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

Canadian citizenship grant upheld for immigrant doctor living in the U.S.

Interesting case, under pre-C-24 rules before residency was more tightly defined as requiring physical presence. While C-6 reduces the residency time requirements, it rightly maintains the physical presence definition:

An immigrant doctor doing medical training in the United States can keep his Canadian citizenship even though he had spent far fewer days in Canada than normally required to become a citizen, Federal Court has ruled.

In rejecting an appeal from the federal government, Judge Susan Elliott found no reason to undo an earlier decision to allow Irfan Saddique to become a Canadian.

Court records show Saddique declared only 177 days of physical presence in Canada when he applied to become a citizen, well short of the required 1,095 days. Normally, that would have disqualified his application.

However, Saddique argued successfully before a citizenship judge in January that he had been forced to move to the U.S. for his medical residency so he could earn the credentials he needed to work as a doctor in Canada.

After examining the case, the citizenship judge found that Saddique had maintained his “centralized mode” of living in Canada and allowed him to become a Canadian.

The minister of citizenship and immigration appealed to Federal Court, arguing the judge’s decision was unreasonable.

Among other things, the government faulted the judge for failing to analyze whether Saddique had already established residence in Canada before he left for the United States to continue his training, and said the evidence he provided about his ties to Canada was inadequate.

“As I understand the minister’s position, it is akin to an adequacy-of-reasons argument and, despite protestations to the contrary, there are elements of asking the court to reweigh the evidence,” Elliott said in her ruling. “By reason of their special knowledge and expertise, citizenship judges are owed a degree of deference in the application of the test they choose and the assessment of the evidence placed before them.”

Saddique, who is from Pakistan, in turn argued the judge had considered his circumstances carefully, and correctly applied the legal test for residency.

He maintained he would have preferred to do his medical residency in Canada but had been unable to obtain a position, and therefore had no choice but to go to the United States.

He said he had as many as 50 relatives in Ontario, including a Canadian wife, maintained a home in Brampton, Ont., and planned to live permanently in Canada as soon as his medical-licensing process was done.

In siding with him, Elliott said the citizenship judge had taken into account several factors in determining Saddique’s residency, including that he had tried for a medical position in Canada, had maintained strong family ties in this country, and returned whenever he could.

As such, the judge who saw and heard Saddique applied the facts to the law, using the expertise she had gained, Elliott said.

“I am satisfied that the decision is intelligible and transparent,” Elliott ruled. “The outcome is supported by the evidence in the record. It is defensible on the facts and law.”

Source: Canadian citizenship grant upheld for immigrant doctor living in the U.S. | rdnewsNOW

Can immigrants be told where they must live in Canada?

Interesting arguments by Michael Barutciski. While location incentives are one thing, not sure that creating a new type of temporary foreign worker with a location condition is feasible from an operational perspective.

Curious to see what kind of response this generates from other commentators:

Can the government legally require some immigrants to settle in small towns and rural areas?

We do not have the answer for the simple reason that our courts have not been asked to deal with this question and how it is affected by the relevant Charter subsection. If it is determined that such a limitation is indeed a violation of mobility rights, then it would have to pass what is known as the Oakes test.

The federal government would have to show there is a pressing and substantial objective in settling some immigrants in small towns and rural areas. Mr. McCallum’s statements so far suggest he is taking an economic perspective that emphasizes business concerns about labour shortages in remote areas. Courts would likely consider this a justifiable purpose.

Similarly, the actual restrictions imposed on these newcomers would have to limit their mobility rights as little as is reasonably possible. Courts would have to be convinced that the benefits of the measure outweigh the seriousness of the infringement.

The fact that the limitation would be temporary (for the duration of the immigrant visa, for example) would help the government’s case. And by structuring the immigrant-selection criteria in a way that grants more points for applicants willing to work in small towns or rural areas, it could also be presented as one option among many available to potential immigrants, who could otherwise apply under the regular economic stream. In other words, the limitation accepted voluntarily by some immigrants would be balanced by the fact that their choice would give them a better chance of obtaining permanent resident status.

Along with clarifying the constitutional question around mobility rights, the policy could play an important role in reinforcing the notion that immigration is not only about the personal well-being and advancement of foreign applicants, but also about the needs of the receiving country.

This latter point is crucial in securing public support for any increase in admissions envisioned by Mr. McCallum. Canadians will naturally be more supportive if they believe new arrivals are helping their huge country with its specific challenges involving underpopulated regions and demographic distribution.

