Am I eligible for Canadian citizenship under the new rules?
Ask the Experts: I need to go back to Ireland but want the option to return to Toronto
Applicants need to accumulate just 1,095 days (three years) of residence in Canada within the five years prior to making the application in order to qualify for citizenship under the new rules. Photograph: iStock/Getty Images
Q: Barry C, Toronto
I arrived in Toronto on an IEC visa in April 2013. I have had permanent residency since January 2015, under the Canadian Experience Class programme. I love living in Canada and plan to spend many more years here, maybe stay forever. But my mother is ill and I would like to go back to Ireland to spend some time with her. I don’t know how long I will be back in Ireland for, but I don’t want to lose my permanent residency. I’ve seen articles on Facebook reporting that the rules for citizenship have changed - if I had citizenship, it would be a huge weight off my mind, knowing I have the option to come back again whenever I want. Will I be eligible under the new rules? If so, how long does it take? I’m 29 and I work in finance.
A: Alan Regan, editor of Moving2Canada.com
Under the new rules introduced last month, Canadian citizenship is easier and quicker to obtain than was previously the case. Applicants need to accumulate just 1,095 days (three years) of residence in Canada within the five years prior to making the application. Former work permit holders, such as you, benefit from the new rules in two clear ways.
First, it used to be the case that you had to accumulate four years of permanent residence in Canada before being eligible for citizenship. However, the new rules not only reduce this time, but allow former work permit holders, such as you, to count up to 365 days of time on temporary status in Canada towards the 1,095-day requirement.
Effectively, this significantly reduces the number of residency days required for citizenship eligibility after permanent residence is obtained, from four years to as little as two years.
However, there are some important caveats:
• Each day that you spent in Canada on a work permit counts as half a day towards citizenship eligibility. Therefore, over the course of your 20 months in Canada on a work permit, 10 months may be counted towards citizenship.
• The new rules relating to the time spent in Canada will not come into effect until the autumn. An exact date has not been given, but the government expects to implement the change within the next few months.
• “Time spent in Canada” really does mean time spent in Canada, not simply the time in which you had a valid work permit or permanent resident status. When working out how close you are to meeting the magic total of 1,095 days since you first landed in Canada on an IEC work permit, you’ll need to subtract any days spent outside of Canada, back in Ireland or on holidays or work trips etc elsewhere.
• Applying for citizenship takes time. Provided the reader meets all the criteria when the rules fully come into effect in the autumn, there will still be an application process to go through. Currently, the government states that it is processing citizenship applications within 12 months (source: cic.gc.ca/EnGLIsh/information/times/index.asp ).
In addition to residency days, applicants also need to prove ability in English or French and prove a basic knowledge of Canada’s geography, political system and history. The government will also require applicants to prove they do not have a criminal history considered prohibitive to granting Canadian citizenship.
The Government of Canada website has comprehensive and easy to follow documentation on who is eligible, and how to apply. See cic.gc.ca/english/citizenship/index.asp.
Alan Regan is editor of Moving2Canada.com, an information website for immigrants.
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