Swiss citizenship fees vary widely across country: report

Most aspects of citizenship procedures are administered at the cantonal level with considerable variation between cantons:
Swiss citizenship doesn’t come cheap. While the cost of filing an application with federal authorities is relatively low (100 Swiss francs for an adult, or 150 francs for a couple), cantonal and communal authorities also charge non-refundable administrative fees which can seriously mount up.

Those administrative fees can vary depend on factors including age, place of birth, and marital status, but also differ significantly depending on place of residence as a new study carried out by Swiss weekly Le Matin Dimanche shows.

This is despite attempts to bring these administrative costs in line across the country back in 2006.

The study reveals that administrative costs can range from 500–1,600 francs in the canton of Jura to 1,800–3,000 francs in Fribourg, depending on which commune you live in.

Costs in other cantons include 550 to 800 francs in canton Vaud, 1,000 francs in Valais and a fixed rate of 1,250 francs for adults over 25 in Geneva.

For the canton of Zurich, the cost is listed on the cantonal homepage as 1,200 francs for foreign-born adults aged over 25. However, the canton also notes there are additional cantonal costs to be factored in. According to Le Matin Dimanche, the fees in Zurich total 1,700 francs.

Contacted by Le Matin Dimanche, authorities in Fribourg said there was no political motivation behind the high administrative costs associated with citizenship in that canton. A spokesperson said costs of individual applications were calculated based on actual costs incurred.

The office of Swiss price watchdog, Stefan Meierhans, is now looking into the matter.

Source: Swiss citizenship fees vary widely across country: report

US seeks to reduce waivers for immigration fees

Consistent with other restrictive measures (Canada does not offer a waiver to lower income immigrants despite the 5 fold increase in citizenship fees in 2014-15):

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is proposing changing the eligibility for fee waivers for lower-income immigrants on the path to legal permanent residency and U.S. citizenship.Immigration advocates say the move is like building an “invisible wall.”

USCIS announced the change Friday in the Federal Register. Receiving means-tested public benefits from the states would no longer result in automatic USCIS fee waivers, the proposal states. Instead, fee waivers would only be tied to two criteria: the federal poverty threshold or particular financial hardships.

The change is necessary, USCIS said, because “eligibility for these benefits can vary from state to state, depending on the state’s income level guidelines,” meaning that “individuals who would not otherwise qualify under the poverty-guideline threshold and financial hardship criteria have been granted fee waivers.”

In 2017, USCIS approved 285,009 fee waiver applications, totaling $173 million.

The new proposal restricts waivers only to applicants who are at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty threshold or financial hardship.

“It’s a significant narrowing of those who would be eligible for the fee waiver. Our estimates indicate that this would reduce the total population of those eligible for a fee waiver by two-thirds,” said Jill Marie Bussey, advocacy director for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network. “It’s an extremely troubling proposal for our network.”

CLINIC’s 330 affiliates provide pro bono immigration services to thousands of low-income immigrants across the United States. Bussey said 95 percent of CLINIC’s affiliates assist with fee waiver applications.

In California, where 20 percent of the population is foreign born, the federal poverty threshold to claim state benefits is 200 percent.

For 2018, a four-person family in California is eligible for means-tested state benefits with a household income at or below $50,200. Thus, an immigrant household at that income level and receiving state means-tested benefits are currently eligible for a USCIS fee waiver.

But with the proposed change, that same four-person Californian household would only be eligible for the USCIS fee waiver if household income was at or below $37,650.

USCIS is like the U.S. Postal Service in that most of its funding comes from fees paid for its services, rather than from U.S. taxpayers.

USCIS fees for immigrants to use its services can run into the thousands. The application for a “green card”, formally known as the “application to register permanent residence,” costs $1,140. The application for naturalization to become a U.S. citizen costs $640.

The waiver proposal is an attempt to reverse a change to immigration policy under President Barack Obama. In 2011, USCIS standardized a process of using means-tested benefits as a way to prove eligibility for its fee waivers.

