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A Guide To Canadian Citizenship Requirements And Who Can Apply

Updated: January 13th, 2023

You’ve watched the home channels showcasing Canadian suburbia at its best, drooled at the posts documenting the country’s vibrant foodie culture, and read the reports of all the promising job prospects available in the Great White North over the last few months.

If that’s not a sign that Canada’s calling, we don’t know what is! With the Canadian government’s goal of welcoming 500,000 immigrants per year by 2025, the time has never been better to set off on your journey to becoming a Canuck. So let's explore all the Canadian Citizenship requirements and get you on your way to frolicking amongst the maple leaves, eh!

What is Canadian Citizenship?

Canadian citizenship is a status granted to people born within Canada or who have immigrated to Canada and applied for citizenship. Being a Canadian citizen allows you to truly be a part of the Canadian population. It gives you specific rights, privileges, and responsibilities, such as:

  • the right to vote,
  • the right to live and work in Canada,
  • the right to travel abroad with a Canadian passport,
  • and the duty to obey Canadian laws.

Canadian citizens are also eligible for certain government benefits.

Eligibility Requirements for Canadian Citizenship

Eligibility Requirements for Canadian Citizenship

While being a Canadian citizen comes with many perks, these perks are only open to those deemed eligible for citizenship. To qualify for Canadian citizenship, you must meet the requirements set by the Government of Canada. You have to:

  • Have Canadian permanent resident status
  • Have lived in the country for at least 1095 days out of five years
  • Have taken and passed the Canadian citizenship test
  • Demonstrate proficiency in English and/or French.

It’s important to note that there will be additional Canadian citizenship requirements under the following circumstances:

  • If you apply for someone under the age of 18
  • If you’re a Canadian citizen wanting to apply for citizenship for a child you’re adopting from another country
  • If you are or have been in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and apply via a set fast-track process
  • If you’re a former citizen of Canada and would like to become one again

Permanent Resident Status

Irrespective of how old you are, you’ll have to obtain Canadian permanent residency if you apply to become a citizen of the Great White North. If you haven’t already got your permanent resident status, there are several pathways to Canadian permanent residency. The two most popular permanent residency pathways are the Express Entry System and the Provincial Nominee Programs.

The Express Entry System

The Express Entry system is Canada’s most popular immigration pathway. This is because, under this system, skilled foreign workers and their families can get permanent residence in Canada in as little as six months.

Here’s a full breakdown of the Express Entry system, its eligibility requirements and how to apply.

Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs)

As Canada is a massive country, the different provinces have labour demands and shortages in different industries. To alleviate this, 11 out of Canada’s 13 provinces have specific programs designed to give permanent residency to those nominated by their specific province. Each province has numerous streams within their PNPs.

You can find out more about the PNP system, each province’s programs, eligibility criteria and how to apply here.

If you already have permanent residency, you must have lived in Canada as a permanent resident before you can apply for citizenship.

Time Spent Living In Canada

This refers to time physically spent living in Canada. Try to apply for Canadian citizenship only once you have spent over 1,095 days in the country out of the last five years. This applies to minors as well.

Top Tip

You can track your time outside Canada by keeping a travel log book. This will assist in keeping track of your time spent in the country.

Taxes Filed In Canada

There’s a chance you’ll have to submit your tax returns in Canada for a minimum of three out of five years before applying for Canadian citizenship. Make sure that you find out if you are due to file tax returns, and if you are, make sure you know which income tax package to use, how to submit your tax returns, and when to do it.

You should submit a tax return if you:

  • Are eligible to pay taxes for the 12 months
  • Need a tax refund
  • Require tax breaks or benefits

Learn more about Canada’s tax system here.

Document Requirements for Canadian Citizenship

When you apply for Canadian citizenship, you must provide certain documents to prove your eligibility.

These documents may include proof of:

  • your identity,
  • your residency in Canada,
  • your Canadian income tax filing, and
  • your criminal record or lack thereof.

You may also need to provide additional documents, such as a birth or marriage certificate.

Financial Requirements for Canadian Citizenship

You must also meet specific financial requirements to be eligible for Canadian citizenship. For example, you must have enough money in the bank to support yourself and your family for at least three years. You must also have no outstanding debts to the Canadian government, such as student loan debt.

Here’s a breakdown of required settlement funds and how you can prove you have sufficient funds to your immigration authority.

Language Requirements for Canadian Citizenship

In addition to the other eligibility requirements, you must also meet specific language requirements for Canadian citizenship.

