At present, close to 350,000 Canadian permanent residents remain on the waiting list to become Canadian citizens. This number has grown significantly since 2007, when 189,886 permanent residents were on this list. The long waitlist that these prospective citizens currently face is now compounded by an increase in the time that it takes Citizenship and Immigration Canada to process citizenship applications, as well as an increase in the number of citizenship applicants. The average wait time has grown from 12 to 15 months in 2008 to a much longer wait of nearly 23 months. Similarly, between 2006 and 2012 Canada has experienced a 30% increase in Citizenship applications.
The government has attributed this increase to a rise in security checks by the U.S. for Canadian permanent residents crossing the border, as well as changes in different countries’ policies regarding dual citizenship. However, immigration lawyers, as well as prospective citizens going through the process affirm that a significant factor in these delays is Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s added steps to the process, which has slowed down the processing of the applications.
During the process, some permanent residents are now being asked to supply additional residence documents, including utility bills and an Ontario government confirmation of when the candidate has used their OHIP card. With these measures, the Canadian government hopes to determine how much time applicants are actually spending in Canada with more accuracy, as well as prevent people who have never actually lived in the country from scaming the system. At present, the government keeps track of people returning to the country but does not have a system to monitor when people leave.
However, the acquisition and government processing of these supporting documents can add up to two extra years to a citizenship application process. In addition, according to Steve McCuaig, national representative for the Canada Employment Immigration Union, the increased scrutiny is not catching any more fraud. Instead, McCuaig says, the process may simply discourage well intentioned future Canadians to undertake the long and complex process. Immigration lawyer Warren Creates shares McCuaig’s concern. According to Warren, through streamlining the overall process and improving immigration exit systems Canada may be more effective at decreasing the wait times for permanent residents wanting to become citizens. “Improving this system would be a better alternative than putting the burden on permanent residents to document their every move,” Warren said.
FWCanada is a Montreal-based Canadian immigration law firm that provides professional legal services on Canada immigration. To find out more updates and tips on Canadian immigration, like FWCanada on Facebook and follow the firm on Twitter.