“When this agency waives fees, it’s hurtful to the quality of the agency and it pushes fees off from one population to another. If you can’t get fees from group A, then you have to run up the fees for groups B, C, and D. So there is a reason to be careful with waivers,” said David North, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C., think tank advocating for low immigration.

“The change works against and secures some fee money from the near poor while leaving the poor untouched. So this is not a program that rolls back benefits for the really poor people, it rolls back benefits for some of the working poor and the income level above that,” North said.

CLINIC’s Bussey said the proposal is like an “invisible wall,” “a back-door way of limiting family immigration and reunification.” She fears it will suppress naturalization rates

“And that hurts us all. Studies really show that low-income immigrants are able to improve their financial status through naturalization. They have access to better jobs, educational opportunities and resources,” she said. “So limiting access to naturalization through limiting this fee waiver creates a poverty loop.”

North said the fees make sense because U.S. legal status brings “admission to the labor market, for instance, where you can make as much money as you want or can.”

The proposed change is open for comment until Nov. 27. Public comments have to be taken into consideration when finalizing a federal government rule change but may not necessarily be incorporated into its outcome.

Source: US seeks to reduce waivers for immigration fees

Australia: Citizenship discount for migrant pensioners, widows scrapped

Migrant pensioners, veterans and widows who receive Centrelink payments will soon have to pay full price when applying for Australian citizenship after Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton removed a regulation that offered them a discounted price.

Most people pay a $285 fee when they apply for citizenship, but disadvantaged pensioners and widows have long been granted a concession rate of $20 or $40.

Mr Dutton lodged a legislative instrument on Thursday last week that removes the concession, effective from July 1. The Greens have already promised to attempt to overturn the regulation when parliament sits next week.

The change mostly affects those who hold a pensioner concession card and receive certain welfare payments, including Newstart, the aged pension, the disability support pension or parenting payments.

The Federation of Ethnic Communities, which represents migrant groups in Australia, is calling for the change to be reversed.

“This is a needless imposition,” chair Mary Patetsos told SBS News.

“It puzzles me why you would want to create a hurdle that makes a resident who is entitled to claim for citizenship choose between paying their bills and applying for citizenship,” she said.

Veterans with pensioner cards who receive income support payments – including payments for aged service, invalidity service or partner service – will also lose their discount, as will some widows who hold health care cards.

The changes will also capture those applying for citizenship a second time, who will now have to pay the full fare with each application.

SBS News asked Mr Dutton to comment on the matter but was referred to the Department of Home Affairs.

A spokesperson for the department said only three per cent of people who applied for citizenship via the entrance test – as opposed to those who became citizens by descent or adoption – paid a concession fee in the past 12 months.

“Australia’s citizenship application fees remain internationally competitive and among the lowest in OECD nations,” the spokesperson wrote.

“The Department is committed to ensuring that application fees remain compliant with the Australian Government Cost Recovery Guidelines.”

Greens move to overturn changes

The changes were introduced via a legislative instrument that amends the Australian Citizenship Regulation, meaning they did not require legislation to pass the parliament.

But the Senate can still move to disallow the motion and overturn it. Last month, the government backflipped on controversial changes to parent visa sponsorship rules after it became clear a disallowance motion was about to pass.

Greens senator Nick McKim said he would move a disallowance motion when parliament sits again next week and called on Labor and the crossbench to support him.

“It’s an incredibly small-minded and vindictive move by this government,” Senator McKim told SBS News on the phone from Hobart.

The senator questioned why the government would close the concessions when only a small number of applicants applied for a discount.

“If it’s correct that this only applies to about three per cent of applicants in the recent past, it begs the obvious question as to why in fact the government is moving forward.”

Ms Patetsos said the change was inconsistent with Australia’s approach to encourage migrants to join the broader community and would impact the most vulnerable applicants.

“We’ve always encouraged new arrivals and migrants to apply for citizenship as soon as they’re eligible and that encouragement shouldn’t be dependent on a capacity to pay,” she said.

