Immigrants to Canada seeking to make the country their second home have to spend more time and should master one official language before becoming legitimate Canadian citizens, based on a set of new stricter rules proposed by Immigration Minister Chris Alexander on Thursday.
The revisions to the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act would now require immigrants, from a previous three years, to spend four out of six years in Canada before applying for citizenship to become a permanent resident.
"Citizenship is not a right. It's a privilege," Mr Alexander said.
"Those four years are a demonstration of one's commitment to reside here and to participate as a citizen," he pointed out.
John McCallum, immigration critic, agreed with the requirement on longer residency. "I do agree with the principle that when a person becomes a citizen of Canada, that person should be a real citizen and not a citizen of convenience," Mr McCallum said.
Among the proposed new rules:
- Permanent residents must be physically present in Canada for 183 days each year in the four of those six years.
- They need to sign a formal "intent to reside" in the country.
- Citizenship applicants aged 14 to 64 must meet language requirements and pass a knowledge test. Currently, the age range for those requirements is between 18 to 54.
- Fines for bogus citizenship applications will be increased to a $100,000 fine and/or five years in jail.
- Permanent residents who are members of the Canadian Armed Forces will have a fast track to citizenship.
Part of the proposed new rules likewise called for the revocation of citizenship from dual nationals convicted of terrorism, high treason or spying. Citizenships of individuals who joined groups engaged in armed conflict with Canadian troops abroad will likewise be retracted.