A permanent resident of Canada can apply for Canadian citizenship once they have physically lived in Canada for at least 1,095 days (three years), within the five year period preceding the date of their application.
Becoming a Canadian citizen gives additional rights and benefits, such as the right to vote and the right to hold public office. In addition, it also allows a foreign national to eliminate having to maintain the residency requirements that are associated with permanent residence status.
To be eligible for Canadian citizenship, a foreign national must demonstrate that they:
- Are a permanent resident of Canada;
- Have physically resided in Canada for at least three years in the five years preceding the date of the application for citizenship;
- Have filed Canadian income taxes for three years within the five year period;
- Can speak and understand English or French at an adequate level (CLB level 4);
- Have a good understanding of Canada’s history, culture, values, and the rights, responsibilities and privileges of citizenship; and
- Are not criminally inadmissible.
Only those between the ages of 18 and 54 (inclusive) are required to demonstrate their language abilities and are required to take the knowledge test.
Information Considered by Immigration Canada
In determining if a permanent resident of Canada meets the requirements to become a Canadian citizen, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (Immigration Canada) will collect information regarding their:
- Travels outside Canada, including history of entries into Canada;
- Activities (employment and studies);
- Address history;
- Language skills; and
- Income tax information and filing history.
When applying, a foreign national must demonstrate that they have physically resided in Canada for at least three years in the five years preceding the date of application for Canadian citizenship. A foreign national who resided in Canada during the five years as a temporary resident or protected person may be able to use that time towards the calculation of their physical presence in Canada. Each day that a foreign national spent in Canada as a temporary resident (on a work permit, study permit, visitor record or temporary resident permit) or as a protected person before they became a permanent resident of Canada within the five years preceding the date of application for citizenship, will count as a half day, up to a maximum of one year.
For example, if a foreign national spent two years as a foreign worker in the five years preceding the date of application for citizenship, they could potentially count one year towards the physical presence requirement. They would then only need to demonstrate an additional two years of physical presence in Canada as a permanent resident.
Exceptions to the Physical Residency Requirements
There are very few exceptions to the physical residency requirement for Canadian citizenship. The only exceptions apply to those who can demonstrate:
- They are permanent residents employed with the Canadian Armed Forces, federal public administration or with the public service or province or territory; or
- They are a permanent resident living outside Canada as their Canadian or permanent resident spouse or common-law partner is employed with the Canadian Armed Forces, federal public administration or with the public service or province or territory.
Once a foreign national has applied for Canadian citizenship, it is still important that they ensure that they maintain their permanent residence status, and continue to meet all associated obligations and requirements.