James Metcalfe

by James Metcalfe – Pace Law Firm: Last week, a Halifax immigration consultant was busted by the RCMP for running a major citizenship fraud scheme. Such news is not unusual these days, with other such incidents being reported in Windsor, Toronto, and BC.

Although no specific details were released on the Halifax scam, I presume it involved multiple persons living at the same address, using the same employer, and even the same telephone number. It’s an old trick. It does appear that the individuals involved were all Permanent Residents of Canada, but had not resided in Canada for the required length of time to qualify for Canadian citizenship.

While the authorities do their job and prosecute scam artists, it opens the door for us to talk about citizenship and how to achieve it properly.

Acquiring citizenship in Canada is quite straightforward. An individual has to establish residence in Canada and be physically present in Canada for 1095 days in the four years immediately preceding an application for Canadian citizenship. In other words, a person can be absent for up to 365 days in the preceding four years. That simple.

Since residence in the Citizenship Act is not defined as “physical presence,” there is a certain amount of flexibility in determining a person’s ability to meet the citizenship criteria. Federal case law has set a qualitative standard which citizenship judges can follow in instances where persons have not been able to acquire the required number of “in country” days. However, these decisions are the exception and not the rule. As long as you remember 1095 days as the benchmark, you’re on the right track.

“Start saving evidence of your time in Canada and have it at the ready.”

Unfortunately, one of the fallouts of the crackdown on fraudulent applications is that people who play by the rules are also suffering. The application process has slowed down to the point where citizenship applications that in the past could be processed in 6 to 8 months are now taking well over a year. More people are being asked to complete Residency Questionnaires to demonstrate that they have in fact lived in Canada. They are asked to show proof of their time in Canada, such as rental receipts, tax returns, references from doctors and dentists, and any other means to show that they have physically been in Canada.

Several years ago, we had the case of a young lady whose citizenship application was challenged by a judge. We examined her case and learned that she had an acute medical condition. This condition resulted in frequent doctor’s visits, including extensive drug therapy. We obtained a summary of her treatment from the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, as well as a printout of all prescriptions that were issued from her pharmacy. The pattern of her residence in Canada became obvious, and her citizenship was granted by the judge.

The lesson of this story is clear: if you are planning to apply for citizenship, start saving evidence of your time in Canada and have it at the ready. The con artists and scammers have made Canada very careful about citizenship applications. The only way to fight back is with paperwork, and lots of it. The more proof you have of your time in the country, the easier it will be to process your application without a hassle.

It should go without saying that if you have not accumulated 1095 days in the four years preceding your application, your application will go under a microscope. Be prepared.

If you have any questions or concerns, leave a comment on the blog or contact us here.

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