By Atty. Henry Moyal
It almost seems that the Canadian government has nothing better to do than to constantly barrage the media and taxpayers with repeated attempts to change the landscape of immigration in this country.
The current Conservative government has changed immigration rules more often than any other party in the past. A month has not gone by in the last few years where do not hear of a new rule of regulation that affects those that seek to immigrate or remain in Canada. In the last few months alone, the Canadian government has set a quota on new immigrants, increased processing fees and this week eliminated the investor program. In support of their decision to cancel the investor category, the Minister of Immigration is appeasing those who have complained that in the past the rich has simply purchased their visas and have not remained in Canada to provide any economic benefit.
Perhaps the most sweeping change has been the Canadian Government’s recent announcement to change the way a person can become a Canadian citizen. Before that is discussed, there are two important caveats to keep in mind. Firstly, the proposed changes are not final law. Second, the changes are only for those seeking Canadian Citizenship – not permanent residence. Unless a person is born in Canada, an individual first must be granted permanent residence in Canada (ie. a landed immigrant). After a certain time period of being a permanent resident, then the person can apply to become a Canadian Citizen and obtain a Canadian passport.
As such, the following article only pertains to changes for acquiring Canadian Citizenship which has many gasping for air. Under new rules, the government is seeking to reduce processing times and crack down on fraud. The major changes include:
1. Requiring that an applicant be physically in Canada for 4 years (out of the last 6 years from date of application). Currently, an applicant must be in Canada 3 years out of four.
2. Applicants between the ages of 14 – 64 must prove English language proficiency. Currently, only those between 18- 54 must do so.
3. Processing times are to be much faster because it will be a one step application. Currently, it is a three step process.
4. Persons who are convicted of terrorism will have their Citizenship revoked
5. Processing fees will be increased to $400
6. Unauthorized persons (non lawyers) who provide advice on Citizenship will be fined $100,000 or two years in prison
7. Anyone who commits Citizenship fraud or lies on their application faces a $100,000 fine or five years in prison
8. The Minister of Immigration will have the sole authority to revoke someone’s Citizenship if it was obtained by fraud
9. The ability to deny Citizenship to those who are convicted of serious crimes whether they occurred in or outside Canada
10. Applicants must satisfy the minister that they intend to reside in Canada after becoming a Citizen. If a person shows an intention of leaving the country they will be denied.
We will need to wait and see what actually becomes law but on the surface it seems that the Canadian government is trying to strengthen Canadian citizenship but abusing its power at the same time. Applicants who take up a job or study abroad will feel insecure knowing that there is a threat to their Citizenship if the minister is of the opinion that they do not intend to reside in Canada.
As well, refusals will no longer give one an automatic right of appeal. Under new measures, one must apply to the Federal Court just for a chance to be heard.
It seems that the current government is attempting to have all the power to grant and then take away one’s citizenship. That is simply not just. As Canadians, we cherish our right to carry the Canadian passport and we are proud to be a citizen of this great country. The future will be a sad day if we allow the minister unfettered power to revoke our rights.
Attorney Henry Moyal is a certified and licensed immigration lawyer in Toronto, Ontario. The above article is general advice only and is not intended to act as a legal document. Send questions to Attorney Moyal by email firstname.lastname@example.org or call toll free 1-888-847-2078.