Thousands now face indefinite wait for Australian citizenship as ceremonies cancelled

Similar to Canada in terms of applications and ceremonies on hold, but overall demand has returned to more traditional levels following C-6:

Tens of thousands of migrants waiting to become Australian citizens are now facing an indefinite wait for the process to be finalised after ceremonies across the country were cancelled due to restrictions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Many are now calling on the government to follow New Zealand and temporarily waive the requirement of a public ceremony and oath-taking while national restrictions on mass gatherings remain in place.

Concerns have also been raised that pressing pause on citizenship ceremonies all together will create further unnecessary delays in the already overloaded citizenship process.

But despite meeting the residence, character, and other requirements to become a citizen, and passing the citizenship test, her hopes were shattered after the City of Sydney council announced their ceremonies would be cancelled until further notice.

While she understands the public health rationale for shutting down the ceremonies, she wants the government to find an alternative way to grant her citizenship.

“We have been left in limbo … we don’t know when it’s going to end,” the 32-year-old told SBS News. “To have the citizenship put on hold right at the end when all we need to do is attend the ceremony is a bit disappointing.”

Ms Parmentier said she was particularly worried as her home country has stopped issuing passports and she is currently unable to travel in an emergency.

After joining a forum with other people left waiting for their citizenship to be finalised, she decided to start a petition calling on the government to act.

“It’s a goal that has taken, for many of us at least, five years of hard work, taking tests, having our degrees assessed, saving money for visas and permanent residencies,” she said.

“The majority of people are looking forward to making the pledge of commitment, that’s part of the requirement and we’re more than happy to do it, either electronically or via statutory declaration.”

After an application for Australian citizenship is approved, migrants are required to attend an in-person ceremony and make the Australian Citizenship Pledge before becoming an official citizen. Incoming citizens are usually invited to a ceremony organised by their local council within six months of their application being approved.

In the 2018-19 financial year, 127,674 people became Australian citizens – almost 2,500 every week – but a backlog is now expected to pile up.

On 29 February 2020, the Department of Home Affairs had more than 120,000 applications on hand, with more than 16,000 new applications received in February alone.

The current waiting time from date of application to ceremony can be up to two years for 90 per cent of applicants in the main stream.

New Zealand national Carla Jones is among the thousands waiting for their citizenship process to come to an end after she said “ceremonies came to a grinding halt”.

The Brisbane resident, who came to Australian in 2011 following the Christchurch earthquakes, said there has been “no communication whatsoever” about the cancellation, leaving her and others who have had their applications approved to discover the news on social media.

“I want to be able to vote, there are state elections coming up in October, I want to be able to fully participate in Australian society and currently I’m hamstrung from doing so,” she said.

Ms Jones added that she was unable to finalise her divorce without proving her Australian citizenship.

Last month, New Zealand’s department of internal affairs announced that all citizenship ceremonies would be cancelled and prospective citizens would be allowed to sign a statutory declaration as a replacement for a public oath.

Professor Mary Crock, an expert in citizenship law at the University of Sydney, said there were alternative ways prospective citizens could take an oath without attending a mass gathering, but that developing a new process was likely low priority for the government.

“You’re dealing with a government that is just struggling to keep its head above water, and for that reason, citizenship has just slipped down the list of priorities,” she said.

Those waiting for their official ceremony are still able to access most of the same rights afforded to Australian citizens, including unemployment benefits for permanent residents, but they are not able to vote or apply for an Australian passport.

New Zealand nationals in Australia affected by the COVID-19 restrictions have also been included in the Government’s JobKeeper supplement, which allows employees of companies and not-for-profits that have lost at least 30 per cent of their revenue to be paid $1,500 a fortnight.

The Department of Home Affairs did not respond to a request for comment.

In September last year, Immigration Minister David Coleman said his department had been working to process citizenship applications as “efficiently as possible, while also maintaining the integrity of the program”.

