No date set for IRCC to waive Canadian citizenship application fees

And so the platform commitment from the 2019 and 2021 election commitments remains unmet along with the earlier commitment to revise the Discover Canada citizenship study guide.

Will see whether the fee commitment is included in the next budget:

The Canadian government needs more time to fulfil its promise to waive citizenship fees for applicants.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser made this revelation in a recent sit-down interview with CIC News in Toronto.

The Canadian government announced shortly before the pandemic in late 2019 it would waive fees for new Canadian citizenship applicants. The pandemic delayed these plans and then Canada held a federal election last September. After the Liberal Party of Canada won their third straight election, Justin Trudeau asked his new immigration minister, Fraser, to follow through with the promise to waive citizenship fees. This is outlined in Fraser’s mandate letter, which contains his top immigration policy priorities.

When asked by CIC News on when this promise may be implemented, the minister responded “We don’t have a date for you, and I feel it’s best to be open.”

“The reason why is the decision to waive citizenship fees is not something that just exists within our [Immigration Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC] authorities.”

He explained that the authority to do so also exists within the federal budgetary process and no decisions have been made yet for the next federal fiscal year.

Canada has one of the highest citizenship uptake rates in the world with some 85% of permanent residents becoming citizens. Prior to the pandemic some 250,000 people became citizens each year. However, some advocates argued that Canadian citizenship fees created barriers for low-income individuals to go ahead and become citizens. This explains why the federal government went ahead and said it wanted to waive fees altogether. It appears the government believes this policy will prove popular. A 2019 policy document by the Liberals suggested the government expected Canadian citizenship applications to increase 40% by 2024.

The Canadian citizenship application backlog increased significantly during the pandemic, which Fraser explained is a function of factors such as IRCC employees needing to work remotely and the lack of in-person citizenship ceremonies at the start of the pandemic. In April 2020, the citizenship inventory stood at 240,000 persons but it grew to 468,000 persons by October 2021. Recent data suggests IRCC has been making progress, with the backlog now at 395,000 persons.

Permanent residents who which to become Canadian citizens must meet certain criteria, such as physically residing in Canada for at least 1,095 days during the five years before they sign their citizenship application. Canadian citizenship by descent is also available to the first generation born abroad to a Canadian parent.

Fraser provided assurances that he is committed to fulfilling the policy priorities in his mandate letter. “Once we have news on that [waiving citizenship fees], we will be broadcasting it as widely as possible so that people know what to expect and timing for it to actually come into effect.”

Source: No date set for IRCC to waive Canadian citizenship application fees

UK: Home Office makes £240m selling #citizenship to children

Not the first article I have seen on this money making scheme:

The Home Office has made more than £240m in profit from children caught in citizenship limbo since 2010, the New Statesman can reveal.

An exclusive analysis of registrations of children as British citizens has revealed that the department is making £640 per child by charging people far more in fees than an application costs to process. The figures show an estimated total surplus of almost £211m since 2010, which when adjusted for inflation comes in at more than £240m.

That total is likely to be an underestimate, because it only includes successful applications, not those of children who weren’t granted citizenship. The Home Office was contacted for comment, including on this number, but has not responded.

Under British law, since 1981, being born in the UK does not automatically entitle a child to citizenship. In the cases of some children whose parents have a certain immigration status, their families have to apply for citizenship for them. Currently it costs £1,012 to register a child as British, but Home Office documents show that the “unit cost” – the official estimate of how much an application costs the department – is only £372.

The analysis shows that fees for child registration have consistently outpaced costs. In 2010 it cost the Home Office £208 to register a child as British, but it charged people £470. Since then, fees have gone up 115 per cent, but unit costs have only risen 79 per cent.

The number of children registering as British has fallen over the last decade. In 2010 there were 48,659 successful registrations. In 2016 there were 30,799 and the last 12 months of data shows only 27,674 registrations. This trend suggests high fees may be putting people off applying, which may restrict people from living full lives, as the New Statesman reported in February. The children would not have a passport so would not be able to go on school trips abroad, for example.

The rising profit margin means the Home Office has consistently made more than £2m every quarter, even though the number of registrations has dwindled. Just 5,065 children registered as British in the third quarter of 2021, but that was still enough to make £3.2m – more money than when 10,586 children registered in the first quarter of 2012.

