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Under PM Justin Trudeau, Canadian citizenship easier to obtain, much harder to lose

Trudeau government’s ‘total reversal’ of Tory policy also slashes residency requirements and gives credit for time spent as visitors or students
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 March, 2016, 5:26am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 March, 2016, 3:24pm

When Canada’s new Liberal government last week unveiled its sweeping rollback of the ousted Conservatives’ citizenship crackdown, much of the focus was on the decision to remove terrorism as grounds for revoking dual citizenship.

But the amendments also carry huge implications for anyone who simply heads back to their country of origin after obtaining a Canadian passport. This modern phenomenon of reverse migration is one that has been thoroughly embraced by tens of thousands Hong Kong and mainland Chinese immigrants alike, to varying degrees of legality.

The changes, for the most part, put things back the way they were in 2014.

The proposed amendments to the Citizenship Act, unveiled last Thursday, remove the requirement that new citizens must intend to live in Canada after obtaining citizenship. According to the government, the intent-to-reside provision “created concern among some new Canadians, who feared their citizenship could be revoked in the future if they moved outside of Canada”.
[Previously,] citizenship was harder to obtain and easier to lose; now it’s easier to obtain and much harder to lose
IMMIGRATION LAWYER RICHARD KURLAND

The proposals also shorten the period of physical presence required of new citizens to three years (1,095 days) out of the previous five, compared to four years out of six under the Tories; allow periods of non-permanent presence in Canada – for instance, time spent as a student, temporary worker or even a visitor – to be credited among those three years (albeit up to a maximum of one years’ credit, with each full day of non-permanent residency counting as half a day); and shrink the age band for applicants who must pass language tests, from 18-54, compared to 14-64 previously.

Canadian income-tax-filing requirements have been retained, although reduced to three years out of the five years prior to seeking citizenship, in keeping with the new residency rule. In a further supplemental move required as a result of the new non-permanent-resident time credit, a rule requiring 183 days of presence in Canada in four out of six years is also scrapped.

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Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said he supported the changes, which represented “a total reversal” from the approach of the Tories, under whom “citizenship was harder to obtain and easier to lose; now it’s easier to obtain and much harder to lose”.

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There are estimated to be almost 300,000 existing Canadian citizens in Hong Kong, most of them returnee immigrants whose decision to head back to the SAR is perfectly legal and will remain so under the new rules.

Yet illegally evading Canada’s pre-citizenship residency requirements has become an industry that caters to some sectors of the wealthy Chinese community. The biggest immigration fraud in Canadian history involved Xun “Sunny” Wang, a Vancouver-area immigration consultant who specialised in helping rich Chinese fake their presence in Canada as permanent residents, in order to later obtain citizenship. Wang’s clients were actually living and working China, but had him doctor their passports and forge various documents to create the illusion that they were in Canada instead. Jailed in October for seven years, Wang helped cheat immigration rules for at least 1,200 clients, who paid him C$10million in the process.

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The Hongcouver blog is devoted to the hybrid culture of its namesake cities: Hong Kong and Vancouver. All story ideas and comments are welcome. Connect with me by email ian.young@scmp.com or on Twitter, @ianjamesyoung70 .

 

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