Canada has the highest rate of naturalization in the world. 85% of eligible permanent residents become Canadian citizens.
After you've immigrated to Canada and been a permanent resident for a bare minimun of four years, and you meet the language and residence requirements, you can apply to become a Canadian citizen.
As a Canadian citizen, you're entitled to:
- Carry a Canadian passport
- Receive Canadian government healthcare
- Live outside of Canada indefinitely, with the ability to return to Canada at any time
- Never be deported from Canada
- Pass on Canadian citizenship to your children
- Work for the federal government
- Vote in Canadian elections
- Run for political office in Canada
Canadian citizenship cost and processing time
The processing time for Canadian citizenship applications has been around 24 months since 2011. This means that 80% of routine applications are processed within this time. However, with upcoming changes to the citizenship application process, the application processing time is expected to reduce to around 6 - 12 months.
Documents to become a Canadian citizen
When you apply to become a Canadian citizen, you have to provide photocopies of certain documents with your application:
- ID page of all passports you have used in the past 4 years (you can even provide copies of all pages in the passports, but it is only mandatory to provide the ID page)
- valid or expired permanent resident card, if you have one
- IMM1000 Record of Landing document
- two provincial IDs such as driver's license or health card (one must have a photo)
- for minors, proof that at least one parent is a Canadian citizen
- for minors, copy of the applicant's long-form birth certificate
If you are missing either your PR card or your IMM1000 document, you can still apply for citizenship as long as you have one of them. But, you have to include a letter explaining why you do not have the document.
Canadian Citizenship Application Photo Requirements
Applicants for replacement of a Canadian citizenship card must provide two photos with their application that meet these requirements:
- photos must be identical
- printed on photo paper - matte or glossy
- the name and address of the photography studio where the pictures were taken must be on the back of the photo
- the date the photo was taken should be written on the back of the photo
- the name of the applicant should be written on the back of the photo
- taken within 6 months
- clear and taken against a white or light coloured background
- must not be altered digitally (photoshopped)
- facing the camera with neutral expression (no smiling) with both eyes open and clearly visible
- eyes cannot be obscured in any way, including by hair or frames of glasses
- photo size: 35x45mm
- head size in photo: 31 - 36mm from chin to top of hair
Canadian citizenship residence requirement
To apply for Canadian citizenship, an applicant must have been physically present in Canada for at least 1460 days out of the last 6 years. In each of the four years prior to applying, the applicant must have been physically present for at least 183 days per year.
Additionally, all applicants must have filed income tax returns and complied with all requirements thereof for 4 years out of the 6 prior to applying.
The residence requirement for Canadian citizenship does not apply to minors under age 18.
As of June 11, 2015 there is also an "Intent to Reside" requirement. To learn about this and all other new requirements, you can read this summary.
Canadian citizenship residence questionnaire
If CIC determines that there may be doubt whether you have met the residence requirement for Canadian citizenship, they may give you a Residence Questionnaire. In the RQ, the applicant is expected to provide evidence that they have met the residence requirement by proving that they have been physically present in Canada for four out of the past six years.
If you receive an RQ, this is now part of your application for Canadian citizenship and the application will not be finished until you submit the RQ. If you do not submit the Residence Questionnaire, your application for Canadian citizenship will be abandoned. Receiving an RQ will add a minimum of 6 months of processing time to your citizenship application.
There are lots of reasons that CIC determines to send out an RQ in conjunction with a citizenship application, including:
- frequent travel outside Canada
- holding multiple passports
- you've applied for Canadian citizenship before and been refused on residency grounds
- your employer or business is located outside Canada
- frequent periods of unemployment
- your citizenship application looks like it was completed outside Canada (photos taken outside Canada, printed on A4 paper, etc)
When you respond to the residence questionnaire, you have to provide evidence that you have been in Canada, including:
- bank statements
- mortgage/lease documents
- insurance documents
- copies of your full passport
- membership cards
- tax and income documents
For more information about the RQ, see our Residence Questionnaire page, and our article, Reasons You May Receive a Residence Questionnaire.
Canadian Citizenship Language Requirement
As of October 2012, CIC has required that applicants for Canadian citizenship demonstrate that they can speak English or French proficiently enough to function in Canadian society.
All applications for adults ages 18 - 64 must include proof that the applicant has command of either official language. This proof can be in the form of
- a high school diploma from inside Canada
- a high school diploma from outside Canada with proof that the classes were in English or French
- a college or university degree from inside Canada
- a college or university degree from outside Canada with proof that the classes were in English or French
- official test results from a CIC-approved testing body showing a minimum proficiency in either language
For more information about the language requirement, see our article Canadian Citizenship Language Requirement.