“Exploiting the need for people to formally register their British citizenship as a way to make money is shameful,” said Solange Valdez-Symonds, chief executive of the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens. She added that for many children, who were born and grew up in the UK, the fees effectively deprive them of their citizenship rights altogether, “leaving them alienated and excluded in their own country”.

The High Court ruled in 2019 that the government had set the fees without proper regard for children’s rights, a ruling that was confirmed by the Court of Appeal in 2021. In February this year, however, the Supreme Court concluded that parliament was entitled to allow the government to set the fees so high, so it would be up to MPs and peers to change that.

Source: Exclusive: Home Office makes £240m selling citizenship to children

Court lets Priti Patel keep charging children £1012 for citizenship

Of note, law should to be changed from this “profiteering:”

The Home Office will continue to make a £640 profit on each child charged for British citizenship, as of a court ruling on 2 February.

The Supreme Court ended the four-year long fight against fees charged for children, some of whom were born in the UK, to become British citizens. Even if they were born in the UK, some children whose parents have a certain immigration status are not automatically British citizens – their families have to apply for citizenship for them.

While the court recognised that the £1,012 charged for each child was far above the administration cost of registering them as British citizens (£372) it concluded that parliament had allowed the government to set a fee above the ability of applicants to pay – which means it’s up to MPs or peers to change it.

The previous home secretary, Sajid Javid, described the fee as “a huge amount of money for a child to pay”, but failed to change it while in office.

Members of the House of Lords last week attempted to amend the Nationality and Borders Bill to reduce the fee to £372, covering the administrative costs, and to scrap it for children in care.

Child O, who was at the centre of the case, was born in the UK and has never left the country but their family was unable to pay the fee when applying for citizenship when Child O was ten. The now 14-year-old said they felt “very let down and alone”.

Campaigners say excluding these children and young people from British citizenship causes them to feel alienated, excluded and isolated in their home country, and are calling for the fee to be lowered or scrapped entirely for children in care or who are unable to afford it.

Their case was taken up by Amnesty International UK, and the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC).

“This fee deprives thousands of children of their citizenship rights, yet the Home Office has chosen to keep overcharging, despite the alienation and exclusion this is causing,” said Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights director.

Sam Genen, the lawyer who represented Amnesty in the case, said: “It is disappointing that the Supreme Court granted permission to hear arguments [on international law] but chose not to decide them.”

He added that the current composition and judgments by the court “show a reductive approach to the rights of the vulnerable. There is a general sense that the court seems less interested [in] individual rights and expertise.”

Amnesty and PRCBC had appealed a ruling by the Court of Appeal last year, which followed a ruling by the High Court in 2020 that the fee was excluding children from their citizenship rights.

Both lower courts found the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, had not given consideration to the best interests of children when setting the fee.

While the Home Secretary continues to have discretion in setting the citizenship fee for vulnerable children, parliament could choose to change that – all eyes are now on whether the Nationality and Borders Bill could be amended to reduce or remove the fee for children in care or who cannot afford to pay.

The Supreme Court ruling paradoxically highlighted the importance of British citizenship, noting: “It can contribute to one’s sense of identity and belonging, assisting people, and not least young people in their sensitive teenage years, to feel part of the wider community. It allows a person to participate in the political life of the local community and the country at large.”

Source: Court lets Priti Patel keep charging children £1012 for citizenship

British Labour MP: Children are being priced out of British citizenship – it’s unjust and must change

All UK citizenship fees are comparatively more expensive that other EU countries and Australia, Canada and the USA. But the fees for children are particularly high. The previous Conservative government, while increasing adult fees from $200 to $630 (including the right of citizenship), it left fees at $200 for children:

In the 2019 Conservative leadership election, Boris Johnson claimed: “I want everybody who comes here and makes their lives here to be and to feel British”. But government policy is effectively telling hundreds of thousands of children the exact opposite.

The children in question, born here to parents with leave to remain, like me, or born abroad but resident here for most of their lives, like our Prime Minister, are growing up in limbo in the country they call home instead of enjoying their full citizenship rights.

