Canadian citizenship: What it takes

More than 170,000 people take their oath of citizenship every year. It can take five years or longer for a prospective immigrant to gain citizenship.
Eleven-year-old Negar Fakhraee, of Iran, takes the oath to become a Canadian citizen during a citizenship ceremony in Vancouver on July 13, 2009. Thirty-two new Canadians from 13 countries took the oath of citizenship during the ceremony. ((Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press))
Every year, more than 250,000 people immigrate of Canada - and every year, about 170,000 people take the oath of citizenship.

The process can take five years or more, from the day an immigrant first steps onto Canadian soil.

Who is eligible to become a Canadian citizen?

The 2006 census listed 6,186,950 people as being born outside of Canada. Here are the top 10 countries of origin:

Country Immigrants
U.K. 579,620
China 466,940 
India 443,690 
Philippines 303,195 
Italy 296,850 
U.S. 250,535 
Hong Kong 215,430 
Germany 171,405
Poland 170,490 
Viet Nam  160,170

Source: Statistics Canada

Applicants must:

  • Be at least 18 years old (or a child's guardian, parent or adoptive parent may apply on his/her behalf).
  • Have permanent resident status and not be involved in an immigration investigation, inquiry or removal order.
  • Have lived in the country for at least three years (1,095 days) over the past four years. Children are exempted from this requirement.
  • Have knowledge of either French or English.
  • Must have a clean record. Applicants cannot be in prison, parole or probation; have been convicted of an indictable offence, or be under investigation for or convicted of a war crime or crime against humanity.
  • Must understand the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and have an understanding of Canadian history, society and symbols.

How long does it take to process a claim for citizenship?

Routine applications normally take 15 to 19 months to process.

However, any number of factors could delay approval, such as if the person submits an incomplete application or misses a citizenship test, hearing or ceremony.

Top 10 countries of origin for immigrants who arrived between 2001 and 2006

Country Immigrants
China  155,105 
India  129,140 
Philippines  77,880 
Pakistan  57,630
U.S.  38,770 
South Korea  35,450 
Iran  27,600 
Romania  28,080 
U.K.  25,655 
Colombia  25,305




Applicants may be asked to submit fingerprints in order toverify their identities and confirm that they do not have any criminal charges or convictions that could affect their applications.

Delays can also occur if authorities request further information to confirm that applicant have an acceptable understanding of French or English, meet residency requirements and aren't subject to any immigration, criminal or security prohibitions.

Which family members can accompany someone who immigrates to Canada?

A person who becomes a permanent resident can move to Canada with his/her:

  • Spouse or common-law partner.
  • Dependent child, or that of a spouse or common-law spouse.
  • The dependent child of a dependent child.

Parents, grandparents or other family members are not eligible. But an immigrant can later apply to sponsor them to come to Canada.

Is it necessary to hire a lawyer to navigate through the immigration process?

No. It's not mandatory to hire a lawyer or immigration consultant, and hiring one won't speed up the process or guarantee approval. Immigration representatives can offer advice and assistance to help people through the process.

There are two types of representatives: paid and unpaid.

Paid immigration representatives must be lawyers who are in good standing with a provincial or territorial law society, immigration consultants who are members in good standing with the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants, or notaries who are members in good standing with the Chambre des notaires du Québec.

An unpaid consultant can be a family member, friend or member of a non-governmental or religious organization.

What are the requirements for people who want to immigrate to Canada and open a business?

They must have managed a business and have owned a part of a business for at least two years in the period that begins five years before they submit their application and ends when a decision is made on the application.

Businesses operated primarily for the purpose of deriving investment income are not eligible.

Their assets and those of their spouses or common-law partners must exceed their combined liabilities by $300,000.

Applicants also have to prove that none of their net worth comes from criminal activity.

As well, they must pass a medical examination and security and criminal checks.

Prospective immigrants can also apply to come to Canada as investors. They would have to show that they have business experience and a net worth of $800,000 that was obtained legally. They would also have to show that they could make an investment of at least $400,000.

How does a person claim refugee status?

Canada provides refugee status to individuals in need of protection and to those who meet the definition of a convention refugee, as outlined in the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. For more information on the refugee process, see our Flight to Canada FAQ.

How much does it cost to apply for citizenship?

The cost for an adult is $200. It's $100 for a child under 18.