How to Get Canadian Citizenship

Many Canadian permanent residents who have weathered the immigration process look forward to being granted citizenship and are eager for the day they can be sworn in as official Canadian citizens. 

Before that day comes, there are a few final steps that need to be addressed before Immigration, Refugees, Citizenship Canada (IRCC) approves their Canadian citizenship application. 

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Canadian citizenship overview  

Canadian citizenship FAQ  

How to get Canadian citizenship

To become a Canadian citizen by naturalization, one must first immigrate to Canada as a permanent resident. As with all Canadian immigration programs, permanent residents must meet a specific set of requirements to be deemed eligible to apply for citizenship: 

1. Residency requirements: 

Applicants need to provide proof that they have been living in Canada for three years (1,095 days) out of the five years that precede their signed application with some exceptions. 

2. File taxes

Citizenship applicants must have filed their taxes in Canada for at least three years during the five-year period before applying.  

3. Pass the citizenship test 

Applicants between the ages of 18 and 54 must take a citizenship test to demonstrate their knowledge of their rights and responsibilities as a Canadian 

4. Demonstrate language ability 

To become a Canadian citizen, applicants must demonstrate a minimum level of French or English.  

When to apply for Canadian citizenship

Canadian permanent residents must have lived in Canada for at least 1,095 days (three years) out of the past five years before applying for Canadian citizenship (with some exceptions).  

Permanent residents (PR) must also ensure they meet additional minimum requirements before they are eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship.  

How to apply for Canadian citizenship

The Canadian government is currently testing an online platform for Canadian citizenship applications. Currently, it is only available to certain applicants. Those who are not currently eligible to apply online must apply on paper. 

Eligible applicants will be required to pass the Canadian citizenship test, and may be asked to undergo an interview before a citizenship judge, if requested by IRCC. Once approved, applicants will attend a Citizenship Ceremony to take the Oath of Citizenship, where they will officially become a Canadian citizen.

Canadian citizenship test

To become a Canadian citizen, applicants must first pass a test on the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. The test is broken down into 20 questions on Canadian history geography, economy, government, laws, and symbols.   

When can I take the citizenship test? 

After IRCC has finished processing a citizenship application, applicants are required to take the citizenship exam. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the citizenship exam is currently offered online only.  

To take the citizenship test online, an applicant must first wait to be invited. Once they have finished processing an application, Immigration, Refugee, Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will issue an invitation to take the citizenship test. After receiving the invitation, an applicant has 21 days to complete the citizenship test. If a citizenship applicant doesn’t pass their first test, IRCC will invite them to take the test again. 

How to study for the Canadian citizenship test 

The Canadian government provides a free study guide to help prepare for the citizenship test. Applicants may also call their local school or school board, or a nearby immigration settlement service provider to ask for information on free citizenship classes. 

Canadian citizenship test exemptions 

Citizenship applicants under the ages of 18, or over the ages of 54 at the time of signing the application are exempt from the citizenship test requirement.  

Canadian citizenship ceremony

The final step of becoming a Canadian citizen is the citizenship ceremony. At this ceremony, soon-to-be citizens take the Oath of Citizenship.  

The Canadian government will issue a Notice to Appear, which is essentially an invitation to take the oath at a citizenship ceremony. The Oath of Citizenship confirms one’s agreeance to abide by Canadian rights and responsibilities.  

Canadian citizenship cost

Canadian citizenship costs for a single applicant are $630 CAD per adult and $100 CAD per child, broken down as follows: 

  1. Processing fees: $530/adult & $100/child 
  2. Right of Citizenship fee: $100/adult 

Canadian citizenship application processing time

The processing time for a citizenship application may vary depending on when the application was submitted and the complexity of the application. To check the average processing time of an application, visit IRCC’s dedicated webpage. 

Language test for Canadian citizenship

When applying for Canadian citizenship, individuals must provide proof of sufficient proficiency in English or French. Proof of language ability can be demonstrated through the following third-party test results from organizations: 

  • Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) – CELPIP General, CELPIP General-LS 
  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS) – General training 
  • Test d’Évaluation de Français (TEF) (in French) 
  • Test d’Évaluation de Français (TEFAQ) (in French) 
  • TEF pour la naturalisation: a 2 skills (listening and speaking) version 

Proof of language proficiency may also be demonstrated by test results previously submitted for Quebec immigration.  

Applicants who are younger than 18 or older than 54 are not required to demonstrate language proficiency.  

Proving Canadian citizenship

Upon becoming a naturalized Canadian, citizens are granted a Canadian citizenship certificate. This document can be used as proof of citizenship when applying for a Canadian passport. 

Canadian citizenship benefits

Permanent residents benefit from many of the same resources as those with citizenship status. They have access to publicly funded schools and healthcare, can live and work anywhere in Canada, and their civil liberties are protected under Canadian law and by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  

However, becoming a Canadian citizen has its perks. Here are five things permanent residents can only do once they become citizens:

1. Vote

Canada operates as a parliamentary democracy. At every federal election, every Canadian citizen over the age of 18 can cast a ballot to vote for our Prime Minister. But in addition to federal elections, there are also regular provincial and municipal elections that citizens can vote in. 