There are between 85,000 to 215,000 children with a legal entitlement to British citizenship who have ended up undocumented due to the extortionate registration fee. Through no fault of their own, they will go on to experience real difficulties in later life as a result, subjected to the same hostile environment measures that caused so much suffering to members of the Windrush generation. Many young people may not even realise they do not have citizenship until they try to travel, get a job, rent a home or are suddenly asked to pay international fees for their university education.

If the £35 fee introduced in 1983 had risen in line with inflation, it would be £120 today. Instead, it is now £1,012 and one of the highest such fees in Europe, doubling in the last decade alone. We are charging British children ten times more to claim their citizenship rights than their counterparts in Spain, France, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden.

Of the current fee, the Home Office reports that £372 accounts for administrative costs and freely admits that the remaining £640 is pure profit. Research by Citizens UK shows that between 2017 and 2020 alone, the government has made a £102,749,216 profit from these child citizenship fees.

When I challenged the Prime Minister on this practice earlier in the year at PMQs, the Prime Minister said there were “costs that must be borne by the taxpayer” and that citizenship was “a prize”. The courts have consistently disagreed with the Prime Minister’s stance, with the Court of Appeal recently upholding the High Court’s ruling that this fee was unlawful and ordering the Home Office to reconsider it.

On questions of citizenship, it’s clear that the government knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. For these children, British citizenship is a legal entitlement, not a prize or an investment. Instead of endlessly appealing, they should accept it’s wrong to set fees so high that it blocks families from applying.

Most of the children priced out of citizenship come from households facing higher levels of hardship and poverty. Many are from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds. Some come from families slapped with the ‘no recourse to public funds’ condition, preventing them from accessing basic services.

The government continues to justify these fees on the basis of fiscal responsibility but it’s absurd that they believe an effective levy on poorer households is a sustainable way of financing their immigration system. Above all, there’s nothing responsible about creating a situation where children are deprived of their rights for want of money.

It’s also a scandal that many looked after children are emerging from our care system without British citizenship. These children have been entrusted to the care of the state. The state has a responsibility to get the best outcomes for them.

I regularly speak to young people in my constituency who face feelings of worry, alienation and social exclusion as a result of being denied citizenship. The harm of being denied your citizenship rights in the only country you truly know cannot be overstated. It’s not just about the societal barriers you face, it’s about the psychological impact of being constantly treated as a second-class citizen.

You can’t put a price on belonging. Yet that’s exactly what this government continues to do. With the return of the nationality and borders bill, we have a chance to change this. My amendment to the legislation would cut the registration fee down to cost price, scrap it completely for looked after children and compel the government to produce a report on the impact that fees have on children’s right to citizenship.

These children are as British as anyone else. It is immoral and unjust that they continue to be blocked from citizenship and subjected to humiliating treatment as a result. If you grow up in the UK, British citizenship should be your right – not a privilege you pay the government large sums of money to bestow.

Source: Children are being priced out of British citizenship – it’s unjust and must change

New Increase In H-1B Visa Fees Further Shatters ‘Cheap Labor’ Myth

Reality vs the rhetoric:

The mistaken premise of nearly all restrictions on high-skilled immigration is that foreign-born scientists and engineers offer no value to America or U.S. companies except for a willingness to work for less money, note analysts. That is the premise even though the key people behind the vaccines that saved the lives of many Americans from Covid-19 are former international students, H-1B visa holders and employment-based immigrants. Even some members of Congress sympathetic to refugees and individuals without legal status imply that it is a gift to business to allow companies to hire high-skilled foreign nationals and sponsor them for permanent residence.

In reality, coming to America as an international student and gaining H-1B status, or being hired directly on an H-1B visa, is just another way to pursue the American Dream. For many, it is a necessary step under the U.S. immigration system for an opportunity to stay permanently and start a career and family in America. A new House bill will make it more expensive for employers to file petitions for those pursuing those dreams.

Critics of H-1B visa holders do not mention the high fees required to file an H-1B petition or the large number of job openings in computer occupations. If the House reconciliation bill becomes law, filing an H-1B petition will become more expensive, further shattering what businesses and attorneys call the myth of H-1B visa holders as “cheap labor.”

