There has been a decline in the number of Canadian citizenships granted over the last few years, from 176,572 in 2008 to 113,142 in 2012, according to a report by University of Ottawa sociology professor Elke Winter. Meanwhile, during the same period, the number of citizenship applications received grew from 242,400 to 317,440. The numbers would indicate that the process is getting longer and harder.
One of the difficulties is that there is a more demanding citizenship test as well as stricter language requirements. This has led to a backlog and lengthened the processing times. It is currently taking over two years to process routine Canadian citizenship applications and three years for cases where applicants are required to fill out a residence questionnaire to prove their physical presence in Canada.
Despite these rigid measures, more than 75 per cent of Canadian permanent residents are eventually granted citizenship.
Naturally the citizen examination process contributes significantly to this backlog. To remedy this, CIC issued a statement on 16 January 2014 outlining their policy regarding re-testing applicants who fail the written knowledge test. CIC has indicated that there will be three options available to the Applicant: Re-test; Withdraw; or Split their file.
Following all test sessions, CIC staff will communicate to the applicant the results of their test. The staff will provide the applicant with the actual test score, which will allow the applicant to gauge their performance, consider the option to withdraw their citizenship application or to retest. If the applicant fails on their first time, then they may re-write the citizenship test after 4 to 8 weeks. Applicants are only given one opportunity to re-write, and if they fail the test a second time they will be scheduled for an oral interview with a citizenship judge. These wait times are very long.
If there is more than one applicant on the file, and one of them passes, then CIC will split the file to allow the successful family members to proceed through the rest of the process immediately, rather than waiting for the hearing of other family member(s) to be completed.
If the Applicant is 55 years of age or above, the application can be removed from the hearing inventory and be referred to the judge for a paper review and decision if there are no other concerns with the file.
CIC has implemented this “triage” process in order to expedite the hearing process; and since the pathway to citizenship is well over two years, we can only hope that the measures are effective.