What is Canadian citizenship?

Canadian citizenship is one of the most sought after citizenships in the world, and it’s easy to understand why. Citizens of Canada can build their lives and grow their careers in one of the most successful countries that has ever existed. See our list of frequently asked questions to learn all you need to know about obtaining Canadian citizenship.

Canada is launching a new online platform for Canadian citizenship tests

On November 26, 2020, the Canadian government announced a new platform that will allow applicants for Canadian citizenship to take their required test online. The online test will not yet be widely available, as the government will be testing the platform with a limited number of clients to ensure its stability before a wider rollout.

At this time, only those who have had their citizenship test cancelled due to the pandemic and are on the waiting list will be considered for the online test, and even then, only those contacted directly by IRCC will be eligible for the online version.

The online Canadian citizenship test will enable Canada to address safety concerns with in-person testing amidst the pandemic, while also contributing to IRCC’s current efforts to modernize the citizenship program. Online Canadian citizenship tests will also provide more convenience to applicants, as they will be able to complete their test at time that is convenient to them — within a 21-day window.

More details about the online Canadian citizenship test are expected in the coming months, as the testing program gets underway.

For the purposes of this article, we will be dealing with the process of obtaining Canadian citizenship through naturalization.

A person is a Canadian citizen if he or she:

  • Was born in Canada;
  • Became a citizen through naturalization;
  • Was born outside Canada and one parent was a Canadian citizen at the time of birth, because the parent was either born in Canada or naturalized in Canada;
  • Was born outside Canada on or after January 1, 1947, up to and including April 16, 2009 to a Canadian parent who was also born outside Canada to a Canadian parent; or
  • Was adopted outside Canada by a Canadian parent on or after January 1, 1947.

For the purposes of this page, we will be dealing with the process of obtaining Canadian citizenship through naturalization.

To become a naturalized citizen of Canada, applicants must:

  • have permanent resident status;
  • have resided in Canada for at least three years (1,095 days) out of the previous five years*;
  • have filed personal income taxes for at least three years within the five-year period, if required under the Income Tax Act;
  • demonstrate knowledge of Canada, and knowledge of English or French (if between 18 and 54 years of age, inclusive); and
  • not be under removal order.

*Under rare circumstances, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will allow an applicant to count time spent outside Canada towards the physical presence calculation. If you resided outside Canada because your, your Canadian citizen or permanent resident spouse or common-law partner, or permanent resident parent was employed outside Canada in or with the Canadian Armed Forces or the public administration of the federal government or a province or territory, these days may be counted.

Canadian citizenship bestows a number of rights. In addition to the rights held by permanent residents of Canada, including the right to live and work in any part of Canada, Canadian citizens may:

  • vote in federal, provincial, and municipal elections;
  • run for political office;
  • leave and re-enter Canada as and when they wish, without needing to accumulate residency days to maintain status in Canada; and
  • apply for a Canadian passport, one of the most valuable passports in the world.

In addition, a child born to a Canadian citizen, whether that child is born in Canada or not, is automatically a Canadian citizen. And lastly, citizens don’t need to renew their immigration documentation, as a Canadian citizenship certificate is valid indefinitely.

In the global context, Canada’s citizenship naturalization process is one of – if not the – most liberal of all. Canada allows for dual citizenship, does not ask new citizens to declare their intention to reside in the state, and allows residents to submit an application for citizenship within a shorter timeframe than other countries – sometimes much shorter. Canada’s laws allow non-citizen residents to live and work flexibly, while planning to eventually become Canadian citizens through a system that sets out clear, objective criteria.

The table below compares Canada’s citizenship regulations with other countries where Moving2Canada.com is popularly read.


CountryResidency requirement before citizenshipDual citizenshipIntent to reside provisionGovernment Source
Australia4 years immediately prior to the applicationAllowedYesMigrant with permanent residence – eligibility
Canada3 years in the past 5 years, of which up to 1 year of prior temporary status may be includedAllowedNoIRCC
India12 years in the past 15 years, including the 1 year immediately preceding the applicationNot allowedYesMinistry of Home Affairs
Ireland5 years in past 9 years, including the 1 year immediately preceding the application.AllowedYesBecoming an Irish citizen through naturalisation
Nigeria15 years in the past 20 years, including the 1 year immediately preceding the applicationNot allowed for naturalized personsYesConstitution
Pakistan5 years in the past 8 years, including the 1 year immediately preceding the applicationOnly if you are from one of 18 countriesYesMinistry of Interior
Philippines10 years continuousNot allowedYesThe Administrative Naturalization Law
UK5 years (3 years if applying as the spouse of a citizen)AllowedYesBecome a British citizen
USA5 years (3 years if applying as the spouse of a citizen)AllowedNoHow to become a U.S. Citizen and USCIS

Note: The above table was created using information gathered in October, 2017. Moving2Canada cannot guarantee the ongoing accuracy of the information provided in the table.

Except for in a few rare cases involving international adoption, all naturalized Canadians must first apply for and obtain Canadian permanent resident status. Canada welcomes newcomers from across the world under its immigration programs, through which individuals and families may become permanent residents. If you are unsure about your options, or if you are currently in Canada with temporary status and wish to transition to permanent residence, please view our Book an Immigration Consultation page.

Yes, Canada allows dual (or multiple) citizenship. This means that new Canadian citizens may also retain the citizenship of another country (if that country also allows dual citizenship) while enjoying the rights and privileges of being a Canadian.

No, naturalized Canadian citizens do not have to intend to reside in Canada upon being naturalized. The opposite was previously the case, but this provision was repealed in 2017.

No, you do not automatically become a Canadian citizen if you marry a Canadian citizen. It may be possible for your spouse (the Canadian citizen) to sponsor you to become a permanent resident (see our spousal sponsorship article), after which you may eventually become eligible for citizenship. Alternatively, you may apply for permanent residence by other means (such as through an economic immigration program).

Individuals who fail to pass the citizenship test the first time, but who otherwise meet the criteria for obtaining citizenship, will be asked to sit another test around 4-8 weeks after the first test.

If the second test also results in failure, the government of Canada will invite the person to appear for a hearing with a citizenship officer. During this oral hearing, the officer may assess whether this person meets all the requirements for citizenship by testing his or her knowledge of Canada, asking questions about his or her residency in Canada, and assessing English or French ability.

New citizens are required to attend a ceremony and recite an Oath of Citizenship. Once the Oath has been taken, you become a Canadian citizen. A citizenship certificate, showing the date, is presented to each new citizen as proof of citizenship. Citizens-to-be aged 14 and above are required to go to the ceremony and take the Oath. Children under 14 are not required to attend, but are welcome to do so.

Citizenship ceremonies take place across Canada and at all times of the year. They are joyous occasions, where people from around the world join the Canadian family together.

The government of Canada provides an online resource on preparing for the Canadian citizenship ceremony.

I would like help with my Canadian citizenship application. Can a qualified person help me in my goals?

The immigration consultants we work with at Berkeleyme are happy to assist you in becoming a Canadian citizen. Simply book a consultation, and continue your journey to Canadian citizenship!