Fewer immigrants assuming Canadian citizenship

New figures show that fewer Canadian immigrants have been assuming citizenship in recent years.

A new Statistics Canada study shows that there has been a significant decline in citizenship acquisition among more recent immigrants.

The figures, based on official census data, show that in 1996, 68 per cent of eligible immigrants who had been in Canada for five years were citizens. By 2016, though, this figure had fallen to 43 per cent.

Immigrants with low income, official language proficiency, and education have experienced the sharpest drop in naturalisation.

Statistics Canada’s analysis suggests that citizenship policy changes made by Canada over the past decade have seriously hurt naturalisation rates.

In 2010, Canada introduced new language requirements and a new citizenship exam. Immigrants between the ages of 14 and 64 had to demonstrate a minimum language proficiency and obtain a pass mark of at least 75 per cent on their citizenship exam. In 2017, these requirements were amended to only apply to those aged between 18 and 54.

In addition, the federal government increased the Canadian citizenship application fee from CDN$100 to CDN$300 for adults in February 2014 and then raised it again to CDN$530 in January 2015. The fee for children remained the same at $100. Both adult and child applicants also had to pay an extra CDN$100 ‘right of citizenship fee’.

However, the report also suggests that citizenship numbers among immigrants could start to rise again over the coming years.

Some of the reason for this is down to the fact Canada’s immigration system now pays greater focus to attracting higher skilled immigrants who often possess greater language skills and earn higher salaries. Reducing language test and citizenship exam requirements for only those between the ages of 18 and 54 will likely also improve citizenship rates since older immigrants tend to have weaker English or French skills than younger ones.

What’s more, should the newly re-elected Liberal Government make good on their pre-election promise to waive Canadian citizenship fees entirely, then this could also lead to more immigrants applying to become citizens.

Article published 21st November 2019