A long-awaited law that helps international students become Canadian citizens finally passed Parliament this week.
Bill C-6, also known as the Act to Amend the Citizenship Act, shortens the residency requirements to become a Canadian citizen and changes the way residency is calculated and defined. Under the new law, you must live in Canada for three of the last five years. The old law required that you live in Canada for four of the previous six years.
The big change for students is that you can now include time spent studying in Canada toward the residency requirement. Temporary residents, including people with a study permit or temporary work permit, get one day of credit for every two days that they were in Canada. So, a student who spends two years in Canada doing a master’s degree will earn one year of credit toward the citizenship requirement. You can get a maximum of one year of residency credit for your time as a student, and you must be a permanent resident before you can apply for citizenship.
The new law still couples residency with filing taxes. You can only claim residency in Canada for years that you filed taxes in Canada.
The new law abolishes the requirement that you intend to live in Canada after becoming a citizen, and it no longer allows the government to withdraw citizenship from people who are convicted of terrorism. The new law still allows the government to take away citizenship if you lied to immigration authorities.
The law has passed both the House of Commons and the Senate and will take effect when it receives royal assent. That is expected to happen soon.
Update: The law received royal assent on June 19, 2017. Changes allowing study time to be included in residency calculations will take effect in the fall of 2017.