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February 9, 2012

Citizenship and Immigration Canada rolls out new Citizenship Certificate.

by Sofia Mirza

Citizenship law in Canada has gone through some significant changes over the last 65 years. As of January 1, 1947, Canadian citizenship laws allowed for Canadian citizenship status to be conferred on individuals who were sufficiently connected with Canada at the time as British subjects. On February 15, 1977, Canadian federal laws were amended to permit those who were granted Canadian citizenship the right to hold multiple citizenships at the same time. Prior to this date, Canadians who obtained citizenship of another country were at risk of losing their Canadian citizenship. However, further significant amendments to Canadian citizenship laws which took effect on April 17, 2009 (Bill C-37), restored the lost citizenship of many Canadians. “Evidence” of Canadian citizenship is also undergoing change.

According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (“CIC”), approximately 170,000 people become new citizens of Canada every year. The application process typically takes about 18 months and involves, among other things, passing a citizenship test and attending a citizenship ceremony where the applicant takes the “oath of citizenship” and receives a Canadian “citizenship certificate.” The citizenship certificate may be used to apply for a Canadian passport. This certificate is an official legal status document which means it provides a Canadian with evidence that he or she is legally entitled to reside in Canada with the status of “citizen.” It was not intended to be used by Canadians as an identity or travel document.

After the final step in the citizenship process was taken, many new Canadians would head straight over to a passport office and use their shiny new citizenship certificate to apply for a Canadian passport that same day. As of February 1, 2012, new citizens will now need to wait at least two business days after their citizenship ceremony before applying for passport services, as a new Canadian Citizenship Certificate will be rolled out throughout the month of February 2012. The new certificate will be printed on 8.5 x 11 inch paper and will no longer include the citizen’s picture. It will hold data elements, including the citizen’s name, effective date of citizenship, a certificate number, the Minister’s signature, barcodes and other information about its holder. CIC stopped producing the wallet-sized version of the certificate on February 1, 2012.

Why is CIC rolling out a new Citizenship Certificate? The CIC offered two main reasons. The first is to ensure that the new citizenship certificate is actually used only as an official status document and not as an identification or travel document. The second is increased security. CIC states that communicating citizenship status electronically, helps prevent fraud and makes it more difficult for the new certificate to be altered or counterfeited.

According to CIC: “Recipients of the new certificate will have to wait a minimum of two business days after their citizenship ceremony before they can use their new document to apply for services such as a passport. This is because after the certificate is issued, CIC officers need time to enter information about the certificate’s holder into the Global Case Management System…” This way other government departments can verify citizenship information directly with CIC. CIC’s hope is that the new certificate will reduce the possibility of fake Canadian citizenship certificates and citizenship fraud.

Canadians with the old, wallet-sized citizenship certificate may still use it as a status document to assist with such services as applying for a Canadian passport (i.e. the old card remains valid). It will also continue to remain invalid for travel purposes.

If you have any questions or comments, contact Sofia Mirza, immigration lawyer at smirza@fillmoreriley.com.

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