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The Liberal Party has introduced a new bill that if passed would create changes to the Citizenship Act

A new bill was proposed that if passed would create changes to the Citizenship Act. These changes would allow applicants to apply earlier for citizenship and remove some sections that treat naturalized Canadian citizens differently than Canadian citizens by birth. Although these changes are yet to be made into law it is interesting to get a first look at what has been suggested.

1) National interest grounds for citizenship revocation

The bill proposes to repeal the national interest ground for revoking citizenship. This would remove the ability to revoke citizenship from dual citizens who commit acts against the national interest of Canada. Acts against the national interest include terrorism, high treason, treason, spying offenses, or for membership in an armed force engaged in conflict with Canada. The result would be that all Canadians, whether by birth or naturalized, who commit crimes or acts against the national interest will be dealt with through the Canadian Justice System.

It should be noted that this would not remove the ability to revoke citizenship when it was obtained by misrepresentation and fraud.

2) Intent to reside provision

The proposed bill would remove the requirement that applicants declare that they intend to continue to reside in Canada once granted citizenship. This reinforces that there is no requirement to reside wholly in Canada and that all citizen have the right to move outside the country if so desired.

3)  Time spent in Canada for citizenship

The bill proposes to decrease the required amount of time physically spent in Canada for citizenship from 4 years within 6 years to 3 years within 5 years. Along with the reduced amount of time required to be spent in Canada, it is proposed that time in Canada before becoming a permanent resident should be able to count toward the 3 years of physical presence required. It is suggested that each day spent in Canada as a temporary resident should count as half a day as long as it falls within the 5 year period. This could be used for up to a maximum of 1 year of the 3 years required. This should have the effect of allowing applicants to apply for citizenship earlier than they would have under the current law.

4) Language and Knowledge requirements

The current Government is intending to return the knowledge and language requirements to the previous age range of 18-54 from the current range of 14-64. The knowledge and language requirements dictate that applicants for citizenship have an adequate knowledge of English or French as well as knowledge of the responsibilities and privileges of Canadian citizenship. This will remove a barrier to those younger and older applicants applying for citizenship.

5) Integrity enhancements proposals             

One of the proposed changes to enhance the integrity of the program is to eliminate the differential treatment received by persons on conditional sentences and those that are under a probation order, on parole or incarcerated in a penitentiary, jail, reformatory or prison. The result of making this change is that people on conditional sentences would no longer be able to count the time while serving this sentence as time towards the physical presence required for citizenship. This brings it in line with those serving other sentences.

Another attempt to enhance integrity is that all applicants must continue to meet the requirements of citizenship up until they take the oath. The current law only requires this for applications received after June 11, 2015 while the proposed law would include all applicants no matter when their application was received.

The bill proposes now to give the Citizenship officers the ability to seize fraudulent documents provided during the administration of the Act. This will allow officers the ability to investigate and prevent further use of fraudulent documents.