Source: Citizenship discount for migrant pensioners, widows scrapped

Sadiq Khan: UK citizenship fees leave children in limbo

In Canada, issue is adult fees of $530 (plus $100 right of citizenship). Previous government did not change fees for children ($100 plus $100 for the same right of citizenship):

Children and teenagers born in Britain are being left in limbo without access to education or employment because of £1,000 fees to gain citizenship, Sadiq Khanhas said, saying the government may face another Windrush-style scandal.

The mayor of London said the fees many young people were forced to pay were unacceptably high, given that most had lived most or all of their lives in the UK, but did not officially have British citizenship.

Most of the young people involved came to the UK with their parents as babies or small children, or were born in the UK to parents who migrated here.

Most teenagers do not realise they do not have secure status until they apply for post-18 education and are rejected because they cannot access funding or student loans. Instead, universities will class them as international students, charging them tens of thousands of pounds.

Without settled status, young adults may find themselves unable to rent a home, access healthcare, open bank accounts or start a job, under “hostile environment” restrictions introduced by the government, once they leave full-time education.

More than 159,000 Londoners aged 24 and under were found to be in this position by research from 2007. Khan said he was commissioning research to understand whether the problem had risen since new immigration restrictions came into force over the past decade.

“The recent Windrush scandal has shone a light on an immigration system that is simply unfit for purpose,” Khan said. “These young Londoners have lived most, if not all, of their lives in this country.”

Khan said it was shameful that young people, many born in Britain, found themselves barred from working or learning.

The mayor said the government “profit on their circumstances, despite the amazing contribution they make to our city and our country”.

The government needed to both streamline the application process and waive the “astronomically high” fees to affirm their citizenship, he added.

In April 2018, the cost for a child to register as a British citizen was £1,012 and £1,330 for an adult to naturalise their citizenship. The charity Citizens UK has calculated that much of the fee is profit – about £640 – compared with the £372 administration cost.

Those who were not born in the UK, but were brought to London as young children, face additional immigration fees of £8,521 over a 10-year period.

The executive director of Citizens UK, Neil Jameson, said it was “a huge own goal to deprive young people with bright futures of education when now more than ever Britain needs to extend a hand of welcome”.

The sums can put huge pressures on families who wish to register their children as British citizens, which is possible after a child has been in the country for 10 years. Some parents may still have uncertain immigration status, with no right to work and no recourse to public funds, meaning they can be effectively destitute.

…A Home Office spokeswoman said the fees took into account the wider costs of running the immigration system, saying it was “funded by those who benefit from it” in order to reduce taxpayer expense.

“There are exceptions to visa application fees to protect the most vulnerable, such as for young people who are in the care of a local authority,” she added.

Source: Sadiq Khan: UK citizenship fees leave children in limbo

Government of Canada facilitates access to Canadian citizenship for minors – Canada.ca

Good. The Government blinked on this one (see Children applying for Canadian citizenship face hefty fee | Toronto Star from August 2017):

The Government is committed to encouraging all immigrants, including minors under 18 years of age, to acquire citizenship. To help make that easier, the fee for minors applying under subsection 5(1) of the Citizenship Act has been reduced.

On June 19, 2017, the royal assent of Bill C-6 immediately brought into force a legislative amendment that removed the requirement to be 18 years old to apply for a grant of citizenship under subsection 5(1) of the Citizenship Act. This made it easier for minors to apply for citizenship on their own behalf. One of the strongest pillars for successful integration into Canadian life is acquiring Canadian citizenship.

The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announced changes to the fee schedule set out in the Citizenship Regulations to lower the processing fees for minors applying under subsection 5(1) of the Citizenship Act from $530 to $100, bringing them into line with the processing fees for minors applying under subsection 5(2) of the Act.

This ensures that there is no difference in the fee paid by citizenship grant applicants who are minors, regardless of whether they have a Canadian parent, are applying with a permanent resident parent or are applying on their own behalf.

Anyone who already paid the $530 fee for a minor applying under this subsection on or after June 19, 2017, will be reimbursed the difference of $430. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will contact these applicants directly to outline the process for receiving a refund.

Minors who do not have a Canadian parent, or a permanent resident parent applying for citizenship at the same time as them, can apply for citizenship under subsection 5(1) of the Citizenship Act. Therefore, the reduction in citizenship fees will help more minors, including immigrant children in the child welfare system or in the care of the state, acquire Canadian citizenship.