Source: Thousands now face indefinite wait for Australian citizenship as ceremonies cancelled

Oath of Citizenship bill tabled in Parliament

The formal announcement of Bill C-6:

The Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, today introduced a Bill to amend the Citizenship Act to change Canada’s Oath of Citizenship. The bill responds to the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission by inserting text that refers to the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Government of Canada is committed to reconciliation and a renewed relationship with Indigenous Peoples based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership. The proposed amendment to the Oath demonstrates the Government’s commitment to reconciliation and to the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The new proposed language adds references to the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples:

“I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples, and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.”

All new Canadians recite the Oath before receiving their Canadian citizenship. By doing so, new Canadians promise to abide by the laws of Canada and to take on the rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizenship.

The Government encourages all new citizens to join the Canadian family by becoming active in their communities and upholding Canadian values.


“The Oath is a solemn declaration that all newcomers recite during the citizenship ceremony. With this amendment, we will take an important step towards reconciliation by encouraging new Canadians to fully appreciate and respect the significant role of Indigenous Peoples in forming Canada’s fabric and identity.”

– The Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, P.C., M.P., Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action are an important roadmap for all Canadians. From coast to coast to coast, orders of government, civil society, education and health-care institutions, and the private sector are demonstrating their commitment to this important journey as we build a stronger Canada together. The change to the Oath of Citizenship introduced today responds to Call to Action No. 94 and demonstrates to all Canadians, including to our newest citizens, that Indigenous and treaty rights are an essential part of our country.”

– The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, M.D., P.C., M.P., Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations

“Indigenous Peoples have a rich history and have helped shape this country. I encourage everyone to respect, learn about and understand the place and importance they have in this country. The Government of Canada is committed to fundamentally transforming the relationship with Indigenous Peoples. The change in the Oath is an important step to create a foundation for a stronger, more prosperous and inclusive Canada.”

– The Honourable Marc Miller, P.C., M.P., Minister of Indigenous Services

“The proposed change in the Oath recognizes the contributions that First Nations, Inuit and Métis have made to Canada. I am pleased that we are once again moving forward in making the Oath of Canadian Citizenship inclusive. Reconciliation and reaffirmation of rights will help Canada create a strong, inclusive Northern Policy that will benefit all Northerners and all Canadians.”

– The Honourable Dan Vandal, P.C., M.P., Minister of Northern Affairs

“I welcome the Government’s new legislation to change the Oath of Citizenship to better reflect a more inclusive history of Canada, as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in its final report. To understand what it means to be Canadian, it is important to know about the 3 founding peoples – the Indigenous People, the French and the British. Reconciliation requires that a new vision, based on a commitment to mutual respect, be developed. Part of that vision is encouraging all Canadians, including newcomers, to understand the history of First Nations, Métis and Inuit including information about the treaties and the history of the residential schools so that we all honour the truth and work together to build a more inclusive Canada.”

– The Honourable Murray Sinclair, Senator

Quick facts

  • The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report states: “Precisely because ‘we are all Treaty People’, Canada’s Oath of Citizenship must include a solemn promise to respect Aboriginal and Treaty rights.”
  • The Government consulted extensively with national Indigenous organizations on amendments to the Oath of Citizenship.
  • Canada supports the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration recognizes Indigenous Peoples’ human rights, as well as rights to self-determination, language, equality and land.
  • Today, Indigenous People are 5% of Canada’s population—more than 1.6 million people.

Source: Read more

Citizenship Numbers 2018

The final 2018 citizenship numbers are out showing the impact of the Liberal government changes in C-6 on residency (from four out of six years to three out of five years) and the reduced language and knowledge requirements (from requiring testing of 14 to 64 year olds to testing for 18 to 54 year olds). Theses changes came into force 11 October 2017 and thus applied to the full 2018 year).

The number of both applications (259,047) and new citizens (176,303) is accordingly up significantly from previous years.

As I have noted earlier, the residency changes essentially have a one-time effect while the language and knowledge requirement changes have both a one-time effect (55-64 year olds who had been holding off applying until reaching 65) and an ongoing effect. Historically, 55 to 64 year olds are about six percent of applications (pre C-24 changes).

As always, IRCC’s management of citizenship is characterized by its roller coaster ride of deep drops and steep increases, in sharp contrast with IRCC’s steady management of immigration, with only minor fluctuations and a steady increase.

