Citizenship Takes a Back Seat
Canada, like most developed countries competes for talented would-be immigrants. Part of what makes Canada desirable is the clear path it offers to citizenship and a Canadian passport. The law stipulates that after residing in Canada for three years, the holder of a permanent resident visa may apply for Canadian citizenship. That much is clear, at least for now.
Less apparent is the length of time required for Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to process a citizenship application. Currently, routine cases move through the system in 25 months and more complicated cases take about 35 months to process. The reason for the lengthy delay is easy to explain. In the last five years the intake of citizenship applications has exceeded the output of applications by a healthy margin. In 2012 alone, input exceeded output by more than 150,000 and at the end of that year there existed a total inventory of 367,375 pending applications.
This state of affairs is nothing new for CIC. A few years back CIC was faced with a significant backlog of permanent resident applications under the Skilled Worker category. The Minister of Immigration solved that problem by terminating the applications of 280,000 individuals. Fortunately for permanent residents, the law and political considerations protect them from a similar fate.
Rumor has it that the government intends to reduce the inventory of citizenship applications and the accompanying lengthy processing delays by adding one more year to qualify for citizenship. By extending the residency requirement to four years from the current three years, CIC will acquire one year to output applications without any intake of fresh applications. In theory, this would work but politically it could be costly, especially in the immigrant rich suburbs of southern Ontario, which are perceived to be an important battleground in the next Federal election.
There is another solution. The government could leave the three year residency requirement in place and fund an adequate workforce to process the backlog and intake of new applications in a timely manner. In my opinion, that’s what should be done.