Voting gives citizens a say in who runs their country, province, territory, and town. This is a major benefit and responsibility of Canadian citizenship.

2. Run for office

Canadian citizens can also run for office. Interested citizens can run in municipal, provincial, or federal elections. 

There are several major political parties in Canada. Citizens interested in getting involved in politics, can join a youth wing, or run as an independent candidate.

3. Travel freely

Canadian citizens can apply to get a Canadian passport. Unlike PR cards, passports only need to be renewed every 5-10 years. 

The Canadian passport is ranked among the best in the world. With a Canadian passport, citizens can travel to a number of countries around the world without needing a visa. A Canadian passport will also allow citizens to re-enter the country more easily than a permanent resident travel document.

4. Pass on citizenship to kids

The children of first-generation Canadian citizens, whether that child is born in Canada or not, will automatically be Canadian citizens. This means they can benefit from their parent’s status without going through the same process of applying for Canadian citizenship. 

The child of permanent residents, on the other hand, will be a Canadian citizen only if that child is born in Canada. If the child of a permanent resident is born abroad, their parents will have to sponsor them.

5. Live anywhere in the world

Canadian citizens are free to live anywhere in the world for as long as they like without losing their citizenship. Unlike permanent residency, there are no residency requirements for Canadian citizens. The only restriction is that Canadians living abroad for a period of more than five years lose the right to vote in federal elections. 

Did you know?

Since 1977, the Canadian government has recognized multiple citizenships. That means that new Canadian citizens don’t have to give up their previous citizenship when they become a Canadian citizen. 

Can I get Canadian citizenship without taking the IELTS?

When applying for Canadian citizenship, one must demonstrate sufficient language proficiency in English or French, with some exemptions.  

If an applicant completed a post-secondary credential in English or French, they may provide proof of this instead. Proof of completion may include a diploma, transcript, or certificate.  

As well, applicants who are younger than 18 or older than or older than 54 are not required to demonstrate their language proficiency. 

If required, language proficiency can be demonstrated through designated testing organizations such as IELTS, CELPIP, TEF, or TEFAQ. 

Can I get Canadian citizenship without living in Canada?

To apply for Canadian citizenship, permanent residents must have lived in Canada for at least three of the past five years. If a permanent resident has not lived in Canada for at least three years (1,095 days), they may still be able to count the time lived abroad if they meet one of the following scenarios 

  • were a permanent resident employed in or with the
    • Canadian Armed Forces
    • federal public administration
    • public service of a province or territory
  • lived outside Canada with your Canadian spouse or common-law partner or permanent resident spouse, common-law partner, or parent who was employed in or with the
    • Canadian Armed Forces
    • federal public administration
    • public service of a province or territory

Can I get Canadian citizenship without first getting PR status?

To become a Canadian citizen, one must first immigrate to Canada as a Permanent Resident (PR) and meet the citizenship requirements before transitioning to citizenship status.  

Is the Canadian citizenship application free?

The current Liberal government promised in 2019 that they would eliminate citizenship fees if re-elected. This has not yet been implemented and the government has not announced a timeline for when this will come into effect.  

The fees for citizenship application processing are currently $630 CAD per adult and $200 CAD per child. 

Can Canadian citizenship be revoked or lost?

According to the Canadian Citizenship Act, the government may revoke a person’s citizenship if it was obtained by misrepresentation, fraud, or knowingly concealing material circumstances.  

Can Canadian citizenship expire?

Canadian citizenship does not expire. Unlike temporary residency, Canadian citizenship does not need to be renewed. Canadian citizens also do not need to meet minimum residency requirements to maintain their status.  

Does a child need to meet the three-year minimum residency requirement to be eligible for Canadian citizenship if they are applying with their parent?

No. Permanent resident children under the age of 18 who are applying with their parent are not required to have been physically present in Canada for three years (1,095 days) to apply for citizenship. 

Can I keep dual citizenship in Canada?

Yes. As Canada recognizes dual citizenship, new citizens will be able to maintain their former nationality. However, permanent residents wishing to become Canadian citizens should verify that the country of their current nationality recognizes dual or multi citizenships. 

How long do I have to wait before I can apply for Canadian citizenship?

Permanent residents wishing to become Canadian citizens must first have resided in Canada for a minimum of 1,095 days in the five years preceding their application before they are eligible to apply. In special circumstances, citizenship may be granted to those who do not meet the minimum residence requirement. Children under the age of 18 need not meet this requirement. 

Do I have to apply for citizenship as soon as I become eligible?

No. As long as permanent residents meet the eligibility requirements, they can wait as long as they like to apply for citizenship. Unlike some permanent resident programs, there are no application windows or deadlines that need to be followed. 

Does my time spent in Canada before becoming a permanent resident count toward the minimum residency requirements?

Yes. Each day spent in Canada as a temporary resident (student, visitor, worker) or protected person before obtaining permanent residence counts for one-half day. Applicants may use up to 365 days to count toward the 1,095-day requirement. 

What are the rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizens?

Once a permanent resident has been granted Canadian citizenship, they are entitled to the same rights and responsibilities of a natural Canadian citizen. Though permanent residents share many of the same rights as that of a citizen, the most notable differences would be the right to vote in federal, provincial, and municipal Canadian elections, and the elimination of residency obligations.

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