You’ll have to meet the Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) Level four or higher. Being able to do this shows that you can:

  • Communicate effectively when it comes to day-to-day engagement
  • Follow basic instructions, questions as well as directions
  • Communicate using at least a basic level of grammar and construct simple sentences
  • Have a basic vocabulary

You will likely have to pass a Canadian language test to prove this. The two government-approved English tests are the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP).

Each of these tests have its own benefits and drawbacks. Find out more about how these tests work and which on is best for you here.

The Citizenship Test

As with the language tests, you’ll have to take a Canadian citizenship test if you are 18 and older. The test will be conducted in either French or English. It runs for 30 minutes and consists of 20 multiple-choice questions. You’ll have to get 15 of them correct to pass. It will test your knowledge of:

  • Canadian history
  • Canadian geography
  • The economic climate in Canada
  • The government of Canada
  • Canadian regulations and laws
  • Relevant Canadian signs and symbols.

Canadian Citizenship Oath

Once you’ve passed the citizenship test, you’ll need to take the Canadian citizenship oath. This is a legal oath that you must swear to become a citizen of Canada. The oath promises to obey Canadian laws and respect the rights and freedoms of all citizens.

If you want to know more about ensuring you submit your best Canadian citizenship application, here are seven tips to give you your best chance possible.

What Can Stop You From Becoming A Canadian Citizen

What Can Stop You From Getting Canadian Citizenship

Several factors could cause your citizenship application to be rejected, even if you fulfil all the eligibility criteria. Your application could be rejected if you:

  • Are being investigated or are found guilty of immigration, fraud or other criminal offences,
  • Are out on parole, probation, or currently incarcerated,
  • Have at any point been ordered to exit Canada via a removal order,
  • Have not met the requirements for permanent residency, and
  • Have not adhered to the terms and conditions of your permanent residency.

If your application is rejected, this handy guide will help you to determine your next steps. However, if you want to ensure your application won’t be rejected, it’s best to have a certified expert like a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC).

An RCIC can help you ensure you fulfil all eligibility requirements before you apply for Canadian citizenship, set up your online accounts, collect and verify your necessary documents, keep you updated on the status of your application, represent you with certain immigration authorities and provide you with the support and guidance you need along every step of your application process.

How to Apply for Canadian Citizenship

How to Apply for Canadian Citizenship

You can apply for citizenship online or in person if you meet all the eligibility requirements for Canadian citizenship. First, you’ll need to fill out an application form and provide all the necessary documents. Then, once your application has been accepted, you’ll need to take the citizenship test and the Canadian citizenship oath.

Here’s a full breakdown of the Canadian citizenship application process to help show you the pathway to becoming a Canadian citizen.


Do I Need To Be In Possession Of A Valid PR Card To Be Able To Apply For Canadian Citizenship?

You won’t require a valid PR card for your Canadian citizenship application. You are allowed to apply with an expired one.

What If I’ve Committed A Criminal Offense In Another Country?

If you have been found guilty of a crime outside of Canada, it’s possible that you won't qualify for citizenship for a determined amount of time.

What Happens If My Application Is Found To Be Incomplete?

If officials find your application complete, it will be returned to you, along with a letter detailing what is incomplete and how to fix it. The letter could identify any missing paperwork or fees and will inform you whether a new set of paperwork will be required.

What Happens If I Fail My Canada Citizenship Test?

If your attempt at the Canadian citizenship test is unsuccessful, you'll be able to take it again in about four to eight weeks. If this happens a second time round, you could be instructed to attend an interview with a citizenship official.

If I’m A Spouse Of A Canadian Citizen, Does That Mean I’m Also a Citizen?

Being married to a Canadian citizen does not grant you automatic citizenship. You’ll have to meet all the same criteria as everyone else who wishes to apply.

Are the Children And Grandchildren Of Canadian Citizens Also Citizens?

If you have a Canadian parent or grandparent, there’s a good chance you’re also a Canadian citizen. If you were born in another country to one or two parents born in Canada or became a citizen before birth.

Become Canadian

A Guide To Canadian Citizenship Requirements

Your move to apply to become a Canadian citizen is probably the best you’ll ever make. While the application process may be daunting and filled with complicated paperwork, you’ll find that things go smoothly once you know what to expect and have conducted thorough research on all requirements.

Because the application can take over a year to process, you need to make every effort to submit a complete application package. Remember, the effort will be worth it, so put in the work to reap the reward of obtaining Canadian citizenship.

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