The Liberal Government has proposed amendments to the Citizenship Act (the “Act“). The amendments contained in Bill C-6 are largely an attempt to reverse the controversial changes to the Act made by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, which remain in effect today.
When the Conservative amendments came into force in the spring of 2015, the public was discontent with the increased eligibility requirements for immigrants, the weakening of citizenship for new immigrants, and the broader scope granted to revoke citizenship from immigrants.
One of the major Conservative changes to the Act expanded the age group of citizens required to demonstrate a language and knowledge proficiency, which became mandatory for immigrants aged 14 to 64. The length of time immigrants are required to be physically present in Canada before applying for citizenship was also extended to four years (1,460 days) of six years. Additionally, immigrants became obligated to be present in Canada for 183 days per year for at least four of the six years preceding commencing a citizenship application.
Two of the Conservative amendments were particularly unpopular among the Canadian public. One was the requirement that immigrants declare an intention to reside in Canada after obtaining citizenship. The other controversial change was the introduction of a provision which allowed Canadian citizenship to be revoked from dual citizens who were convicted of terrorism, treason, or spying. Revocation also became a possibility for individuals who are members of an armed force or group engaged in armed conflict with Canada.
The Liberals promised to reverse these changes in the campaign leading up to the 2015 election. Following through on that promise, all of the Conservative changes to the Act noted above will be quashed by the proposed Liberal amendments.
Bill C-6 alleviates the citizenship requirements by shrinking the age group required to demonstrate language and knowledge proficiency to those aged 18 to 54. Further, applicants would only need to be physically present in Canada for three of five years before applying for citizenship and the 183 day presence per year requirement would also be abolished.
Immigrants would no longer have to declare an intention to continue to reside in Canada if granted citizenship, and the power to revoke citizenship on the grounds of convictions related to national security and engagement in armed conflict with Canada would be eliminated.
Conversely, the popular Conservative changes to the Act are not altered by the proposed Liberal amendments. Most notably, the provisions added by the Conservatives which reduce processing times by increasing the number of decision makers in citizenship applications will remain part of the Act.
Bill C-6 passed its third reading in the House of Commons and is now in its first reading with the Senate. It is anticipated that the Bill will pass its final requirements and that the Act will see these changes implemented by spring of 2017. A further update will be provided when the Act is amended. More detail can be found at www.parl.gc.ca.