The second part of the language requirement is an oral exam. After the applicant finishes the citizenship test, they will speak to a CIC examiner who will determine if they have a strong enough command of English or French to become a Canadian citizen. The examiner will ask simple questions of the applicant such as,
- "Where do you work?"
- "What do you do at your job?"
- "What did you do at your previous job?"
- "What neighborhood do you live in?"
- "What floor is your apartment on?"
- "What do you like about living in Canada?"
The requirements have been updated to make exceptions who may not be able to complete language tests. To learn about these exceptions, see this summary.
Canadian Citizenship Test
Applicants for Canadian citizenship who are 14 to 54 years old must all take a test to demonstrate that they have knowledge of Canadian culture, laws, and government. The citizenship test is multiple choice with 20 questions, and you have to answer 15 our of 20 questions correctly.
All of the questions on the citizenship test are based on the study booklet called Discover Canada, which is mailed to applicants for Canadian citizenship when their application is received by CIC. You can download a copy of the Canadian citizenship study booklet here:
You will be told if you have passed or failed the citizenship test immediately after you turn in your answer sheet. If you failed the test, you will be scheduled to retake the test within the next six months. If you pass the test, you will be scheduled to take the oath of citizenship within the next few months. If you fail the test again, you will be scheduled to meet with a citizenship judge who will determine if you should receive Canadian citizenship at this time. It currently takes around two years to get a meeting with a citizenship judge.
An example of the kind of questions that are on the Canadian citizenship test is:
- What is the meaning of the Remembrance Day poppy?
a) To remember our Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II
b) To celebrate Confederation
c) To honour prime ministers who have died
d) To remember the sacrifice of Canadians who have served or died in wars up to the present day
Other information that the questions on the citizenship test discuss includes
- the founding peoples of Canada
- the documents that guarantee our rights and freedoms
- the rights that Canadians enjoy
- the meaning of responsible government
- the contributions of key people in Canadian history
- the current government leaders including the Prime Minister and your Member of Parliament
- the major political parties and their current leaders
Canadian citizenship application process
All applications for Canadian citizenship are submitted to the CIC office in Sydney, NS. After your application is checked to make sure it is complete for processing, it is then forwareded to the CIC office closest to where you live. From here, background checks are conducted on the applicant. Then, the applicant is scheduled for their Canadian citizenship test at this local office, unless they are exempt from the test due to age or medical reasons. Finally, the applicant is scheduled to take the oath of Canadian citizenship at this local CIC office.
Taking the oath of Canadian citizenship
When your Canadian citizenship application has been approved, you are then scheduled to take the oath of Canadian citizenship at your local CIC office. Most offices have three or four citizenship ceremonies per day. Before the ceremony, you have to relinquish your PR card if you have one to CIC staff and show them your IMM1000 Record of Landing, because you cannot hold a PR card when you are a Canadian citizen. However, you do keep your Record of Landing as proof of when you first immigrated to Canada.
Each applicant is allowed to have one family member or friend watch them take the oath. If there is room, additional guests will be allowed to watch the ceremony.
During the ceremony, each applicant must recite the oath of Canadian citizenship in both English and French, repeating each phrase after the citizenship judge or CIC official. Then, everyone sings the Canadian national anthem, O Canada, together. Finally, each applicant is called individually to the front of the room to receive their Canadian citizenship certificate from the judge. When the applicant has received his or her certificate, they then sign a declaration stating that they have not received Canadian citizenship under false pretenses by lying on their application (misrepresentation), and that they are not currently under any criminal charges or convictions which would prevent them from becoming a Canadian citizen.
Canadian citizenship application for minors
When an application is filed for a child to become a Canadian citizen, several additional requirements must be met.
One of the child's parents must be a Canadian citizen at the time the application is filed, or must also be applying for Canadian citizenship at the same time. This is to prevent a child from becoming a Canadian citizen while neither of their parents is. If one of the child's parents is a Canadian citizen already, a copy of the front and back of this parent's Canadian citizenship certificate should be included with the application.
A copy of the child's long-form birth certificate should also be included which shows the parents' names.
School records for the past four years for the applicant also have to be included with the application.
A child under 14 years old also does not need to take the oath of Canadian citizenship, meet the language requirement, or take the Canadian citizenship test.
Finally, a minor applicant does not need to meet the residence requirement of living four out of the past six years in Canada - they are exempt from this rule.
Canadian Citizenship Test Study Booklet
Examples of Canadian Citizenship Documents
Old Style Canadian Citizenship Card with photo
New Style Canadian Citizenship Certificate 2012 with barcode
New Style Canadian Citizenship Certificate 2013 with barcode