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Canadian Citizenship: Benefits and Requirements

citizenship Dec 08, 2021

In a nutshell, if you:

  1. Are a Canadian Permanent Resident,
  2. Have lived in Canada for 3 of the last 5 years, and
  3. Have appropriately filed your taxes

You likely qualify for Canadian Citizenship!

Once you have been in Canada for a period of time (a minimum of three years) you might choose to apply for Canadian citizenship. Canadian citizenship has many benefits, and a Canadian passport opens significant opportunities in both Canada and around the world. Today we will explore how to qualify for citizenship, what the language and testing requirements are for citizenship, how and why you need to maintain your residency in Canada before your citizenship application, and finally, we will look at all the benefits of holding a Canadian passport and being a Canadian citizen.

How to Qualify for Canadian Citizenship

In order to qualify for Canadian citizenship, a person must meet a number of criteria. Many of these conditions are very similar to what is required to retain permanent residence status in Canada with some additional criteria added. As a starting point, to apply for citizenship a person must have Permanent Resident status in Canada, regardless of the age of the person applying. This means that even the elderly and children must be permanent residents to apply for citizenship, but as we will discuss, there are other parts of the citizenship application process that these groups do not need to participate in.

As a permanent resident, to qualify for a citizenship application, you must not be under investigation for immigration or fraud issues. You also cannot be under a removal order. A removal order is when you have been asked by Canadian officials to leave Canada because of issues with immigration, fraud, or criminal activity. You also need to have fulfilled all the conditions for PR status, including your medical screening.

Language Requirements
As described in the Citizenship Act, if you are an adult under 55 years of age, to qualify for citizenship you need to demonstrate language skills in one of Canada’s official languages: English or French. An applicant for citizenship must show that they can communicate in one of these two languages at the level of Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) 4 or higher. This means that an applicant must be able to take part in short everyday conversations, understand basic instructions, answer simple questions, and express themselves. The IRCC will both take into account the proof of the language level submitted with the citizenship application, as well any communication that the applicant has with their citizenship officer as part of their language assessment.

To demonstrate language proficiency, you may need to provide a copy of a language test with your application for citizenship or other documentation. If you attended post-secondary schooling in English or French, then a transcript from that school may be enough. If the transcript is not in English or French, then you will need a certified translation of that transcript. If you do not have a transcript or didn’t attend post-secondary or secondary school in either official language, then you need to prove your English or French-speaking level through other testing. It is strongly recommended that if you are from a country of origin in which English is NOT the first language, that you take a language test. Sometimes, the officer will not accept foreign credentials as proof of language ability. If you applied for the Permanent Residence Visa recently, then it is likely that your language test results will still be valid for your citizenship application. If you wrote the IELTS general English test, after 2008, then it is valid for a citizenship application, or if you wrote the CELPIP after 2014. Check out our YouTube Video about English tests here to learn more! There are also a number of tests to demonstrate French language ability, including the TEF or TCF tests.

As a side note, there are a lot of people I have noticed that fear all manner of tests but more often than not, they fear the English test and will do everything to avoid it. I can tell you that the levels that you have to achieve for citizenship are very basic so while you should prepare, rest assured that the level required is quite low, so don’t worry!

The Citizenship Test
If you are between 18 and 54 years of age, you also need to pass a citizenship test. The test contains 20 questions about Canada’s history, geography, economy, government, laws, symbols, and the rights of Canadians. The official federal government study guide, Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship is available in online, audio, downloadable, and print formats. While third-party study guides for the citizenship test do exist, it is not recommended that you use them, and instead rely upon Discover Canada, which is available to all applicants at no cost. If you are over the age of 18 you also need to complete a citizenship interview. At the interview, the officer will give you the results of your citizenship test, verify your language skills and documents, answer questions you have about the application, and make sure you meet all the requirements for Canadian citizenship.

