James Metcalfe - Director of ImmigrationJim Metcalfe – Pace Immigration: Over the past few weeks, we have received several inquiries from individuals outside of Canada who have lived in Canada as permanent residents, filed for Canadian citizenship, and then left Canada while waiting for citizenship to come through. Many are now complaining to us that they have been waiting for as long as 6 years and have had no decision on their citizenship application.

Most of these applicants follow a typical pattern. They live in Canada as permanent residents for the mandatory amount of time (1,460 days out of the past 6 years), file for citizenship, and then pack their bags and go…home.

Where’s Home?

One of the provisions of the current Citizenship Act is to have an intention to live in Canada. This is something that will disappear in the new Citizenship Act, due to come into force sometime this year, along with a reduction in qualifying time to 1,095 days in the preceding 5 years.

Dropping the “intention” to live in Canada is no small matter. In the past few years, Citizenship Canada has been more diligent in assessing applications and using them as evidence to help prove immigration fraud. Canadian authorities access the entry records of applicants (with their permission) when they enter Canada, and their cards are swiped at ports of entry. This tells authorities how long someone has been away. Authorities can also examine a foreign passport’s entry stamps and use these to calculate how long a person has been absent from Canada. Oops! Before a person knows it, their “intention” to live in Canada is cast into serious doubt, and if their math is a little off, they might be burned on the number of days out of the country.

Keep Track Of Your Numbers

Our observation is that problematic cases are normally referred for an examination. This then leads to a request for an interview with a citizenship judge. When applicants are invited to such an interview, it’s usually on short notice. If they don’t show up, their files are put under investigation. In most cases, the applicant is living outside of Canada, and in some instances their permanent resident (PR) card has expired. A successful citizenship application is a long shot at that point.

Where does all of this lead us? While the new Act will lessen the time required to gain citizenship, and not demand an intention to live in the country, I believe a consequence of this will be an increase in applications. Many people will find a shorter citizenship requirement too tempting to pass up. This will slow down the overall process. The government’s due diligence will increase and more people will get caught in a lie.

Serious Business

My advice is to keep track of all your entries and exits from and to Canada. If you do not have the days of residence required, hold off on applying until you do. After applying, do not pack your bags and leave, particularly if your PR card will be expiring.

If you decide to ignore this advice and think that the government will give you a break because you’ve been an otherwise great person, think again. Here is a recent story about a man who let his PR card expire but thought he could hop a flight to Canada without fuss:

However when the couple tried to return home Feb. 6, Thomas was told there was no way he was getting on the Air Canada cross-border flight.

“They just kind of flat out refused. Said, ‘Nope, we can’t let you on the plane. The only way you’re going to get into Canada is if you drive across or walk across,'” said Thomas.

“I really thought they were kind of pulling my leg at first. I had a bag full of documentation there ready to dump on the table.”

He had a copy of his permanent residency application, his expired permanent resident card, two years worth of income tax documents, his driver’s licence and his British passport.

“I wasn’t anticipating walking into the country,” he said.

But that is what Thomas had to do.

In today’s political climate, immigration and citizenship is serious business. Treat it as such.