The mistaken premise of nearly all restrictions on high-skilled immigration is that foreign-born scientists and engineers offer no value to America or U.S. companies except for a willingness to work for less money, note analysts. That is the premise even though the key people behind the vaccines that saved the lives of many Americans from Covid-19 are former international students, H-1B visa holders and employment-based immigrants. Even some members of Congress sympathetic to refugees and individuals without legal status imply that it is a gift to business to allow companies to hire high-skilled foreign nationals and sponsor them for permanent residence.

In reality, coming to America as an international student and gaining H-1B status, or being hired directly on an H-1B visa, is just another way to pursue the American Dream. For many, it is a necessary step under the U.S. immigration system for an opportunity to stay permanently and start a career and family in America. A new House bill will make it more expensive for employers to file petitions for those pursuing those dreams.

The most recent version of the House reconciliation bill, which is expected to be voted on soon, adds a supplemental fee of $500 to existing fees for H-1B petitions. This is one of several fee increases added to the bill after immigration measures passed the House Judiciary Committee in September 2021.

As detailed in a section-by-section summary released with the House bill’s text:

“Section 60004 provides that the fees collected under Subtitle A shall be deposited into the general fund of the Treasury and may not be waived. This section also establishes additional supplemental fees as follows

• $100 for certain family-sponsored immigrant visa petitions (Form I-130) 

• $800 for each employment-based immigrant visa petition (Form I-140) 

• $15,000 for each employment-based fifth preference petition (Form I-526) 

• $19 for each Form I-94/I-94W issued to nonimmigrants who enter the United States 

• $250 for each F-1 and M-1 nonimmigrant student and J-1 exchange visitor to be paid by the approved educational institution or designated exchange visitor program 

• $500 for each application to replace an LPR card that has expired or is expiring 

• $500 for each petition for E, H-1B, L, O, or P status (Form I-129) 

• $500 for each application to change or extend nonimmigrant status (Form I-539) 

• $500 for applications for employment authorization (Form I-765) filed by spouses of certain nonimmigrants, students seeking optional practical training, and applicants for adjustment of status 

• $75 for each approved nonimmigrant visa.”

With the fee increase, a company may spend as much as $31,800 for the cost of filing an initial H-1B petition (for three years) and an extension for an additional three years, based on a National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) analysis of government fees and attorney costs. For an initial H-1B petition that would include a $460 application fee, the new $500 supplemental fee, attorney fees that range from $1,500 to $4,000, additional legal fees of $2,000 to $4,500 if there is a Request for Evidence, $1,500 for the scholarship and training fee ($750 for smaller employers), a $500 anti-fraud fee (on an initial petition), $2,500 for premium processing (not required but typically necessary), a $4,000 fee for certain employers with a higher proportion of H-1Bs in their workforce and $190 visa application fee.

An employer would need to pay most of the costs cited above again for an extension, while the cost to sponsor an H-1B professional for permanent residence would likely add another $10,000 to $15,000 or more.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/stuartanderson/2021/11/01/new-increase-in-h-1b-visa-fees-further-shatters-cheap-labor-myth/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=follow&cdlcid=5e4bc7f55b099ce02faa6b40&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=follow&cdlcid=5e4bc7f55b099ce02faa6b40&sh=5a689b395b15

Australia: Citizenship application costs set to soar

High Canadian fees being used (along with UK and USA) to help justify increase:

Australian citizenship application fees are being jacked up to recoup more of the processing costs.

The standard fee for Australian citizenship by conferral will soar from $285 to $490, an increase of 72 per cent.

People applying for citizenship by descent or under other situations will also pay significantly more.

So will those seeking to renounce, resume or apply for evidence of Australian citizenship.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke insists the July 1 price hike will better reflect the cost of handling increasingly complex applications, which take longer to process.

Mr Hawke said it was the first change to citizenship application fees since 2016.

“Based on existing fees, the government is only recovering approximately 50 per cent of the costs of processing citizenship applications,” he said on Thursday.

“The cost of citizenship applications remains comparable with other countries.”

Mr Hawke said the cost of citizenship would still be lower than the UK, Canada and US.