Residency Requirements
A very important part of the citizenship application is physical presence in Canada for three of the five years before the application. The Citizenship Act states that a person must be in Canada for 1,095 days out of the five years prior to their citizenship application. These days do not need to be concurrent but are both monitored by the Canadian Border Services and should be monitored by the applicant as well. This residency requirement is not dissimilar from the requirement to retain permanent residence, which is two years, or 730 days, out of a five-year period.

Days in Canada for a citizenship application can be accumulated both during the period someone is in the country on a temporary residence visa and when they are there as a permanent resident. According to the Act, every day that a person is present in Canada on a temporary resident visa, before becoming a permanent resident, the individual accumulates a half-day of physical presence up to one year. After becoming a permanent resident, every day spent in Canada accumulates a full day of presence in the country. For example, if you were a student in Canada for one year of study and then worked on a post-graduate work permit for one year before you applied for your Permanent Residency, this is two years in Canada, but counts for one year towards the residency requirement.

There are two significant exceptions to the residency requirement in a citizenship application. The first is for spouses or common-law partners of Canadian citizens. If you are married or partnered to a citizen who is working outside of Canada for the Canadian military or the federal and provincial governments, then those days spent abroad with your partner count as being physically present in Canada. Similarly, if as a permanent resident, you are employed by Canada’s government or military outside of Canada, then those days outside Canada are also counted as if you are physically present inside the country. 

Tax Requirements
Lastly, there are tax requirements necessary to apply for citizenship. In order to apply for citizenship, an applicant must have filed federal income taxes for three of the five years before they applied for Canadian citizenship. If any debt is owed on income tax, you must pay this before applying or your application may be examined as incomplete.

Difference Between Citizenship and Permanent Residence

So, why is a Second Passport so important now? I often have clients tell me there is no urgency to get their Citizenship and they’re comfortable with their PR. I’ve seen it happen many times in my office. But if something happens in Canada while on PR, it really can turn your whole world upside down. I’ve seen this happen and so many people fight to stay in Canada. The fight may even result in being sent to your home country or it could take years and thousands of dollars to fix. To be honest, it’s not even worth the risk. As one of my clients said, you’re a “permanent guest” in Canada. Many get confused about the meaning of permanent residency. You’re not permanent in Canada and may be subject to removal if something were to happen.

Let’s talk about the main differences between Citizenship and Permanent Residency. Both Canadian citizenship and permanent residence offer benefits and responsibilities. We have discussed some of the responsibilities above regarding taxation and (for permanent residence) complying with a residency requirement. Although the benefits of both statuses are very significant, some similarities come with PR and stay with you when you get Citizenship. Both citizenship and PR allow access to Canadian healthcare and social services. Canadian citizens and PRs also have access to the domestic post-secondary tuition rates and are considered before other applicants for government and public sector jobs as well as many jobs in private industry. Further, both Citizens and PRs are protected under Canadian law and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This means you are protected by fundamental freedoms, mobility rights, language rights, equality rights, and rights upon arrest. This is key to ensure you can live safely and securely in Canada.

At the same time, Canadian citizenship does have more benefits than permanent resident status. The first being that once you are a Canadian citizen, that status cannot be revoked. Canadian Citizenship is the very last step in the Canadian Immigration process. Once you are a Citizen, you have the freedom to travel wherever you want, with no restrictions. You cannot “lose” your Citizenship like you can lose your PR and you do not have any further obligations to maintain your status. If you commit a crime (please don’t), you cannot get removed from Canada. The only way you can lose your PR is if you voluntarily revoke your status.

Canadian Citizens are also permitted to vote and run in federal and provincial elections and become fully involved in the political process in Canada. Similarly, once you are a Canadian citizen you have access to higher security clearance work. This is particularly important if you work for the federal or provincial governments or the Canadian military.

Another huge benefit to Canadian Citizenship is the ability to pass down Citizenship to your children. Your children will automatically be Canadian Citizens since you are a naturalized Citizens, and if their children are born in Canada, they will be too! This is a huge benefit to people because they’ve been through the immigration system, sometimes for years and years, and realize how difficult and complicated the process can be. Why would they want their children to go through the same? This is a big reason why you should get your Citizenship for not only you but for your generations to come.

