International students can soon expect a faster route to Canadian citizenship now that Bill C-6, an act to amend the Citizenship Act, has passed into law. By fall 2017, it is expected that international graduates who become permanent residents will be able to count a portion of their time studying in Canada towards their citizenship residency requirement.
Each day spent in Canada as an international student or worker can count as a half-day, up to a maximum of 365 possible days. In addition, the residency requirement in order to be eligible for citizenship has also been reduced from four years to three years. Combined with the possibility of counting half days, this means that international graduates may be eligible to apply for citizenship as soon as two years after they obtain Canadian permanent resident status.
C-6 became law when it received Royal Assent on June 19, 2017.
The residency requirement of three years is a further improvement to the eligibility requirements for citizenship. Starting in the fall, applicants will only need to be present in Canada for three out of five years — a change from the previous requirement of four out of six years — in order to be eligible to apply. Moreover, another liberal measure means that the previous requirement whereby applicants had to be physically present in Canada for 183 days in four out of the six years preceding their application has been repealed.
The bill represents many of the decisions made by the present government to revert measures taken by the Conservative government in 2014. A previous bill had increased the residency requirement, and eliminated the counting of half-days; this new legislation largely reverses these previous changes.
The following hypothetical scenarios outline the effect of this change for two international graduates.
Raj moved to Canada on a study permit to complete a four-year Bachelor’s degree in the field of Commerce and Communication. Each summer, he left Canada to visit family in his home country of India for three months, and only returned to start school again in the fall. After the completion of his Bachelor’s degree, Raj will be at an advantageous position — despite returning home each summer, he will still have enough days in Canada as an international student to claim the full 365 days towards his residency requirement. After he becomes a permanent resident, he will still need to accumulate two more years of residence in Canada before being eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship.
Lena completed a one-year post-graduate diploma in Architecture, and obtained a one year Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP). When she became eligible, she applied for, and obtained, permanent resident status. She will be able to count the days she spent in Canada as an international student, and the days she spent working in Canada on her PGWP, as half-days towards her citizenship residency requirement.
International students and the Express Entry pool
The upcoming changes to the Citizenship Act, coupled with recent improvements to the Express Entry system, all point to the government’s efforts at retaining international students in Canada after graduation. In November 2016, additional points were introduced for candidates in the Express Entry pool with a Canadian education credential. In the two draws following the changes (excluding the November 30 draw, which invited only those candidates with a provincial nomination certificate), 40 percent of candidates who received an Invitation to Apply (ITA) claimed points for a Canadian education credential.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)’s 2016 year-end report states, ‘Former international students are a key source of candidates in Express Entry because of their age, education, skills and experience. In addition to the time already spent in Canada, integrating into Canadian society permanently will be easier because they will have established social networks and they will have familiarized themselves with life in Canada.’
With Canada seeing a 92 percent increase in international students between 2008 and 2015, there is a bigger pool than ever before of potential new Canadians who have already settled in their communities.
Learn more about immigration options after graduation for international students in Canada.
Implications of upcoming fall/autumn 2017 changes
Canada’s Immigration Minister, Ahmed Hussen, stated, “Canada’s identity has always been shaped by the significant economic, cultural and social contributions of immigrants. Changes to the Citizenship Act will enhance program integrity, while giving more flexibility to eligible applicants to meet the requirements for citizenship so that they can continue building successful lives in Canada.” In this sense, international students who have spent years integrating to Canadian society as students, and often workers, can further contribute as future citizens of the country.
Despite the fact that this change will only take into effect in the fall, it is important for international students studying in Canada, or who have studied in Canada, to take another look at their calendars and consider making plans on whether or not Canada is an option in the long run.
To find out when you may be eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship, use our Canadian Citizenship Calculator today.
International students and post-graduate workers in Canada can join the CanadaVisa Study Hub for a chance to win a $500 scholarship. Members also get access to exclusive notifications, tools and resources to help maximize their time in Canada and pursue a pathway to permanent residence.
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