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Archived - Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act

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Citizenship Improvements Now In Force

Important changes to strengthen Canadian citizenship and speed up application processing come into force August 1, 2014. The provisions were included in Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, which became Canadian law on June 19, 2014.

It is expected that in 2015/16, these changes will bring the processing time for citizenship applications down to less than a year and that the current backlog will be reduced by more than 80 percent.

The various amendments to the Citizenship Act resulting from the passage of Bill C-24 are coming into force in a staggered timeline. Some provisions came into force immediately upon Bill C-24 receiving Royal Assent; others will come into force at a date to be determined by Governor in Council (GIC).

The reforms that took effect on August 1, 2014 include:

New decision-making model

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has significantly improved its ability to process applications by increasing its decision making capacity from approximately 30 citizenship judges to more than 450 decision makers.

Under the new decision-making model - a one-step process as opposed to the former three-step one - citizenship officers now decide all aspects of most citizenship applications. Under the old model, obtaining citizenship involved too much duplication of work. Citizenship officers reviewed the files and prepared them for a citizenship judge, who approved or rejected the application, returned it to the officer, who then granted citizenship on behalf of the Minister or recommended an appeal of the judge’s decision.

On a transitional basis, cases where the officer believes the applicant does not meet the residence requirement will be referred to citizenship judges for decision. Citizenship judges will also remain responsible for the important role of presiding over citizenship ceremonies and administering the oath of citizenship, which is the final step before citizenship is granted.

Complete applications

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) now also has stronger authority to define what constitutes a complete application and what evidence applicants must provide. The strengthened ability to require up-front proof that certain requirements are met and to return incomplete applications will significantly improve efficiency and ensure resources are focused on complete applications.

The ability to put a file on hold if there is an ongoing immigration investigation and to declare a file abandoned if an applicant fails to comply with a request for information or attend an interview will result in further efficiency improvements.

Judicial review and appeal process

The amendments introduce a uniform system for judicial review of decisions made under the Citizenship Act. Until now, an appeal of a citizenship judge’s decision would go to the Federal Court but no higher. Now, decisions by citizenship officers, who have new authority to decide certain cases under the Act, can be judicially reviewed and challenged in a higher court.

Under the Citizenship Act, judicial review of citizenship decisions is subject to leave of the Federal Court. The Federal Court decision can then be appealed to the Federal Court of Appeal, where the Federal Court certifies a serious question of general importance. Further appeals are available to the Supreme Court of Canada with leave.

Authority to abandon a citizenship application

The changes provide clear authority to determine that an application has been abandoned if the applicant fails to comply with a request for information or to attend an interview. The abandonment power applies to all applications, at any stage after processing has begun, up until the oath is taken. Under the old system, the Actdid not provide the explicit authority to declare an application abandoned in situations where an applicant failed to appear for the citizenship test or an appointment with an officer. These changes increase processing efficiency and support ongoing efforts to modernize citizenship processing. Previously, keeping abandoned applications open created unnecessary processing delays for active applications.

Other provisions already in force

Provisions from Bill C-24 that came into force on June 19, 2014 (immediately upon Royal Assent) include: fast tracking citizenship applications for members of the Canadian Armed Forces; improving clarity on the First Generation Limit on citizenship for those born abroad; enabling children born abroad to serving Crown servants to pass on citizenship to their children born or adopted abroad; and streamlined decision making for issuing Discretionary Grants under section (5)(4).

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