The Canadian immigration process can be complicated to understand. The Canadian government has language, history, and physical residency requirements for citizenship. This article will outline the necessary steps to become a Canadian citizen.
A good place to start is with this tool provided by the Canadian government, which helps you figure out if you’re eligible to become a permanent resident and if you may already be a citizen or eligible for citizenship.
It’s important to know that, while Canada allows for dual citizenship, each country decides independently whether it allows more than one country to recognize you as a citizen. Some countries have restrictions on dual citizenship that you should know about before applying to become a Canadian citizen.
Canadian Citizenship Eligibility Criteria
To become a citizen of Canada, most applicants must:
- Claim permanent resident status
- Have lived in Canada for at least three of the past five years (or 1,095 days), also called “physical presence”
- Have filed any necessary taxes
- Pass a citizenship test
- Prove their language skills in one of the official languages of Canada — English or French
How to become a permanent resident of Canada
A prerequisite to becoming a citizen of Canada is to be a permanent resident of Canada at the time of your application. Permanent residency is not the same as citizenship. Permanent residents receive a permanent resident card that they must carry with them when traveling in Canada and abroad.
Any person wishing to apply for a permanent residency card must meet one of the following criteria:
- Have been physically present in Canada for at least 730 days in the past five years (already a permanent resident)
- Show that they will spend at least 730 days in Canada within the next five years
You may qualify for the Federal Skilled Workers Program if you have at least one year of paid work experience in one of the most in-demand occupations in Canada — for example, if you are a medical or health professional; in a natural or applied science field; or work in trades like construction, metalworking, ironworking, or electrical work. For a full list of eligible occupations, visit this site.
You may qualify for the Federal Skilled Trades Program if you have two years of paid work experience in one of the top trades that are in demand in Canada — for example, if you have experience in the industrial, electrical, manufacturing, or culinary trades. For a full list of eligible trades, visit this site.
You may qualify for the Canadian Experience Class if you are a skilled worker with work experience in Canada. To be eligible, you must meet the required language levels for your job, have one year of skilled work experience in Canada, and have gained your work experience in Canada as a temporary resident.
Provincial nominee programs
Another way to obtain residency in Canada is through a Provincial Nomination process. This program may be a good option if you intend to immigrate to and settle in a particular province. Applicants must contact the immigration office representative in their chosen province and follow the specific application for a nomination to that province.
Start-up business class immigration
This program is designed to encourage and facilitate the admission of entrepreneurs, investors, and self-employed individuals.
Family class immigration
If you have family members who are permanent residents or citizens of Canada, they may be able to help you apply for permanent residency through a sponsorship process.
Specifically for the province of Quebec, this program is for skilled workers who want to become permanent residents of Canada and live in Quebec. Quebec has a special agreement with the government of Canada regarding immigration and has its own program requirements.
How to file your taxes in Canada
A necessary step in achieving citizenship status is to make sure you have filed any required income taxes in Canada. Similar to filing income taxes in the United States, you must report your income; claim any applicable deductions, credits, and expenses; and submit your completed tax return.
Canadian Citizenship Process
Once you have completed all the above steps, you may be ready to apply for citizenship in Canada. In many cases you start the process of applying for citizenship online. Processing times may vary depending on a number of factors. It’s important to remember that the process may take up to one year or more.
While it is not required in your citizenship application, it is a good idea to begin building credit in Canada and to open a Canadian bank account.
Step 1: Apply for Canadian citizenship
The easiest way to apply for citizenship is to fill out an application online.
Another option is to request an application package, which includes instructions, paper forms to fill out, and a checklist of documents you need.
To apply for Canadian citizenship, you need to fill out the application form, submit all necessary documents, pay application fees (as of writing, $630 for adults 18 years or older and $100 for minors under age 18), and send in your application.
Step 2: Prepare for the citizenship test and interview
Whether you have to take the Canadian citizenship test and attend an interview depends on your age. If you are between the ages of 18 and 54, you may need to both take the test and go to the interview. There are special circumstances for those under the age of 18 or adults 55 or older.
Prior to the test, you will receive a Notice to Appear. You will need to bring the Notice to Appear, your permanent resident card, two pieces of personal identification, all your passports and travel documents, proof of English or French language skills, and other documents asked for in the Notice to Appear document.
The test consists of 20 questions about the rights and responsibilities of Canadians and about Canada’s history, geography, economy, government, laws, and symbols. The test is based on the official citizenship study guide. The citizenship test doesn’t assess your language skills in English or French. You have 30 minutes to take the test and need 15 correct answers to pass.
There are resources available to help you prepare for the citizenship test and interview.
After the test, you’ll meet with a citizenship official for an interview. During the interview, the official will give you the results of your test, check your language skills (for those ages 18-54), verify your application and documentation, ask questions about your application, and ensure that you meet all the requirements for citizenship.
If you pass and meet the citizenship requirements, the official may give you a citizenship ceremony date.
Step 3. Attend the citizenship ceremony
Your final step to becoming a Canadian citizen is to attend the citizenship ceremony, during which you will take the Oath of Citizenship.
Citizenship ceremonies take place across the country and at all times of the year. There are special ceremonies on Canada Day and during Citizenship Week. Adults and children over the age of 14 must attend the citizenship ceremony and take the oath.
In addition to taking the Oath of Citizenship, you will get your citizenship certificate, sign the Oath of Affirmation of Citizenship form, and sing the national anthem, “O Canada.”
What to do after the citizenship ceremony
Once you’ve passed the citizenship test, aced your interview, and completed the citizenship ceremony, you become a citizen of Canada. You can now apply for a Canadian passport, register to vote in elections, and even receive free admission to Canada’s natural parks and cultural centers for one year.
For more information for new Canadian citizens, click here.
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