Of note as well, previous steep increases correlated with upcoming elections as suddenly resources are found to deal with backlogs (2006 and 2015 elections).

In contrast the increase prior to the 2019 election reflects policy changes (viewed of course in part through a political positioning lens).

The 2019 full-year citizenship application statistics will isolate the effects of the steep citizenship fee increases in 2014 and 2015 from the effects of the policy changes.

Lastly, IRCC has officially discontinued the quarterly management reports given other reporting requirements and the provision of more monthly reports. Unfortunately, for citizenship, the monthly reports only include the number of new citizens and not the number of applications, which are a key leading indicator.

One year later, Citizenship Act improvements lead to more new citizens – The numbers

Almost one year after the changes to residency requirements (from 4 to 3 years) and fewer applicants having to be tested for language and knowledge (from 14-64 to 18-54), the number of applications has increased.

As noted before, the residency requirement change is a one time impact, with this year being a “double year” with 3 and 4 year cohorts combined. The reduced testing requirements, primarily the 55-64 year olds, has both a one-time impact (those who put off getting citizenship) as well as ongoing.

The new “normal” will be known with the 2019 numbers:

This year, Citizenship Week (October 8 to 14, 2018) will be celebrated with 72 special citizenship ceremonies across the country. Citizenship Week also marks the 1 year anniversary of Bill C 6, which brought in important changes to the Citizenship Act, helping qualified applicants get citizenship faster.

The changes from Bill C 6 came into effect on October 11, 2017, and provided those wanting to become Canadian citizens with greater flexibility to meet the requirements. In particular, the changes reduced the time permanent residents must be physically present in Canada before applying for citizenship from 4 out of 6 years to 3 out of 5 years.

By the end of October 2018, an estimated 152,000 people will have obtained Canadian citizenship since the changes came into effect, an increase of 40%, compared to the 108,000 people who obtained citizenship in the same period the year before.

Bill C 6 has allowed more permanent residents to apply for citizenship. In the 9 month period from October 2017 to June 2018, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) received 242,680 applications, more than double the 102,261 applications that were received in the same period the year before. Despite the increase in applications, processing times for routine citizenship applications remain under 12 months.

Source: Taking Canadian Citizenship to New Heights This Citizenship Week

Citizenship Applications Dramatic Increase Post-C-6 Residency and Testing Changes

The above chart includes full 2017 citizenship IRCC operational data (preliminary).

Following the coming into force of C-6 reduced residency requirements (from 4 to 3 year minimum) and exemption from knowledge and language assessment for 55-64 year olds, there was clearly pent-up demand. From January to September, 108,001 applications were submitted (monthly average 12,000), from October to December, 99,562 (monthly average 33,187: the changes came into force on October 11).

As I have noted before, the reduced residency requirement will have a one-year impact on all applicants that will work its way through until October 2019; the 55-64 year old exemption will have an ongoing impact on a sub-set of applicants (2009-13 data showed about six percent of all applications were from this age cohort).

Given current end-to-end processing times, one should start seeing the impact of this increase mid-2019.

The 14-17 year old exemption will have a minimal impact given that this cohort will have been in the Canadian school system.

New language and residency rules for Canadian citizenship kick in next week 

The coming into force of these changes within six months of Royal Assent is faster than the almost one year period for the C-24 changes that C-6 undoes. These will have an impact on the number of applications and new citizens.

  • The changes to residency requirements (from four out of six to three out of five years) will have a one-time impact, but with likely a small ongoing one.
  • The changes to testing ages are unlikely to have much of an impact with respect to 14-17 year olds given their time in the Canadian school system.
  • With respect to 55-64 year olds, there will be an ongoing impact. About seven percent (2013 numbers) of all applications were from this age cohort. So there will likely be both a significant one-time bump of those who have not applied over the last two and a half years given testing concerns (more than seven percent), as well as an ongoing impact of up to seven percent.
  • Fees will remain a significant barrier for lower-income immigrants, including of course refugees, and the Minister’s lack of flexibility remains of concern.

The impact of these changes in terms of any sense of pent-up demand will likely await first quarter 2018 data, with early signs from fourth quarter 2017 data:

Starting Oct. 11, permanent residents will be eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship if they have lived in the country for three out of the previous five years.

