different country. You might be banned for a particular amount of time. It is also worth noting that time spent on parole, probation, or in prison does not count as time you have lived in the country.
There are two official languages in Canada – English, and French. You need to speak and listen to one of them, not both of them. You will have to communicate, take part in conversations, understand questions, reply accordingly, and so on.
Language skills can be proven with diplomas, tests, and certificates too.
As for the citizenship test, it is normally based on Canada's history, economy, laws, geography, government, and symbols. You can take this test in any of the two official languages, and it does not take more than half an hour.
There are 20 questions, and many of them have true or false answers.
How to apply for the Canadian citizenshipThere are normally two ways to apply, as well as a third emergency option.
Applying over the Internet
This is the ideal case – authorities encourage you to do it online. It is faster, more efficient, and does not require actual paperwork. Besides, you can do it in a few different ways, and one of them implies using an online application – great for mobile devices.
Avoid applying online if you have already done it on paper – you are wasting everyone’s time.
Applying on paper
The first step implies getting an application package. It comes in your post and includes all the information you require, as well as the forms you will have to fill in. There is a document checklist too, so technically, you should have no problems at all.
There are more options to consider when ordering the application package – such as for adults, parents or guardians for minors, stateless people born to a Canadian parent and so on. Choose the suitable one for yourself.
The next step implies paying the application fees. They depend on your age – under or over 18 years old. Fees may include the right of citizenship fee, as well as the processing fee. Each application has its own fees – you can pay them altogether if you send more applications in.
Fees must be paid online.
Make sure you are eligible for citizenship the day before you sign the form. Also, lots of people forget to sign it – basic, but important. Include the date – the day you sign it. Also, use the same date for all your calculations.
Send the application as soon as you sign it. If there are more than 90 days before the date on the application and the date it is received, it will be sent back. Putting a future date on the application is a bad idea too, as it will be canceled.
If more people apply simultaneously – such as family members, applications will be processed at the same time if they are in the same envelope. Otherwise, they will be processed separately – it pays off doing it altogether.
Based on what you use to send the application – mail or courier, the address might be different.
Applying for urgent citizenship
At the moment, completing an application takes up to 12 months. Times may change. Luckily, the official website provides a tool that shows you the average processing time. Usually, things move a bit faster, though.
Authorities can process applications faster in special situations – you will need a good reason.
What happens after you apply for the Canadian citizenship
The next step implies processing your application. Authorities will make sure all the documents have been attached to the letter. They will also make sure you answer each question in the form, not to mention paying all the fees.
If the application is complete, you will get an acknowledgment letter with a unique number.
If the application is incomplete, you will get everything back. You will also get a letter that explains what was wrong with the application – further steps will also be included, so you know exactly what to do next. Fix the potential errors, triple-check everything, and resend the application.
Understanding the test and interview for the Canadian citizenship
The test is mandatory when learning how to become a Canadian citizen. It basically tells the authorities what you know about Canada. You will be asked about responsibilities, lifestyle, history, and geography, among others.
Everything in the test will be based on an official guide – Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship. The book is easy to find both offline and online – get it and start studying early.
The best part about it? It is free of charge. You can request to read it online, listen to the MP3 version, download it as an electronic book or simply get a paper. You can start studying whenever you want – it is quite basic anyway.
You could be invited to take the citizenship test weeks after getting the acknowledgment letter. You will find out more about the location, date, and time about a week or two before. Make sure you check the junk mail.
Not available on the day? Get in touch with the authorities and let them know the reason. You will most likely get a new date. If the reason is not good enough, your application might be ceased. As the test begins, only the person taking it can be in the respective room.
ConclusionAs a short final conclusion, learning how to become a Canadian citizen is not as difficult as it may seem. Sure, the process is complicated and takes time, but authorities try to make it straightforward and intuitive for everyone.
You can always get in touch with the government if you have questions or there are things that make no sense. On the same note, you can also hire an immigration attorney and have a professional handle everything for you.
You will still need to provide documentation, papers, and all the above-mentioned things.