On June 19, 2014, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act received Royal Assent and became law. The changes are the first comprehensive reforms to the Citizenship Act since 1977 with a range of legislative amendments to further improve the citizenship program. A number of changes came into effect on June 19, 2014, including:
- fast-tracking citizenship for members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF);
- improving clarity on the first generation limit on citizenship for those born abroad;
- extending the exception to the first generation limit to ensure the children of Crown servants can pass on citizenship; and
- moving the decision-making authority for discretionary citizenship grants to the Minister, which improves applicant service by eliminating an extra step.
Additionally on August 1, 2014, a new streamlined decision-making process for citizenship applications, measures to improve efficiency of the application process, and a new judicial review and appeals process came into effect.
In 2015, these final changes will be in force:
- provisions to give citizenship to more “Lost Canadians”;
- new residence requirements;
- new intent to reside requirement;
- expanded age requirements for language and knowledge testing;
- requirement to demonstrate knowledge of Canada in an official language;
- strengthened offences and penalties for fraud;
- prohibitions for foreign criminality and activities against national interests;
- new authority to designate a regulatory body for citizenship consultants;
- improved information sharing authorities; and
- new revocation model and new grounds for revocation of citizenship.
Changes with respect to a new revocation decision-making process and new grounds for revocation of citizenship may come into force earlier than the above-listed provisions.
Results of the changes
- More than 200,000 new Canadians were granted Canadian citizenship in the first nine months of 2014—more than double the number of new citizens welcomed in the same time period in 2013.
- Canada has now welcomed two new citizens under the recently-launched fast-track provision for members of the CAF.
- The citizenship application backlog has been reduced by 22 percent since June 2014 to its lowest level since spring 2012.
- More than 76,000 people have become Canadian citizens since a new decision-making process came into effect on August 1, 2014. That is a 132 percent increase from the same time period last year.
- Citizenship and Immigration Canada remains on track to bring citizenship processing times to less than one year in 2015-2016.
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