Proposed Changes to the Citizenship Act Should Be Rethought

By Andy Semotiuk | March 27, 2014

Toronto immigration lawyer Andy Semotiuk: I was looking at this story, which made the rounds in Metro News and the Toronto Star. It talks about the proposed changes to the Citizenship Act. A taste:

Amin Yazdani, 27, came to Canada from Iran in 2009 to earn a master’s degree in computer science at Simon Fraser University. He became a permanent resident in December 2012 under British Columbia’s Provincial Nominee Program.

He said many foreign students and workers choose to come to Canada on a temporary visa because they are given residence credit of up to one year if they later become permanent residents and apply for citizenship.

Under current law, a permanent resident must live in Canada for three out of four years to be eligible for citizenship. The proposed changes will boost that to four out of six years, and eliminate the credit for time spent in Canada on a temporary visa.

“This change would create a level playing field for all citizenship applicants and demonstrate their permanent commitment to Canada,” said Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokesman Remi Lariviere.

“While it may take someone . . . longer to meet the residence requirement under the new rules, the changes are designed to deepen their attachment to Canada.”

Under the proposed rules, Yazdani said, instead of being eligible to apply for citizenship this coming December, he’d have to wait until December 2016.

The changes to the Citizenship Act ​make it harder for anyone to become a citizen and thus, supposedly, make them better citizens due to the longer wait and the harder criteria involved.

In my view, however, loyalty to Canada is not necessarily won by making immigrants endure extra hardship. What we want is immigrants who come to love Canada and to be faithful citizens because our society gave them a better life and a chance at a better future for themselves and their children.

It is debatable that the four-out-of-six year rule does that. My suggestion would be that at least in spousal sponsorship cases, and with the children of such a marriage, the three-year residence rule should remain. This rule applies in the United States, for example, where it is used as an exception to the five-year permanent residence requirement.

As for the requirement that citizens speak English or French, I do not support that notion. What matters to me is the faithfulness to this country, period. Do they love Canada and do they want what is best for this country? That is all that matters.

Andy Semotiuk is a US and Canadian immigration lawyer with Pace Law Firm.