The department will be engaging provinces and territories, childcare agencies, immigration service provider organizations and other stakeholders to raise awareness of this change. The department will also provide information on how these institutions can assist minors in their care to acquire citizenship.

via Government of Canada facilitates access to Canadian citizenship for minors – Canada.ca

UK: Home Office citizenship fees ‘scandalous’

Not just cost recovery. as in the case of expensive US and Canadian fees, posing a barrier to integration:

The Home Office has been criticised for making more than £800m from nationality services over the past six years.

Young people who have citizenship rights – including thousands born in the UK – have to pay up to £1,000 to register formally as citizens.

Campaigners claim the fees, which they say many youngsters cannot afford, are a “terrible injustice” and “nothing short of a scandal”.

The Home Office says the fees are fair and fund the wider immigration system.

What is registration?

Nationality services include naturalisation fees, registration fees, and other nationality-related payments. Naturalisation is the process of applying to become a British citizen.

Registration is the process where someone who has an existing right to British citizenship – for example, through residency, parentage, or birth – but does not currently hold citizenship, applies to obtain it.

If a young person does not register, and does not otherwise gain settled status, they could risk being subject to immigration controls, despite having grown up British.

Fees have risen since 2011, and the cost of registering two children has more than tripled due to fee increases and the abolition of second child discounts.

Another freedom of information response showed registrations cost the Home Office £264 to complete, despite applicants being charged £936 in the 2016-17 financial year.

Samson Adeola, 18, from Walthamstow, had to borrow money to pay his fees last year and said he was angry the Home Office was making so much money.

Mr Adeola, who was born in Nigeria, moved to London with his family when he was five and although had rights to citizenship, did not hold it.

He said without it, if he was going on to university, he would be forced to pay significantly higher tuition fees as an international student.

He also said he had missed out on the chance to perform in the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics because he did not have citizenship at the time.

“It was very difficult for my mum, going around finding the money [for the Home Office fees],” he said, adding the family borrowed a “substantial amount” from their local church.

Chart showing the changes in fees for nationalist services

He said the family still had not repaid all the money, and he had taken a job as a pizza delivery boy to contribute.

“Balancing it with schoolwork is difficult – last night I got back really late,” he said.

“It’s really tiring and draining and it can take your mind off your studies.”

He said it was “really upsetting” the fees were so high, “especially for people who can’t scrimp and save the money together, and can’t put forward an application because of the cost”.

The family will also have to pay for each of Mr Adeola’s siblings, aged 10 and 15, to register if they want British citizenship, despite the fact the ten-year-old was born in the UK.

Solange Valdez-Symonds, director of the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens said: “For the Home Office to be exploiting this to make vast sums of money to spend on its immigration responsibilities is nothing short of a scandal and an especially terrible injustice to those children who cannot afford the Home Office’s fees.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “When setting fees, we also consider the benefits that a successful applicant is likely to gain and believe that it is right that those who use and benefit directly from the system make an appropriate contribution towards meeting associated costs.

“British nationality applications are not mandatory and many individuals decide not to apply.”

Source: Home Office citizenship fees ‘scandalous’

Lifting barriers to citizenship for low-income immigrants

This is a good long article outlining the efforts made to increase citizenship take-up of low-income immigrants in New York (the US Citizenship and Immigration Service also has a fee waiver program, Canada does not despite high fees CAD 630 for adults):

Taking the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony is an emotional moment for many immigrants, and for good reason: it is the culmination of an often arduous process and many years of striving. Citizenship also opens a new chapter marked by possibility, from better job prospects to full participation in civic life.

Yet for many immigrants who aspire to become U.S. citizens, that moment never arrives. Since the 1970s, naturalization rates in the United States have lagged behind those of other major host countries. It’s a striking disparity given that the vast majority of immigrants in the United States express interest in . And since gaining citizenship often boosts immigrants’ social mobility and integration, the fact that so many are left behind points to a troubling loss of solidarity for their host communities.

What holds them back? Why are some immigrants more likely than others to complete the naturalization process?