The decision is guaranteed to raise eyebrows given the impact of coronavirus border closures, which have driven a wrecking ball through migration into Australia.

Source: Citizenship application costs set to soar

Canada’s immigration minister provides COVID-19 update

Helpful summary.

Striking that the government and Minister continue to maintain the current plan to accept some 400,000 immigrants this year, despite the ongoing pandemic and travel restrictions, unlikely to ease up quickly until most Canadians are vaccinated late summer or early fall.

Even if the government could meet this target level, highly questionable given that immigrants who arrive during downturns and recessions don’t do as well in the short-term, with some also not doing well in the longer term.

Citizenship, as always, remains a lessor priority for IRCC. While the government has tabled a bill to revise the citizenship oath, the new citizenship guide remains in limbo despite having been announced five years ago (and largely complete according to earlier press reports), and the 2019 commitment to eliminate the fees should have been relatively straightforward to implement quickly:

Canada’s Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino recently shared fresh insights on the state of the country’s immigration system on the Canadian television show, The Agenda.

In a 20-minute interview, Mendicino spoke on a broad range of immigration topics as he explained to viewers how the federal government aims to cope with the ongoing impacts of COVID-19.

Topics he discussed included:

  • Immigration Levels Plan 2021-2023
  • Canadian citizenship
  • Municipal Nominee Program

Immigration Levels Plan 2021-2023

Mendicino stated that the Canadian government had a choice to make following the outbreak of the pandemic. It could pause or reduce immigration. Instead, the country has chosen to welcome immigrants during and after the pandemic to support its prosperity. As such, Canada is aiming to welcome over 400,000 immigrants over the coming years which are the highest targets in its history. Mendicino said this is necessary since immigrants are key to job creation in Canada and also help fill vital labour market needs including in essential services.

When asked if he felt the new targets are realistic given COVID-19 travel restrictions and disruptions, the minister stated he thought they were since Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has been innovating during the pandemic. In addition, the pandemic provides an opportunity for Canada to draw into its domestic population of temporary foreign workers and international students and facilitate their transition to permanent residence.

Canadian Citizenship

Discussing a new pilot program that is enabling eligible permanent residents to complete their Canadian citizenship application online, Mendicino said the process is going well and Canada is the only country to his knowledge offering online citizenship ceremonies.

Mendicino’s vision for the immigration system is for all processes to be virtual and contactless beyond the pandemic.

One of the priorities listed in Mendicino’s December 2019 mandate letter is to waive Canadian citizenship fees. Asked about the status of that pledge, Mendicino acknowledged he had hoped to make progress on this front by now. While he did not state this, the delay in fulfilling this promise is very likely a function of the pandemic. Mendicino said that he is enthusiastic about reducing barriers for newcomers and will have more to say on this issue in the future.

Municipal Nominee Program

Another one of the December 2019 mandate priorities is to launch a Municipal Nominee Program to further help encourage immigrants to settle in Canada’s smaller cities. Pointing to initiatives such as the Atlantic Immigration Pilot and Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot, the minister said he believes the MNP will be another federal program that will allow newcomers to pursue fulfilling lives in smaller regions of Canada. IRCC is in the process of consulting with provincial, municipal, business, and other stakeholders on the design of the MNP.

One of the key takeaways of Mendicino’s interview is his assuredness that Canada’s current immigration targets are realistic. This strongly suggests IRCC has a plan in place to achieve the targets, which will likely be through a combination of tapping into the existing pool of immigration candidates with Canadian experience, continuing to select immigrants from abroad and processing their applications so they can arrive after the pandemic, as well as gradually reducing travel restrictions so that those with approvals will eventually be able to move to Canada.

Source: Canada’s immigration minister provides COVID-19 update

Canada to dramatically raise fees for deportees who return to Canada

Of note:

The federal government is planning to drastically raise the removal fees levied against deportees in order to recover the full costs associated with sending inadmissible foreign nationals home.

According to a proposed fee schedule, regardless of the destination, individuals who were removed without being escorted by border agents would be charged $3,250 and those with escorts would need to to fork out $10,900. There would be an extra $1,300 fee for detention.

