Canada seeks to cut down on passports of convenience

Thu Feb 6, 2014 11:35am EST
 
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada will toughen citizenship rules to prevent foreigners from picking up Canadian passports of convenience without spending much time in the country, part of a sweeping package of reforms under legislation introduced on Thursday.

Canada remains one of countries most open to immigration and plans to attract about 250,000 a year, in part because it needs workers to make up for a low birth rate. But the new rules would try to prevent abuse of the citizenship process.

The bill would crack down on fraud and give Ottawa the right to strip citizenship from dual citizens who engage in armed conflict with Canada or terrorism, while streamlining the system to reduce the processing time significantly.

"Our government is strengthening the value of Canadian citizenship. Canadians understand that citizenship should not be simply a passport of convenience," Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said in a statement.

"Citizenship is a pledge of mutual responsibility and a shared commitment to values rooted in our history."

The new act will require immigrants to be physically present for four out of six years and declare an "intent to reside." Currently they have to establish legal residence for three of four years but do not actually have to be physically present or intend to reside in Canada.

Applicants will need greater proficiency in English or French: they will no longer be able to use an interpreter when they take a test on knowledge about Canada. In addition, the age of those subject to language requirements will widen, to 14 to 64 years from the current 18 to 54.

Penalties for fraud will jump to a maximum of C$100,000 ($90,090) from the current C$1,000, and up to five years in prison instead of one year.   Continued...

 
Canada's Immigration Minister Chris Alexander speaks during a news conference in the foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa January 28, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Wattie