Two of Canada’s main competitors for skilled immigrants, Australia and New Zealand, provide incentives to encourage immigrants to find employment outside large urban centres. If such an approach with bonus points in the selection criteria is not possible in Canada given its constitutional protections, then a new category of temporary workers (who would not be covered by the Charter’s mobility clause) could be created that would include geographic conditions and that would benefit from a more direct pathway to permanent resident status once the conditions were fulfilled.

Canada would be well served if Mr. McCallum were to champion the idea that some control on where immigrants settle is reasonable, in order to secure public support for immigration to this geographically challenging country.

Source: Can immigrants be told where they must live in Canada? – The Globe and Mail

Citizenship workshop @ImmigrationCBoC: Points of interest

Good workshop panel, with Charlie Foran and Arghavan Gerami joining me, with each of us covering different aspects.

Two points of interest for me that arose in the questions and discussion:

  • The impact of the physical presence requirement on internationally mobile professionals and business people. One CEO made the persuasive case that this requirement precluded citizenship for those based in Canada but whose frequent travel abroad meant they were not able to meet the minimum number of days in Canada requirement; and,
  • A former citizenship judge picking up on this point, noted the reduced role of judges in decision-making meant that the lack of days could not be balanced against the overall contribution such individuals made. The lack of discretion, introduced to provide greater consistency in decision-making (a valid policy and program objective), had consequences for this small but significant group.

Physical presence was introduced to address those who only had a legal residence or presence in Canada but who lived abroad, with the main examples being from Hong Kong and the Gulf countries.

Some early consultations and discussion on residency requirements suggested that making it four out of six years (being changed to three out of five years in C-6) would provide reasonable flexibility for those whose work took them outside Canada (e.g., truckers, pilots and a number of professions), while balancing the need to have the meaningful experience of Canada that came from living here.

I suspect that additional consultations and analysis would provide better data on how many people are affected, or potentially affected, with consequent reflection on whether policy and program adjustments are required.

Given the nature of the Conference Board audience, many of the plenary sessions focussed, directly or indirectly, on questions of business or investor immigration. Most of these speakers were advocates, given the nature of their organization or business, and largely ignored the body of evidence that previous programs had not generated significant economic returns.

One panelist even praised the Quebec model, despite the common knowledge that many if not most business investors in Quebec left, with Chinese investors in particular largely ending up in British Columbia, and who also advocated for a citizenship investor program similar to Malta and Cyprus.

Will be interesting to see if these comments on citizenship and business and investor immigration make it into the Conference Board’s immigration action plan and, if so, the precise nature of the recommendations.

Experts raise concerns about citizenship rules | canada.com

While it is correct that the previous definition of residency was not formally clear (ranging from being physically present to mere legal residency), the common sense definition was physical presence, not merely having a mailing address. The policy objective of ensuring a meaningful connection to Canada by being here is part of the integrity of the citizenship program. But as noted by Winter, Robbins and Kurland, this runs against the immigration policy objective of attracting more highly skilled and entrepreneurial immigrants.

We will see what is in the revisions to the Act.

Experts raise concerns about citizenship rules | canada.com.

Another variant of residency is  medicare coverage, in this BC case where coverage was denied given absence from Canada. Hard to argue with the decision, as this seems a classic case of citizens of convenience, as exemplified by the following entitlement attitude:

They [the couple in question] also suggested “the citizenship ceremony granted them the right to live anywhere,” and that it was “illegal to force them to reside in Canada when they cannot afford to do so,” said the appeal court ruling, written by Justice David Frankel.

Immigrant couple loses appeal to regain medicare revoked for spending too much time outside Canada

Canadian values can only be learned by living here, judge says in rejecting citizenship application

Sensible correction to earlier jurisprudence that had allowed for residency to be defined as legal residency, not physical presence. Imagine upcoming citizenship legislation will also make this clear as 2010 proposed changes included this as one of the measures (minority govt situation and election meant bill did not proceed).

In a judgment meant to clarify how long immigrants must live in Canada before qualifying for citizenship, Justice Peter Annis set out not only the “essential characteristics of being a Canadian” but also how one becomes “Canadianized.”

After acknowledging his comments “may exceed the bounds of judicial notice,” he wrote that being a Canadian was based on “attitudes of respect for others and a willingness to accommodate cultural, social and economic challenges to resolve our differences.”

He said he agreed with Justice Francis Muldoon, a former Federal Court judge, that “being a Canadian is something that cannot be readily learned, but only experienced by living here because ‘Canadian life and society exist only in Canada and nowhere else.’”

Canadian values can only be learned by living here, judge says in rejecting citizenship application