News East West
TORONTO: A new Canadian Bill introduced on Thursday will make it tougher to get citizenship, but reduce processing time to under a year.
Under Bill C-24 unveiled by Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander to overhaul the old Citizenship Act of 1977, permanent residents will be eligible to apply for citizenship only if they have lived in Canada for at least four of the past six years.
Moreover, they will have to be physically present in Canada at least six months each year for four of the past six years.
Currently, a permanent resident can apply for citizenship if he has lived in Canada for three out of the past four years, without any requirement for being physically present in this country.
Under the new law, applicants for citizenship will also be asked whether they have the “intent to reside’’ in Canada once they get citizenship
All applicants from 14 to 64 years of age will now have to meet language requirements in English or French, and also meet knowledge test in either of the two languages.
Currently, applicants over 54 years of age require no language test and they can meet the knowledge requirement test with the help of an interpreter.
Furthermore, applicants for Canadian citizenship now must file regular tax returns for four of six years.
Currently, permanent residents are not required to file tax returns.
Fees have also gone up. Citizenship applicants will now have to pay a $300 fee for processing costs, as well as $100 as `rights of citizenship’ fee.
Under the new law, the citizenship application process will be cut from three steps to just one step. A citizenship officer will preside over the whole process. Citizenship judges will now only preside over citizenship applications.
The new law allows Canada to revoke citizenship of those convicted of terrorism, spying, treason and involved in `armed conflict’ within in Canada. But it will apply to only those holding dual citizenship.
There will be tougher jail terms and penalties for those indulging in immigration fraud such as misrepresentation of facts, lying and concealing something. While the current law imposes fines of $1,000 and/or a year in prison for such offences, the new law raises the fine to $100,000 and five years in prison.
Under the new law, immigration consultants will become part of a regulatory authority and the so-called “Lost Canadians” who were born before 1947, and their children born in the first generation outside Canada will get citizenship.
Once the new bill is passed, it will become Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act. With all these new steps, the government says it plans to reduce the backlog of 320,000 applications and wait time from 2-3 years to one year by 2015-16.