Currently, Canada Border Services Agency only has two removal rates: $750 for foreign nationals deported to the United States or the French territory of St. Pierre and Miquelon; and $1,500 for those removed to any other countries.

The existing fee scheme has not been updated in more than 25 years. It does not align with the costs, nor does it leverage technology to ensure that outstanding removal costs owed by foreign nationals are recovered before receiving authorization to return to Canada.

“The cost of removal varies substantially regardless of destination of removal, based on factors such as whether or not the foreign national has been detained for removal, and/or has to be escorted by CBSA officers,” said the agency’s spokesperson Mark Stuart.

“The CBSA is considering a potential regulatory amendment proposal that would make a distinction between escorted removals and non-escorted removals because the average enforcement expenditure is higher for escorted removals than it is for unescorted removals.”

Stuart said any proposed changes would likely not come into effect until late in the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

Costs can only be recovered by the agency or the immigration department when a previously removed person seeks to apply for an authorization to return to Canada.

Canadian immigration and border officials do not work with overseas partners, including foreign governments, to collect the money, nor do they seize the person’s assets in Canada and collect the money from the person’s remaining family members here.

“Records will indicate whether an applicant paid for their airfare themselves, which means they will only be charged the $400 Authorization to Return to Canada processing fee,” said Stuart.

“If there’s no indication that they paid for the airfare themselves, they must provide evidence of that or refund the cost of their removal. No application (for the authorization) can be accepted until such evidence is provided.”

Between 2015 and 2019, Canada recovered removal costs from 164 foreign nationals in the U.S. or St-Pierre and Miquelon and 1,576 from anywhere else, bringing almost $2.5 million into the government’s general coffers.

The proposed fee amendment will include a provision to allow an automatic annual fee adjustment based on Canada’s consumer price index.

“These potential regulatory changes will help protect the integrity of Canada’s immigration enforcement program by ensuring that the CBSA’s removal program remains cost-effective,” the agency said in a consultation notice.

“They would also help offset the government’s immigration- and asylum-related enforcement costs, thereby providing value from the perspective of Canadian taxpayers.”

Source: Canada to dramatically raise fees for deportees who return to Canada

Looming Fee Increase Could Thwart Many U.S. Citizenship Applications

Yet another Trump administration anti-immigration initiative. Cost matters, and fees need not to pose an excessive financial burden on immigrants:

When Guadalupe Rubio, 41, contracted the coronavirus in July, she struggled to make the few steps to the bathroom in the mobile home that she shared with her teenage daughter in Kent, Wash.

The pandemic had already shuttered her small construction business, which also provided for her parents and three children in Sinaloa, Mexico. Now, the virus left her struggling to breathe, trapped inside without any means to support the six family members who depended on her.

Around the time the pandemic hit Washington State, Ms. Rubio became eligible to apply for United States citizenship. She made a bit too much money to qualify for a reduction in the application fee, currently $640, and the economic effects of the pandemic and her illness sapped away her savings. She applied for food stamps, a benefit that could also provide a break on the fee, but has so far been unable to reach the overwhelmed social services agency that could help her.

If she cannot save the money or obtain a fee waiver before the fall, Ms. Rubio’s prospects of becoming a citizen will become more remote. The Trump administration moved late last month to raise the cost of naturalization applications by more than 80 percent and to substantially tighten eligibility requirements for a subsidized application.

The price for naturalization will jump to $1,160 or $1,170 for online applications. The rule will also lower the income threshold to qualify for a fee waiver and eliminate the partial subsidy for the application.

Almost all other exceptions that allowed immigrants to waive the fee will be eliminated, including extenuating financial hardship and means-tested public benefits, like food stamps. Only some protected immigrants, including victims of domestic violence and human trafficking, will remain eligible.

Ms. Rubio is one of many who would no longer be eligible for a waiver. Immigration lawyers across the country are rushing to submit their clients’ applications to the already backlogged agency before the fee increases are introduced on Oct. 2.

“It’s a low blow during a pandemic,” Ms. Rubio said through a translator. “I have worked a lot for this country, and if I’m a citizen, I can — not just contribute more — but I can also better reap the benefits of all of my hard work in this country.”

Advocates for immigrants say the fee increase is intended to stymie legal immigration and deprive immigrants of their right to vote before the election in November.