Did you know, as of 2021, 61 countries recognize dual citizenship?  Another benefit of Canadian citizenship is dual citizenship. This means that, in most cases, when you become a Canadian citizen, you do not need to renounce (or give up) your citizenship from another country, you can keep both passports and citizenships. This can make travel back to your country of origin a bit simpler. You should, however, check with the embassy in your country of origin about their dual citizenship rules before you apply for Canadian citizenship. Some countries do not recognize dual citizenship, and if you want Canadian Citizenship, unfortunately, you’ll have to renounce your other citizenship.

Finally, one of the most significant advantages of Canadian citizenship is becoming a Canadian passport holder. Citizenship gives you that lovely Canadian passport that is well-respected around the world. A Canadian passport gives you the freedom to travel around the world with relatively no issues. We will discuss the power of the Canadian passport and the opportunities it gives you next.

The Power of a Canadian Passport

A Canadian passport gives you the freedom and power to travel wherever you want, with no issues, and the ability to return home whenever you want. You have that freedom and protection with a Canadian passport, that a lot of other countries, unfortunately, do not have. You will always have a safe place to return home to and Canada always welcomes you with open arms. A Canadian passport gives you the freedom to travel the world with no issues and will facilitate access to various worker mobility treaties while at the same time allows you the security of being Canadian & having access to Canadian Services abroad.

A Canadian passport is valuable because of the mobility and the opportunities that it gives you. This is true for both short-term travel and longer-term moves abroad for work or education. In 2021, the Henley Passport Index ranked the Canadian passport ninth in the world because it allows for visa-free travel to 185 countries. As of 2021, Canada also has 42 visa-required destinations, but in many cases, Canada has strong diplomatic and economic ties to those nations, which makes acquiring a visa relatively simple.

While there are significant travel benefits for Canadian passport holders, a Canadian passport also opens a host of benefits for both work and education. This is due to the free trade agreements Canada has with several other nations. Canada has particularly strong diplomatic and economic ties with the United States of America, and many Canadians work and study abroad in the United States through visas initially furnished by NAFTA but now by CUSMA. Canada also is a signatory in Canada-United Kingdom Trade Continuity Agreement, CETA with the European Union, and CPTPP with Asia-Pacific nations again making mobility to countries in those trade agreements for work or education much easier. Canada is also a Commonwealth nation (meaning it was at one time under the governance of the British Crown) and so there are often additional visa opportunities available for Canadians who wish to study or work in those countries. If you are from a country without strong ties to other countries, it can be beneficial to your education and your professional life to become a Canadian passport holder.

Final Thoughts

Today we discussed the process of applying and qualifying for Canadian citizenship and all the benefits of having Canadian Citizenship. If you want more information, please check out our YouTube Video during Citizenship Week 2021, where we discussed the citizenship application process and more benefits.

At Second Passport, we cannot stress enough the benefits of a Canadian Passport, both in your current life and future life to come. We decided on the name “Second Passport” for a reason – freedom to have a secure, alternative future for you and your family.

We believe having a Second Passport in Canada should not be difficult, so here’s how you do it:

  1. We start with a plan that is personalized to you,
  2. Then we put the plan into action,
  3. Settle into your secure second home here in Canada 

So, check out our FREE Roadmap to Canada Course to get started on how you can get your Canadian Second Passport and build a bigger future for you and your family.

Ready to get started? Here are three ways we can help: 
1. Join our Facebook Community to connect with an amazing group of Second Passporters... This is a space where the community can share information, updates, and connect as a group of people with all the same goals!
2. Subscribe to our YouTube Channel to help you prepare for your new journey of immigrating and settling in Canada!
3. Ready to begin your journey? Join our 5-Day Immigration Blueprint ChallengeBy the end of the 5 days, you will have an Immigration Blueprint™ outlining your pathway to Canada.


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