Also, applicants over 55 years of age are once again exempt from the language and knowledge tests for citizenship under the amended citizenship regulations to be announced by Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen on Wednesday.

The changes will be welcoming news for the many prospective applicants who have been holding off their applications since the newly elected Liberal government introduced Bill C-6 in March 2016 to reverse the more stringent changes adopted by its Conservative predecessor to restrict access to citizenship.

Citizenship applications are expected to go up, reversing the downward trend observed over the last few years after the Harper government raised the residency requirement for citizenship — requiring applicants to be in Canada for four years out of six — and stipulated that applicants between the ages of 14 and 64 must pass language and citizenship knowledge tests.

Immigrant groups and advocates have said the more stringent rules discouraged newcomers’ full integration and participation in the electoral process.

“Citizenship is the last step in immigrant integration. Those unnecessary obstacles put in place by the previous government are hurting us as a country,” Hussen told the Star in an interview Tuesday. “We are proud of these changes and are excited about it.”

Another Liberal reform that takes effect next Wednesday is granting one year credit to international students, foreign workers and refugees for time spent in Canada before becoming permanent residents toward their residency requirements for citizenship.

Despite the anticipated surge in citizenship applications as a result of the relaxed requirements, Hussen said the department will ensure resources are in place to respond to the increased intake. However, he insisted there is no plan to reduce the current $630 citizenship fee for adults and $100 for those under 18.

The changes announced Wednesday are part of the amendments that received Royal Assent in June, including repealing the law that gave Ottawa the power to strip citizenship from naturalized citizens for crimes committed after citizenship has already been granted as well as handing over the power of citizenship revocation to the Federal Court from the immigration minister.

According to government data, 108,635 people applied for Canadian citizenship in the year ended on March 31. Historically, citizenship applications received have averaged closer to 200,000 a year. 

Source: New language and residency rules for Canadian citizenship kick in next week | Toronto Star, Government Bill C-6 Backgrounder

Federal government passes law to end ‘second-class citizenship’

My take (and familiar refrain on fees):

Andrew Griffith, retired director general of the Immigration Department, said the changes are long overdue and should have been passed last year if the opposition parties had not dragged the debate on.

“It’s good that the bill is through,” Griffith told the Star. “It delivered the Liberal government’s campaign commitment to facilitate citizenship, that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. It has shifted the overall balance somewhat to facilitate (access to) citizenship.”

However, Griffith was disappointed that Ottawa has chosen not to deal with the exorbitant citizenship application fees — $630 for adults [$530 administration processing and $100 right of citizenship fee] and $100 for minors [plus $100 right of citizenship] — that some said have prevented eligible applicants, especially refugees, from becoming full-fledged Canadians.

“The issue that remains for me is the fee,” said Griffith. “If the government really believed in diversity and inclusion, they should ensure it is not an insurmountable financial barrier for people to become citizens.”

Source: Federal government passes law to end ‘second-class citizenship’ | Toronto Star

Bill C-6 Receives Royal Assent –

Useful backgrounder on the changes in Bill C-6 and the coming into force provisions.

Short summary for the key changes: repeal of revocation in cases of terror or treason and the intent to reside provision immediately, changes to residency, pre-Permanent Resident time partial credit, and age requirements for language and knowledge assessment this fall. Changes to the revocation procedures in cases of fraud or misrepresentation expected early 2018.

Bill C-6, an Act to amend the Citizenship Act and make consequential amendments to another Act, received Royal Assent on June 16, 2017. This chart explains the changes that have been made to the Citizenship Act and indicates when these changes are expected to come into force.

Source: Bill C-6 Receives Royal Assent –

Liberals’ citizenship bill [C-6] to proceed with some Senate amendments

Being debated and voted on in the House Monday June 12.

Expect that the Senate will/should declare victory given two out of three amendments accepted, including the most important one of restoring procedural protections for those accused of fraud or misrepresentation:

Far more people lose their citizenship because it was obtained fraudulently, and the Senate wants to amend the bill in order to give those people a chance at a court hearing before their status is stripped away.