Immigrants urge government to deliver on promise to wipe out citizenship fee

Of note. Applications dipped to about 17,000 monthly in November and December 2019 from an average of close to 24,000 in previous months, perhaps in anticipation of fee elimination:

As the U.S. moves to hike the fee to become an American citizen, Canada plans to eliminate the cost entirely.

Yet nearly a year after the Liberals made an election campaign promise to waive the $630 fee, newcomers to Canada who are now feeling a financial pinch from the pandemic are still waiting for the government to deliver.

Faizan Malik says coming up with that amount for himself and his wife is a “big problem,” especially since he is working reduced hours and facing higher costs of living due to COVID-19. With a single income between them, and because they’re helping to support family members in his native Pakistan, he said it’s tough to put any savings aside.

“It’s kind of difficult for me to scramble that amount of money, and if it’s that difficult for me, I wonder how difficult it would be for a new immigrant or a family of four,” he said.

Malik, a Toronto-based supply chain specialist, says even if the Liberal government doesn’t waive the fee completely, he would welcome a reduction in the amount to make it more affordable.

“Right now I’m just holding my horses and waiting for the right time if something happens, otherwise it’s very difficult to file with the current fee,” he said.

Citizenship gives a person the right to vote and to obtain a passport, and provides a sense of belonging in Canadian society. Some employers, including the Canadian Armed Forces, require citizenship.

The processing fee is $530, which was increased from $100 by the previous Conservative government, plus a $100 “right of citizenship” fee.

The Liberals promised to waive the fee during the fall 2019 election campaign.

Fall campaign commitment

“Becoming a citizen allows new immigrants to fully participate in Canadian society, and the process of granting citizenship is a government service, not something that should be paid for with a user fee. To make citizenship more affordable, we will make the application process free for those who have fulfilled the requirements needed to obtain it,” reads the Liberal campaign platform.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino was also instructed to follow through on that promise in his Dec. 13, 2019 mandate letter. The department will lose $400 million over four years if the fee is eliminated.

The minister’s spokesperson Kevin Lemkay says the Liberal government has made citizenship more accessible by cutting wait times and loosening the language, residency and other requirements to obtain citizenship.

“Our government places great value on Canadian citizenship and is committed to removing barriers and helping newcomers achieve citizenship faster while also protecting the integrity of the program,” he said.

Lemkay said the government remains committed to bringing forward a plan to eliminate the fees, but did not offer a time frame of when that would happen.

The planned move in Canada is in stark contrast to the U.S., where President Donald Trump is nearly doubling the cost of becoming a citizen by hiking the fee to $1,170 US from $640. That, and other immigration fee changes, are scheduled to come into effect in October.

Abhishek Rawat has been “waiting anxiously” for the Liberals to waive the fee, calling it “steep” for people like him with reduced incomes due to the pandemic. Rawat, a Toronto physicist, expects the promise has fallen through the cracks because the government is preoccupied with the pandemic.”I understand the government has due process to go through before they can eliminate the fees. On the other hand just last month they raised the fees for permanent residency applications. So they can move fast if they want,” he said.

‘In Canada’s interest’

Sharry Aiken, an associate professor of immigration law at Queen’s University, urged the government to move.

“It is in Canada’s interest to naturalize newcomers as fast and as efficiently as possible once they are otherwise eligible,” she said. “For many the presence of a fee is a barrier, and they will put off applying simply for financial reasons.”

Even though fees are reduced for children, a family of four would be required to pay $1,460, which Aiken says is prohibitive for many on tight budgets.

Andrew Griffith, author, former senior immigration official and fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, favours a reduced fee over an outright elimination. But since the government has made the commitment, he said it should follow through on it.

Griffith said it could be done quickly with a regulatory change.

The markedly different course that Canada is taking compared to the U.S. underscores the sharp contrast in immigration policies, he said.

“It’s part of the government’s efforts to have an overall message that immigration is good for the country; We want to increase the levels of immigration, they’ll make a contribution both in the short term and the longer term in terms of the demographics and we want you to feel part of the country,” he said.

Source: Immigrants urge government to deliver on promise to wipe out citizenship fee