New research from Stanford University’s Immigration Policy Lab, in collaboration with researchers at George Mason University and the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy at the University at Albany, provides the first concrete evidence of a major barrier to citizenship for low-income immigrants. The findings help explain why citizenship-promotion efforts face significant challenges, and they provide a blueprint for solutions to ensure that all immigrants have equal access to citizenship and its benefits.

A Life-Changing Program

In seeking to understand disparities in naturalization patterns, previous studies have focused on the immigrants themselves—individual characteristics like language skills, resources, or country of origin. Here, the researchers considered an external factor out of immigrants’ control: the high costs of the citizenship application process.

For many low-income immigrants, the price tag is daunting: $725 just to file the application, plus hundreds or even thousands more if you need English classes or consultations with immigration lawyers. Charitable organizations have stepped up to provide free language training, legal advice, and help navigating the paperwork. But the application fee has only become more burdensome, rising by 800 percent in real terms since 1985, when it was $35 (or $80.25 in today’s dollars). The federal government offers a fee waiver for the poorest immigrants—those with incomes below 150% of the poverty line—but for many others who aren’t destitute but struggle to make ends meet, that fee alone can put citizenship out of reach.

To address this potentially pivotal financial obstacle, IPL teamed up with the New York State Office for New Americans (ONA) and two funders dedicated to improving the lives of vulnerable New Yorkers, Robin Hood, and New York Community Trust. Together they developed an innovative, public-private program called NaturalizeNY, which offers low-income immigrants an opportunity to win a voucher covering the naturalization application fee.

Veyom Bahl, a managing director at Robin Hood, said, “Robin Hood is proud to partner with the world-class researchers at the Stanford Immigration Policy Lab. Like us, they are committed to helping families build a strong footing for a new life in the United States. This research will help foundations, community-based organizations, and policymakers alike re-think how we invest in our communities for maximum impact.”

NaturalizeNY also connects registrants with application assistance from ONA’s network of nonprofit service providers. New York’s leading immigrant service organizations, including CUNY Citizenship Now!, Hispanic Federation, and Catholic Charities, were also integral in promoting and implementing the program.

“This was a truly first-of-a-kind program, where a state agency, philanthropies, academics, and nonprofits created a way to provide direct financial support to help low-income immigrants apply for citizenship. The Immigration Policy Lab was excited to partner in its design and evaluation so everyone involved could understand its impact on immigrants and the New York community,” said Michael Hotard, an IPL program manager.

New York is home to the nation’s second-largest immigrant population, and its metro area has about 160,000 low-income immigrants eligible for citizenship. With a registration website in seven languages, NaturalizeNY focused on relatively poor New Yorkers who, by virtue of income or lack of eligibility for government benefits like food stamps or cash assistance, did not qualify for the existing federal fee waiver program.

NaturalizeNY used a lottery to award the 336 available vouchers, leaving 527 registrants without one. By following the two groups to see how many completed the citizenship application, researchers could measure the power of financial assistance, and in turn determine how much the costs may discourage others from naturalizing.

The results were unequivocal: the vouchers roughly doubled the application rate, from 37 percent among those without a voucher to 78 percent among recipients. The vouchers proved particularly effective for those who registered in Spanish; their application rate rose by 51 percent compared to a 36 percent rise among English speakers.

“Because NaturalizeNY uses a lottery system to equitably distribute vouchers to eligible registrants, for the first time we have clear causal evidence as to the effect of application fee vouchers on citizenship decisions. The magnitude of the effect suggests that it’s a critical lever to improve low-income immigrants’ access to citizenship”, said Jens Hainmueller, a professor of political science at Stanford and IPL co-director.

The Deeper Challenges of Poverty

For the poorest immigrants, however, even eliminating the application cost isn’t necessarily enough to pave the way toward citizenship. They may not know that they’re eligible for a fee waiver, or they may find the process too difficult if they’re working several jobs, caring for children or elderly relatives, or unable to get assistance with the application.