Hussen said the government will accept that proposal, albeit with some modifications of its own, including giving the minister the authority to make decisions when an individual requests it.

Hussen’s hand was partially forced by a recent Federal Court decision that said people have a right to challenge the revocation of their citizenship, although predecessor John McCallum had earlier suggested he would support the amendment.

“This amendment recognizes the government’s commitment to enhancing the citizenship revocation process to strengthen procedural fairness, while ensuring that the integrity of our citizenship program is maintained,” Hussen said in a statement.

The government will also accept a Senate recommendation that would make it easier for children to obtain citizenship without a Canadian parent.

But they are rejecting efforts to raise the upper age for citizenship language and knowledge requirements from 54 to 59, saying it’s out of step with the goal of making citizenship easier to obtain. The current law requires those between the ages of 14 to 64 to pass those tests; the Liberals want it changed to 18 to 54.

Hussen thanked the Senate for its work making the bill “even stronger and for providing an example of productive collaboration on strengthening important legislation.”

The Senate has the choice of accepting the government’s decision, rejecting it, or proposing further amendments of its own, which could further delay the legislation.

Source: Liberals’ citizenship bill to proceed with some Senate amendments – The Globe and Mail

Liberal government to debate Senate amendments to long-delayed citizenship bill

It will be interesting to see whether the Liberal government accepts all three amendments and how quickly the House will deal with C-6.

I suspect that the government may accept the procedural protections amendment in the case of revocation for fraud and right of minors to apply independently of their parents or guardians, while rejecting the exemption for testing change to 60 from 55.

Personally, I favour accepting all three in the interests of getting C-6 implemented quickly. The age exemption issue – a difference of five years – has been largely an “evidence-free” zone:

While I expect the Liberal government to reject The Liberals’ long-delayed citizenship bill is finally moving ahead almost a year after the House of Commons passed it, but it’s not law yet.

The Senate voted Wednesday in favour of the bill that will revoke a Conservative policy to remove Canadian citizenship from dual citizens convicted of serious crimes such as terrorism and treason.

Three amendments were introduced, however, which means the bill gets sent back to the House of Commons, where Liberals will decide whether to accept the changes or not. If they don’t, it goes back to the Senate again. Government House leader Bardish Chagger’s office said Wednesday amendments will be brought to the floor for debate “in due course.”

The new law will also require prospective citizens to be in the country for three out of five years before their application, a change from the four out of six years that are currently required. Applicants will no longer need to declare an intent to reside in Canada.

Bill C-6, which fulfills a major election promise to repeal elements of Conservative legislation, has trudged slowly through the upper chamber since last June. After a spurt of opposition delay tactics, senators had made a backroom deal to have a final vote by Wednesday.

The bill’s sponsor, independent Sen. Ratna Omidvar, championed in particular an amendment, introduced by independent Sen. Elaine McCoy, that improves due process for people who are facing revocation of their citizenship due to fraud or misrepresentation.

After the Conservatives’ Bill C-24, revocation processes were streamlined such that people weren’t automatically granted a right to defend themselves if their citizenship was about to be taken away. The Liberal Bill C-6 didn’t reverse this change.

“Without this amendment,” said a statement from Omidvar’s office, “Canadians face an unjust administrative process and fewer safeguards than anyone wishing to challenge a parking ticket.”

Previous immigration minister John McCallum had told senators Liberals would “welcome” an amendment addressing this, but new minister Ahmed Hussen has not indicated support one way or the other.

Two other amendments were adopted. For older applicants, the law currently requires language proficiency in English or French up to the age of 64. The Liberal law proposed lowering this to 55, but senators decided to adopt Conservative Sen. Diane Griffin’s suggestion of a middle ground, setting it at age 60 instead. Another amendment, from Conservative Sen. Victor Oh, seeks to ensure minors can apply for citizenship separate from parents or guardians.

With physician-assisted dying legislation last summer, the House of Commons addressed Senate amendments right away (with the government rejecting most of them). On the other hand, the Senate is still waiting for the House of Commons to accept or reject an amendment on the RCMP union bill, C-7, which it adopted last June.

Source: Liberal government to debate Senate amendments to long-delayed citizenship bill | National Post