Could mental illness affect my Canadian citizenship application?

Ask the Experts: I am on leave due to stress and am afraid to seek help from my GP

Irish nationals living in Canada and select other countries are entitled to free Skype counselling sessions through Cabhrú. Photograph: iStock/Getty Images

Irish nationals living in Canada and select other countries are entitled to free Skype counselling sessions through Cabhrú. Photograph: iStock/Getty Images

 

Question

I am a permanent resident in Canada. I have suffered some traumatic personal events in recent months. I am feeling depressed and stressed. I would like to seek help from my family doctor about what I am going through, but I am afraid this might affect my eligibility to apply for Canadian citizenship in May. We arrived in Canada in 2015 and according to the online citizenship calculator, we would be eligible to file our application in May this year.

Currently, I am on leave because of the stress. Would mental illness (depression or post traumatic disorder) affect my eligibility to apply for the citizenship? I am confident I will be able to submit all the documentation and pass the citizenship exam, but I am afraid to be refused because they may think I am not fully functioning.

Answer: Cathy Murphy, executive director of the Irish Canadian Immigration Centre (I/CAN)

IRCC (Refugees, and Citizenship Canada) does not require a medical exam in the citizenship application process. However, if you had any terms and conditions imposed on you when you became a permanent resident and you have not met them, you may not be eligible for citizenship. For example, some new permanent residents must have a medical screening after they arrive in Canada.

You will be scheduled to take a citizenship knowledge test after IRCC receives your application. If you cannot demonstrate you meet the knowledge requirement due to a medical condition, submit supporting evidence with your application.

If you have a disorder, disability or condition that is cognitive, psychiatric or psychological, IRCC will accept supporting evidence from a medical practitioner in Canada. It must explain how the disability or condition affects your ability to study the official citizenship study guide in English or French, and to take the associated citizenship test. The supporting documents help IRCC understand your situation. IRCC will return your application if you do not submit this supporting evidence.

With respect to the citizenship interview, in cases where a medical condition is apparent, officers must use their judgment in assessing the applicant’s language or knowledge abilities. Officers should be alert and sensitive to an applicant’s ability to convey essential information. When there is a clear indication that a medical condition and/or cognitive impairment exists, officers should record their observations and seek a medical opinion from the applicant’s doctor.

For those in Canada looking for guidance on mental health and well-being, starting with a family doctor (GP) is a good first step. If you do not have a GP, you can go to a local walk-in clinic and ask for a referral to a mental health practitioner.

We invite readers to visit the Essential Guides page of our website www.irishcdn.org for further information on pathways to care. We have also launched a weekly mental health awareness campaign on social media: follow us on Facebook and Twitter to receive our Monday morning posts.

Irish nationals living in Canada may avail of the services of Cabhrú, a free online counselling service for Irish abroad. Each client can receive a minimum of six (culturally sensitive) counselling appointments via Skype, provided by qualified, insured and Garda-vetted counsellors who are available seven days a week. Go to helplink.ie and click on Irish Abroad service for more info. To book an appointment, email helplinksupport@helplink.ie. To avail of appointments you must have a current Irish passport. Cabhrú is provided by Helplink Support Services, an Irish based non-profit organisation, and is funded in part by the Department of Foreign Affairs Emigrant Support Programme.

Have a query for our panel of experts about emigrating, life abroad or moving home? Email them to abroad@irishtimes.com. This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional and/or legal advice.We regret that only queries selected for publication can be answered.

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