Do these kinds of disadvantages keep these immigrants from becoming citizens? To find out, researchers identified 1,760 immigrants who registered for NaturalizeNY but weren’t entered into the lottery because they likely qualified for the federal fee waiver. While the voucher group’s average annual household income was $19,000 per person, this group’s average was just $7,500. Everyone in this group received a message during registration informing them that, based on their responses, they likely could apply for citizenship without cost and that assistance was available. 1,124 then received various “nudges” encouraging them to apply and to visit a local service provider for help navigating the process.

These nudges mimicked the real-world interventions many groups rely on to reach immigrants in need: emails, phone calls, text messages, an official letter by regular mail, and a $10 MetroCard intended to allay the cost of commuting to a service provider. Yet none of these encouragements made a significant difference in application rates beyond the 44 percent for those who received no additional encouragements.

In follow-up surveys, many participants said they had been too busy to apply. But when researchers returned to the data, they found that busyness couldn’t be the whole answer: the nudges were just as ineffective for single people as for members of large households, and for those of working age and retirement age.

“That so many ended up not applying indicates that challenges to naturalization run deeper than financial constraints,” said Duncan Lawrence, IPL executive director. “It’s clear that we have more to learn about what sorts of cost-effective nudges may or may not work. Raising awareness of the fee waiver itself may be an important piece of the puzzle, and we are actively working to understand how learning about the fee waiver affects application rates.”

Citizenship and Social Mobility

For policymakers looking to address social inequality and give low-income immigrants a potential pathway to the middle class, the voucher results speak volumes. The current naturalization system imposes prohibitive costs on exactly those immigrants who might stand to benefit the most from the opportunities citizenship brings.

NaturalizeNY could inspire other cities and states to create similar public-private partnerships. ONA director Laura Gonzalez-Murphy emphasized the project’s actionable insights, saying, “The New York State Office for New Americans Opportunity Centers are leaders on the ground, establishing strong relationships and trust with immigrants and refugees from across the world. We are always eager to eliminate barriers for these individuals and help them on their path to citizenship. Thanks to our partners, including Stanford, George Mason, and SUNY Albany, we now have a unique project to paint a real picture of the current immigration system and see where opportunities for positive change may arise.”

At the federal level, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently lowered the fee for applicants between 150 and 200 percent of the poverty level. As this research illustrates, however, the financial barrier remains decisive for low-income immigrants above that range. Expanding this tiered system, with wealthier applicants paying more, would allow USCIS to cover its administrative costs while keeping citizenship affordable for all.

These are relatively simple projects to fund and administer, and they have a potentially big long-term payoff: if becoming an American citizen makes immigrants more likely to pursue higher education, start a business, or enter a profession, then boosting naturalization rates would make for better integrated, more prosperous communities.

Source: Lifting barriers to citizenship for low-income immigrants

ICYMI – Canadian citizenship applications surge after government relaxes language, residency rules

Always amusing to see how IRCC releases short-term data quickly in response to media requests while regular data releases, apart from the monthly operational data, takes an inordinate amount of time (i.e., the quarterly Citizenship Applications Overview dates from June 2017).

Over the course of 2018, the one-time impact of the change in residency requirements and the ongoing impact of the reduced requirements for knowledge and language assessment will be quantified versus the ongoing impact of the steep level of citizenship fees (two weeks data, while relevant, is not long enough):

There was a spike in applications for Canadian citizenship after the government relaxed the rules around residency requirements and language proficiency this fall.

Figures from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship provided to CBC News show there was an average of 3,653 applications a week in the six months before changed were brought in Oct. 11.

The number shot up to 17,500 applications the week after the new requirements kicked in. There were 12,530 applications submitted the week after that, but data for subsequent weeks is not yet available.

Citizenship applications

“Reducing the physical presence requirement gives more flexibility to applicants to meet the requirements for citizenship and encourages more immigrants to take the path to citizenship,” said Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship spokeswoman Nancy Caron. “This helps individuals who have already begun building lives in Canada achieve citizenship faster.”

In recent years, there has been an average of 200,000 citizenship applications submitted each year.

Fluctuations in application rates are expected after rule changes, so the department put resources in place to handle “surge capacity” and keep processing times below the 12-month service standard, Caron said.

