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Becoming a Canadian citizen

Region: Ontario Answer # 662

In most circumstances, people born in Canada are automatically Canadian citizens. If you were born outside Canada and later gained permanent resident status, you can apply for Canadian citizenship after three years of residency in Canada. As a Canadian citizen, you will be entitled to many rights and freedoms, including the right to vote in all elections, hold a Canadian passport, and run for public office.

Applying for citizenship, sponsoring someone, and coming to Canada to study or work involve many steps and can be overwhelming. To get help, ask a lawyer now.

Requirements to become a Canadian citizen

To apply for Canadian citizenship, you must:

  • regardless of your age, have permanent resident status;
  • regardless of your age, have lived in Canada as a permanent resident for at least 1,095 days (three years) during the five years immediately before the date of your application. Each day you were physically present in Canada as an authorized temporary resident or protected person before you became a permanent resident within the last five years is counted as half a day (up-to a maximum of 365 days), while each day you were physically present in Canada after you became a permanent resident counts as one day;
  • file income taxes (if applicable);
  • provide proof that you can speak and listen in English or French (applies to applicants aged 18 to 54);
  • pass a Canada knowledge test in English or French (applies to applicants aged 18 to 54).

Physical presence requirement

You cannot meet the physical presence requirement without a minimum of two (2) years as a permanent resident.

Minimum physical presence requirements do not apply to children under 18 where a parent or guardian has applied on their behalf.

You may also be eligible to apply for citizenship even if you do not meet the requirements for the minimum time lived in Canada if,

  • you are a Crown servant (or are the family member of a Crown servant)

When can you not become a Canadian citizen?

You cannot become a Canadian citizen if any of the following conditions apply to you:

  • you are currently an inmate of a jail, reformatory or prison;
  • you are on parole or probation, or are serving a sentence outside Canada;
  • you were convicted (inside or outside Canada) of an indictable offence in the four years before applying for citizenship, or are now charged with an indictable offence or an offence under the Citizenship Act in Canada;
  • you were or are now under a removal order;
  • you were investigated for a war crime or crime against humanity;
  • you had a citizenship application refused in the past five years because you misrepresented yourself (made false statements, submitted false information, or altered documents); or if
  • your Canadian citizenship has been revoked because of fraud in the past ten years.

Visit Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for a complete list of conditions that may prevent you from becoming a Canadian citizen.

Except for those whose parents were diplomatic employees of another country, children born in Canada are automatically Canadian citizens.

Since 1977, Canadians have been permitted to hold dual citizenship (that is, citizenship in another country).

The requirements for current and past members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) to apply for citizenship are slightly different. Visit IRCC to view the fast-track process for these individuals.

Children born outside Canada: “First-generation limit”

As of April 17, 2009, new rules came into effect regarding Canadian citizenship for persons:

  • born outside Canada to Canadian parents
  • who weren’t already Canadian citizens when the rules changed

Children born in other countries to a Canadian parent have a right to citizenship. However, Canadian citizenship by birth outside Canada to a parent who is a Canadian citizen (citizenship by descent) is limited to the first generation born outside Canada. This means that individuals who were not already a Canadian citizen by April 17, 2009, and were born outside Canada to a Canadian parent, are not Canadian if their Canadian parent was:

  • also born outside Canada to a Canadian parent
  • granted Canadian citizenship under section 5.1, the adoption provisions of the Citizenship Act

How to apply for Canadian citizenship

To apply for Canadian citizenship, you must follow four steps.

1. Obtain a citizenship application

If you are an adult, 18 years or older, you need the “Application for Canadian Citizenship – Adults” form. In addition, you also have to complete the online “Physical Presence Calculator”.

If you are applying for your child who is under the age of 18, you must use the “Application for Canadian Citizenship – Minors“. If you have more than one child, you must use a separate form for each. Children do not have to live in Canada for three years to apply for citizenship. Parents can apply for their children as soon as the child becomes a permanent resident as long as the parent is a Canadian citizen or is applying to be a citizen at the same time as the child.

2. Complete and mail the application

Along with the completed application, you must also submit the application fees, provide the required photographs, and attach photocopies of the documents listed in the document checklist. If you are 18 to 54 years old your application must also include proof that demonstrates you can speak and listen in English or French. IRCC provides examples of what is considered proof on their website. You will have to show the original documents at the time of your test and/or interview and at the ceremony.

After you have completed the application form, mail it and all applicable documents to IRCC. The address as well as application forms are available on the IRCC website. If you are applying for more than one person, you can submit all the forms and documents in the same envelope and they will be processed together.

3. Take the citizenship test or interview

If you meet the basic requirements for citizenship and are between the ages of 18 and 54, you will be scheduled for a citizenship test or possible interview to make sure you have a basic understanding of Canada and one of its official languages. The test asks simple questions about the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship, the government, the political system, history, geography, people, industry, and voting procedures in Canada.

The Guide Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship, has all the information you need to know, and can be viewed online, or you can request that a copy be sent to you. IRCC will notify you to set a date and time for your test.

When you come for the written test or interview, bring the original documents that you photocopied and submitted with your application, along with all passports and travel documents you have in your possession.

4. Take the oath of citizenship

If you meet all the requirements to become a citizen, you will receive a notice telling you where and when your citizenship ceremony will take place. At the ceremony you will take the oath of citizenship and receive your certificate of citizenship. You will then be entitled to enjoy all the rights and privileges of Canadian citizenship.

Get help

A criminal record will delay, and can even prevent you from getting your immigration status. To erase your criminal record, call toll-free 1-888-808-3628 or learn more at Pardon Partners. It’s easier than you think.

For legal advice and representation with your citizenship application and other immigration matters, contact our preferred Immigration experts Bright Immigration Consultants .

Immigration law in Canada is complex. Issues such as getting permanent residence or citizenship, sponsoring someone, and coming to Canada to study or work involve many steps and can be overwhelming. To get help, ask a lawyer now.

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