The Citizenship Act (the Act), as amended by the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act (SCCA), gives authority to two distinct decision makers: citizenship officers and citizenship judges.
The decision maker must bear in mind not only the Act's provisions, but also interpretations of those provisions by the Federal Courts.
Decision-making process for citizenship officers
Evaluate information received
Citizenship officers analyze and evaluate the documentation and information provided by the applicant.
Ensure evidence is satisfactory
When provided to the decision maker, the applicant's file should, at a minimum, include the following:
- the application form and documents as listed in the document checklist;
- the results of the written or oral citizenship test [not applicable to subsection 5(5) or 11(1)];
- the Citizenship Application Record of Decision (CARD) – For Adults form [CIT 0065CIF] with the biographic information, Part I, Part II and Part III completed [not applicable to subsection 5(5) or 11(1)];
- any relevant supplementary information and documentation, such as records of conversations with an applicant following an interview, or forwarded by the applicant further to an officer’s request for additional information, etc.
Request additional information if necessary
- Citizenship officers must ensure that they have all the information and evidence necessary to make a fair and informed decision.
- Under section 23.1 of the Act, the officer can request that applicants provide any additional information or evidence relevant to their application.
- It is the applicant’s responsibility to satisfy the decision maker, on a balance of probabilities, that they meet all the requirements of the Act and the Regulations.
When a citizenship officer may make a decision without a hearing
- In general, citizenship officers may make a decision without a hearing if there is sufficient evidence on file to support their decision. Evidence necessary to support a decision may be based on information provided by the applicant and included on or with the application, the program integrity (PI) interview, an in-depth residence interview, the submission of additional documentation or information as provided by the applicant, or information which was lawfully provided to the department in connection with the application.
- In many straightforward cases not involving serious credibility issues, such as cases where an applicant appears to be prohibited due to a criminal conviction, is under a removal order, does not meet the income tax filing requirement (for applications received on or after June 11, 2015, only), or has unfulfilled conditions related to their permanent resident status, those may be decided without the personal appearance of the applicant. Refer to Decision-making without the personal appearance of the applicant.
- However, in other cases such as cases where a citizenship officer cannot be satisfied that the applicant meets the physical presence requirement, the case is to be referred to a judge for a decision. Refer to Referring applications to a citizenship judge.
When to refer an application to a citizenship officer for a hearing
An application will generally be referred to a citizenship officer for a hearing if
- there is evidence that raises a serious issue involving the applicant’s credibility relating to their ability to meet one or more of the requirements for citizenship;
- it is necessary in order for the citizenship officer to render a procedurally fair decision; or
- the applicant has requested a hearing with the decision maker and the citizenship officer is satisfied that the applicant’s request is reasonable and the hearing is required in order to render a full and fair decision.
Note: If the applicant is not able to satisfy the officer, on a balance of probabilities, that he or she meets any one requirement for citizenship, an officer may refuse the application without assessing any of the other requirements. The officer would indicate which requirements were assessed or not assessed on the applicable decision form. An exception to this general guideline would occur in cases where the applicant may be prohibited for committing misrepresentation. In such cases, the final decision on a case would not be rendered until a decision is made on the misrepresentation allegation.
When an application has been referred to a judge for a decision
Refer to Referring applications to a citizenship judge for guidelines on referrals of this type.
The citizenship officer must make a decision, on whether to grant citizenship if the judge approves the application, or refer the case to the Case Management Branch if they have identified one or more grounds pursuant to which the Minister may wish to exercise his right to apply for leave and judicial review.
Factors to consider in decision-making
- The decision maker must review all information and evidence provided, and must weigh and assess it in order to give appropriate weight to the most pertinent and relevant information and evidence in order to render a fair decision.
- The decision maker may assess the applicant's credibility and may require additional information or documentation when assessing credibility, and may also consider whether a hearing is required because there are serious issues involving the applicant’s credibility. Citizenship officers and citizenship judges have the authority to request additional information or evidence.
- It is generally considered unfair to make an adverse decision based on information that the applicant has not provided and has not had an opportunity to comment on (extrinsic information). Refer to Decision-making without the personal appearance of the applicant.
Decision-making for applications with investigations
Citizenship officers and citizenship judges should not make a decision while the processing of an application is suspended. The Minister is authorized to suspend processing of an application as long as is necessary to receive
- any information or evidence or the results of any investigation or inquiry for the purpose of ascertaining whether the applicant meets the requirements under this Act relating to the application;
- any information or evidence or the results of any investigation or inquiry to determine whether the applicant should be subject to an admissibility hearing or removal order under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA);
- a determination as to whether a removal order will be made if the person is subject to an admissibility hearing;
- any information or evidence or the results of any investigation or inquiry to determine whether section 20 or 22 apply.
Refer to Suspending applications.
Once the suspension of processing is lifted, following the completion of any investigations or inquiries, a decision can be made on the case.
Note: There can be situations where an application has been referred to a judge and the application was then suspended to allow for an investigation or inquiry for the reasons noted above. If the investigation or inquiry concludes that section 20 or 22 apply to the applicant, or there has been a determination to make a removal order against the applicant, the citizenship judge is no longer authorized to make a determination on physical presence. In such cases, the application will be referred back to a citizenship officer for a decision based on the results of the investigation, inquiry or admissibility hearing.
Timeframe to make a decision
- The Act and Regulations do not specify a time period in which citizenship officers must make their decision. However, for consistency and timeliness, officers are, to the extent possible, strongly encouraged to make their decision within 60 days after the day on which the application is referred to them.
- Citizenship judges have 60 days after the day on which the application is referred to them to make a decision. Judges can also render decisions without the personal appearance of the applicant, through requests for additional documentation or via the procedural fairness model. Officers should regularly review cases to ensure that files directed to a judge for decision are completed within the 60-day timeframe.
When a judge is seized with a file
- Judges are seized with a file when a file is referred to them for decision.
- On occasion, an applicant will bring a significant volume of documentation to a hearing. In these situations, the hearing is not to commence, but rather, should be cancelled and rescheduled for a later date (the applicant is not to be considered as a “no show”). This allows for an appropriate amount of time for review of the newly provided documentation and updating of the File Preparation and Analysis Template (FPAT) by a citizenship officer, and also allows for the judge to properly prepare for the hearing.
Note: If the judge wishes to see extra documents not on file, they can request that the applicant provide the documents in advance of the hearing by using the Request for supplementary evidence form [CIT 0520]. This approach may reduce the volume of documentation applicants bring to their hearing and reduce the need to cancel hearings.
Adjournment of hearings with judges
The Act and Regulations do not reference second hearings or adjournment of hearings. However, judges may, at their discretion, decide to adjourn hearings. It is expected that the judge’s decision to adjourn a hearing would be exercised reasonably, and typically only in rare and exceptional circumstances (e.g., due to unanticipated circumstances, such as the sudden illness of the applicant).
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