Andrew Griffith, a former senior immigration official, author and fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said it’s too early to tell if the jump in numbers represents a blip or part of a longer-term trend. But he believes an increased rate of citizenship fosters social cohesion and eases community tensions as immigrants have a deeper connection to the country and to Canadian society.

‘Integration journey’

“We want people to become citizens because we believe that’s part of the integration journey,” he said. “That helps them feel part of Canada and ultimately should improve all the economic, social and political outcomes of the country.”

The new rules include:

  • The required length of physical presence in Canada is reduced to three out of five years, from four out of six years.
  • A portion of time spent in Canada before permanent resident status will count toward residency requirements, which will give credit to temporary workers and students.
  • The age range for language and knowledge requirements is reduced to 18 to 54 years old, from the previous requirement of 14 to 64.

But Griffith said high fees remain a barrier for some to apply for citizenship, especially those in the family reunification or refugee categories with stretched finances.

Processing fee hikes

The processing fee jumped to $630 in 2014-2015, which includes a $100 “right of citizenship” fee. That is still much lower than the fees in the U.K., the U.S. and the Netherlands, but is higher than New Zealand, Germany, Australia and France.

Griffith said reducing costs would reflect the fact that promoting citizenship provides not just personal benefit, but a benefit to the greater Canadian society when people can fully participate, including in the political process.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, who marked the changes taking effect at an event in October, said they will make the path to join the “Canadian family” easier and more flexible.

“As a country that’s committed to the settlement and integration of newcomers successfully so they can restart their lives and make contributions to our society, we have to ensure the path to citizenship for permanent residents,” he said at the time.

People can be deemed ineligible for Canadian citizenship if they have a criminal record or are facing charges in or outside Canada, or if they have had citizenship refused or revoked in past.

via Canadian citizenship applications surge after government relaxes language, residency rules – Politics – CBC News

Cost of British citizenship for children is now 22 times more expensive than Germany | The Independent

I had not done the comparison of fees for children so the data in this article is revealing. The last time I checked, UK was also the most expensive for adults:

The Government is under pressure over the “astronomical” rise in the cost of British citizenship for children, which is now 22 times more expensive than in Germany.

Costs to register a child’s citizenship application have soared by 153 per cent in the last seven years, from £386 in 2010 to £973 today.

Scores of youngsters descended on Westminster on Wednesday morning with Citizens UK in protest against the fee, which sees many children unable to become British citizens despite having a legal right.

The fee is considerably higher than in other European countries, with the figure standing at 80 euros in Belgium, 55 euros in France and just 51 euros in Germany.

Each application costs the Home Office £386, meaning the department makes a £586 profit per child registered. With 40,537 applications made in the year to September 2017, the Home Office is expected to make almost £24m this year from children registering for citizenship.

The soaring costs mean a family with three children who have come from abroad and settled in the UK for 10 years, accessing citizenship for all members, including those born here, would have paid out more than £15,000 to be “naturalised” as British citizens, taking into account all migration fees.

Many of these families suffer in-work poverty due to their low wages, so are unable to afford the cost of citizenship, which can prevent children from fully participating in the life of their community, experts warn.

There are an estimated 120,000 “undocumented” children across the UK, more than half of whom are legally entitled to a UK passport. Many are unaware of their status until they apply to university, try to open a bank account or need a passport for foreign travel, according to Citizens UK.

Anne-Marie Canning, director of social mobility and student success at King’s College London, said this can lead to problems when youngsters wish to go into higher education, with many facing difficulties due to not having the correct documents to access student loans.

“There are a large number of students in Greater London who are unable to access university because they are locked out of the student loans system due to paperwork,” she said.

Revd Mother Ellen Eames and school children singing carols outside the Home Office. Hundreds delivered Christmas cards to Secretary of State Amber Rudd asking her to cut the cost of British Citizenship (James Asfa @ Citizens UK)
“We’ve heard stories of parents having to pick which of their children’s paperwork they process so they can access student finance, as they cannot afford to do it for all of their children. We and other universities in London and across the UK are concerned about this issue and have made scholarships available for these learners.

