CAREER ADVANCEMENT / JUL. 04, 2014
version 2, draft 2

How to Become a Canadian Citizen

Canada. The Great White North. Beautiful. Expansive. And friendly...to a fault. Ever since its inception, Canada has been a top destination for people looking to start over or start again. Its immigration policies have made it possible for millions of people to become Canadian citizens and enjoy all the country has to offer. Oceans. Lakes by the thousands (and thousands). Mountains. Plains. Forests. Tundra. World-class cities. And sleepy little towns.

Becoming a Canadian citizen - no matter your reasons - is actually a straightforward procedure. It’s almost checklist-like in its simplicity. In honour of Canada Day on July 1, here's how to become a Canadian citizen. 

Step 1 - Determine Your Eligibility

Essentially, there are six deciding factors when discussing your eligibility to become a Canadian citizen. They are:

  • Your age. You must be 18 years or older to apply for citizenship. If you are under 18, you need to have a parent or legal guardian apply on your behalf at the same time they themselves apply.
  • Your permanent residency status. You must be a legal and permanent resident in Canada (basically a landed immigrant but without citizenship) before applying for citizenship.
  • Your time in Canada. In order to apply for citizenship, you need to have spent THREE of the past four years in Canada. Citizenship and Immigration Canada provides an online residence calculator to help determine your official tally.
  • Your language ability. There are two official languages in Canada - English and French - and you must demonstrate proficiency in at least one of them. What exactly does “proficiency” entail? Basic grammar, the ability to take part in simple conversations, the ability to understand simple instructions, and the ability to express yourself in most common situations.
  • Your criminal history. There are several instances under which you can not apply for citizenship. These include (but are not limited to) if you are under a removal order, are being charged or investigated for a war crime or crime against humanity, or are charged with a crime as listed in the Citizenship Act. If so, you are NOT eligible to apply.  
  • Your knowledge of Canada. To become a Canadian citizen, you must demonstrate an understanding of the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of a citizen, as well as knowledge of Canada’s history, symbols, values, and institutions. And yes...there will be a test.

If you meet these six requirements, then you are in theory eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship.

Step 2 - Official Application

The application for citizenship is available online, and note that there is one for adults, and one for minors (under the age of 18). The application itself is similar to what you might fill in for a passport, with sections on personal information, preferred language and communication channels, educational background, addresses in the previous four years, and so forth. Once complete, you need to collect the other required documents and submit everything together. The documents you need to provide include:

  • Citizenship application
  • PHOTOCOPY of your Record of Landing or Confirmation of Permanent Residence
  • PHOTOCOPY of both sides of your Permanent Resident Card (PRC) if you have on.
  • PHOTOCOPY of language proficiency proof
  • Photocopies of biographical pages from passports and/or travel documents, and educational records
  • Photocopy of two pieces of personal identification, at least one of which must include both your name and photo
  • Two citizenship photos
  • Online residence calculator printout, completed, signed, and dated.
  • Proof of payment (currently $400 for adults and $100 for minors).

You submit everything by either regular mail or courier to the address printed on the application form. You’ll receive a confirmation once your application is in the system, and you can also check its status online.

Step 3 - Prepare for and Complete the Citizenship Test

You will receive a second notification if your application was complete and you are in fact eligible for citizenship. This second notice will provide the time and date of your citizenship test, and possibly an interview as well. Applicants between the ages of 18-54 will receive a copy of Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship. This booklet is available as a hard copy, online, or audio format. Use it to study for the test.

You will generally be told immediately after writing the test whether you passed or not. If you have, and everything else is in order, you will be given a time and date to attend your Citizenship Ceremony (this information may also be mailed to you shortly thereafter).

Step 4 - The Citizenship Ceremony

All applicants 14 years of age or older must attend their Citizenship Ceremony and take the Citizenship Oath before a judge. Once you have done so, you’re officially a citizen. Make sure you bring your Permanent Resident Card...so you can hand it over. It’s no longer needed. You are Canadian.

Becoming a Canadian citizen is a life-long dream for many, or because of a situation out of their control (war, natural disasters) for others. No matter what your reasons, the second you complete the oath, you are welcomed into the Canadian family. And being Canadian is so much more than just hockey, poutine, and politeness.

Photo by Kenny Louie

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