Credits: David Lucas/QMI AGENCY
OTTAWA — Hundreds of thousands of people come to Canada as immigrants every year, but fewer are actually becoming citizens.
Internal Citizenship and Immigration documents obtained through an access to information request show only 2.9% of immigrants who gained permanent residency in Canada in 2008 had actually become citizens by the time they were generally eligible to apply in 2012.
That’s a massive drop from 2005, when 76% of those who’d arrived in Canada four years earlier had become citizens.
Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said the steady decline is partly because new permanent residency cards and rules introduced in 2002 require immigrants to prove their physical presence in Canada in order to retain permanent residency.
“It’s a combination of that new rule and teeth, technological teeth — all of the border security, the border surveillance, the airplane information sharing,” said Kurland. “So now it’s very easy for governments to track permanent residence.”
In short, Kurland said immigrants “can no longer lie” about being in Canada for at least three of the last four years before applying for citizenship or renewing permanent residency status.
So, some immigrants end up losing permanent residency.
“That eliminates a chunk of medicare fraud because you’re not going to get medicare unless you’ve got that (permanent residency) card,” said Kurland.
He also said not everyone applies for citizenship as soon as they’re eligible. Plus, recent years have seen long delays in processing citizenship applications.
The wait time for a new citizenship application is almost two years.