“If the Home Office reduced their fees it would enable more children and talented young people to secure their papers and access higher education like other students.”

Citizens UK leader Fiona Carrick Davis said: “Over the past few years Citizenship fees have risen astronomically and far exceed those of other European countries.

“Many of these children were born in the UK or have spent much of their lives in the UK and have a legal right to citizenship. This is their home, they are British in all respects except they don’t have Citizenship.

via Cost of British citizenship for children is now 22 times more expensive than Germany | The Independent

Government missed the most important reform in amending citizenship legislation [fees]

Rob Vineberg and I on citizenship fees:

Recent amendments to the Citizenship Act rolled back many of the restrictive provisions introduced by the previous government. These include reducing the residence period to apply for citizenship from four out of the previous six years to three out of five years; allowing half of the time spent in Canada before becoming a permanent resident to count towards the residence period for citizenship; and, removing the provision that allowed dual citizens convicted of treason, spying or terrorism to be stripped of their Canadian citizenship and deported. Now, as before, they will face Canadian justice. In addition, the new legislation replaces the minister or his delegate—in practice, a mid-level official—as the decision-maker in citizenship revocation cases based on misrepresentation or fraud at the time of application. Once again, these cases will be determined by the Federal Court.

The government has, however, overlooked the biggest barrier to citizenship erected by the previous government: cost. Prior to 2014, an applicant for Canadian citizenship paid a $100 fee and adults paid an additional “right of citizenship” fee of $100. Thus, a family of four had to pay $600 for their citizenship applications. However, in February 2014, the previous government increased that fee to $300 and then, in 2015, increased it again to $530 plus the $100 right of citizenship fee for adults. Therefore, since 2015, the cost for a family of four applying for citizenship has soared to $1,460. The government of the time argued that this reflected the costs of processing applications.

In addition, in the Canada Gazette, the government argued, disingenuously or stupidly (take your choice), that “the fee increase will not impact the naturalization rate as the value placed on obtaining citizenship is very high and the benefits associated with obtaining citizenship far outweigh the fee increases. Thus, the number of applications expected per year is not anticipated to fall following an increase in the fees.”

Now anyone who has taken economics 101 knows that price affects demand. So what has happened in reality? In 2015, before the new fees took effect, there were 130,227 applications and 252,187 people received citizenship. However, in 2016, only 92,197 applications were received and 147,791 people received citizenship—a drop of 41 per cent. And in the first six months of 2017, the precipitous drop continued. Only 51,412 were granted citizenship as opposed to 98,418 in the first six months of 2016—a further drop of 48 per cent. So who was right, the previous government or graduates of economics 101? Clearly the outrageous new fees are a huge impediment for newcomers, often struggling to make ends meet.

Some of the reduction in applications is due to other factors. Lengthening residency requirements to four out of six years had a one-time impact as those meeting the previous three year minimum had to delay their applications. Similarly, the extension of language and knowledge testing to applicants aged 55 to 64 (about seven per cent of all applications) meant fewer applications from that age group. However, the greater part of the drop in applications is due to the fees increase.

Now, after two years of the higher fees, the number of applications has recovered slightly but remains far short of the historic average of some 200,000 annually. A further worrying fact is that applications from poorer newcomers, in particular refugees, have declined even more than for other immigrants.

Now you may ask, what difference does this make? It makes a huge difference. The entire Canadian immigration policy is based on the premise that it is a continuum, starting with a person applying overseas and ending with him or her becoming a Canadian citizen. It is critical that newcomers participate fully in Canadian civil society and feel part of civil society. And they cannot do so if they do not become Canadian citizens.

The benefit of newcomers becoming citizens as soon as possible vastly outweighs the government’s need to recover costs of processing. It seems paradoxical at best that’ at the same time the government promotes diversity and inclusion, and increases immigration levels, it retains a major barrier to immigrants wishing to participate fully in Canadian society.

The cost for adults applying for citizenship must be reduced to at most $300, including the $100 right of citizenship fee, and quickly.

via Government missed the most important reform in amending citizenship legislation – The Hill Times – The Hill Times