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In what the Canadian government is billing as the biggest “overhaul” of the Canadian Citizen Act since 1977, Bill C-24 proposes some major changes to the current Canadian immigration process. This new bill takes aims to strengthen the value of the Canadian citizenship.
In an effort to underline the government’s ner position on immigration, citizenship bill C-24 takes steps towards ensuring that new Canadian citizens are fully prepared for life in Canada and demonstrate a genuine attachment to the country.
The bill provides a clearer definition of “resident” with stricter guidelines concerning the period of time necessary to qualify for citizenship. Under the old rules, applicants had to live in Canada for three out of the four past years. The new rules allow them to apply after four years of residency in a six-year period, and they must be physically in the country for at least half the time in four of those years. In addition, applicants must file Canadian Income Tax while waiting to apply for citizenship.
“The government’s changes to the Citizenship Act reinforce the message that Canadian citizenship is valued around the globe and comes with duties and rights, privileges and responsibilities.” Chris Alexander, Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister, says of the proposed changes.
Bill C-24 is seen as an improvement to the Citizenship Act that ensures new Canadians have a stronger attachment to Canada and fully embrace Canadian values and traditions. Adults applying for citizenship will have to pay $300 in application fees, which is up from $100 under the current Citizenship Act.
More significantly, language requirements will also get more stringent with applicants having to pass a knowledge test. Prior to bill C-24 applicants aged 18-54 had to speak either English or French, were required to take a knowledge test and could use the aid of a translator, if needed. Under the new legislation, the age range would change to include persons as young as 14 and would no longer allow for the use of a translator.
Those opposed to the bill claim that the proposed changes move away from Canada’s long standing “mosaic” approach to immigration. In addition, the bill attempts to narrow down a more definitive idea of what it means to be Canadian, effectively ending any notions of an “open door policy”.
Other changes would allow permanent residents serving with the Canadian Forces to have their applications fast-tracked. In addition, the fines for immigration fraud will also be raised considerably going from $1000 to $100,000 with the maximum prison sentence moving from one year to five.
The bill has already gone through two readings in the House of Commons Once and is on the fast-track to being passed by the Conservative Party. Once the bill has been passed, the measures will go into effect.