It is getting harder to become a Canadian citizen. Besides the new requirement of demonstrating language proficiency in either English or French (preventing many permanent residents from even attempting to obtain citizenship), it is taking a lot longer to actually obtain citizenship. The government has recently focused its resources on conducting fraud investigations to identify individuals who obtained, or are trying to obtain, citizenship without having resided in Canada for three out of the past four years as required. The result is that citizenship officials are referring many new citizenship applications for further investigation causing processing times to rise dramatically. In some cases, an application can now take five or six years to process!
How can a lawyer help you? While a lawyer will not be able to help you meet the residency requirement, a lawyer may be able to help speed up the processing of your citizenship application. A lawyer can anticipate the questions that will arise with respect to your residency and can identify the documents that you should include with your application. This will allow you to submit a complete application the first time which will hopefully prevent the need for further investigation of your application.
You might be thinking: “I have been in Canada for three years out of the past four years so the increased processing times for fraud investigations will not affect my application.” The reality, however, is that as many as 65 to 70% of new citizenship applications are being referred for further investigation. Further investigation = increased processing times regardless of whether or not you are actually attempting to commit fraud. It does not seem to matter whether you just barely met the residency requirement or you have been in Canada for well over the three years. Any slight discrepancy may lead to further investigation. A lawyer will be able to assess your application from the viewpoint of a citizenship official and can identify these discrepancies before you submit your application.
There are numerous benefits to obtaining Canadian citizenship. The main benefit being that it secures your status in Canada. Once you are a citizen, then, except in exceptional circumstances (i.e. you obtained citizenship by fraud), your citizenship cannot be taken away from you. This is why permanent residents should apply for Canadian citizenship as soon as they are eligible. Furthermore, as a citizen, you are entitled to vote and you can move freely in and out of the country without having to worry about the residency requirement for permanent residents.
*Thank you to my fellow listserve members for some of the information contained above.