Fewer snags in gaining citizenship

Fewer snags in gaining citizenship

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander says recent changes to the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act are already paying big dividends.

In a press release, he says citizenship backlogs are at their lowest level in more than two years and applications are being processed more efficiently.

The government’s overhaul of the act saw the citizenship decision-making process move from three steps to one. The number of decision makers has also increased which will ensure that applications are processed more quickly and backlogs reduced.

It is expected that in 2015/16 the processing time for citizenship applications will be less than a year and the backlog of applications reduced by more than 80%.

The government has also implemented a range of legislative amendments to further strengthen Canada’s citizenship program. They relate to the authority to refuse incomplete applications and a a system for judicial review of citizenship decisions.

Canada has the highest rate of naturalization in the world – 85% of eligible permanent residents become citizens. Since 2006, Canada has welcomed more than 1,300,000 proud new Canadians.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada received 333,860 citizenship applications in 2013, the highest volume ever and a strong reminder of the value of being a Canadian citizen.

“Canadian citizenship is highly valued around the world and our government is committed to ensuring that deserving applicants can be welcomed into the Canadian family more quickly. This is good for Canada’s economy, and good for Canadian society,” Alexander says.

Important changes to strengthen Canadian citizenship and speed up application processing come into force on Aug. 1. The various amendments to the Citizenship Act resulting from the passage of Bill C-24 will come into force at a date to be determined by Governor in Council.

The reforms that took effect on Aug. 1 include a new decision-making model in which Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has significantly improved its ability to process applications by increasing its decision-making capacity from approximately 30 citizenship judges to more than 450 decision makers.

Under the new decision-making model – a one-step process as opposed to the former three-step one – citizenship officers now decide all aspects of most citizenship applications.

Under the old model, obtaining citizenship involved too much work duplication. Citizenship officers reviewed the files and prepared them for a citizenship judge, who approved or rejected the application, returned it to the officer, who then granted citizenship or recommended an appeal of the judge’s decision.

On a transitional basis, cases where the officer believes the applicant does not meet the residence requirement will be referred to citizenship judges for decision. Citizenship judges will also remain responsible for the important role of presiding over citizenship ceremonies and administering the oath of citizenship, which is the final step before citizenship is granted.

CIC now also has stronger authority to define what constitutes a complete application and what evidence applicants must provide. The ability to put a file on hold if there is an ongoing immigration investigation and to declare a file abandoned if an applicant fails to comply with a request for information or attend an interview will result in further efficiency improvements.

Under the Citizenship Act, judicial review of citizenship decisions is subject to leave of the Federal Court.
Next week I will write about new rules on immigrant and refugee children.

Sukhram  Ramkissoon is a member of ICCRC and specializes in immigration matters at 3089 Bathurst St., Toronto. Phone 416-789-5756.