It depends. If you recently landed as a permanent resident, it’s not uncommon to ask yourself “how long until I can apply for citizenship?” The amount of time it takes for someone to change from permanent resident to Canadian citizen can be many years. This is because the Canadian citizenship act has measures in place regarding how long someone must physically reside in Canada prior to applying. In fact, processing times after a citizenship application has been filed can take up to 12 months. All this time will result in a waiting game. Let’s examine the basic eligibility requirements – focusing on the amount of time that you must be physically present in Canada prior to making an application.
In order to become a Canadian citizen, you must meet the following requirements:
You must already be a permanent resident of Canada
This is pretty self-explanatory. Not everyone may be aware that you must first go through the permanent residency immigration process before you have the right to apply for citizenship, regardless of how old you are. Keep a record of the date you became a permanent resident (or check your card) in order to properly calculate how many years you have physically lived in Canada (see below for more details).
You must have lived in Canada for at least 3 out of the last 5 years (or meet a minimum of 1095 days in Canada)
Adults and certain minors must have been “physically” present in Canada for at least 1095 days during the five years before signing a citizenship application. It’s important to note that you may be able to use some of your time spent in Canada as a legal temporary resident or protected person in the 1095 day calculation. It’s recommended that you keep a record of all trips you take outside of Canada ahead of time, even day trips to the USA. This will come in handy prior to making an application.
Tip: It’s recommended to have more than 1095 days prior to signing your application.
You have filed your Canadian taxes (if you need to)
For most Canadians, it’s critical to file taxes. Filing your taxes is also an eligibility factor in most cases (as per the Income Tax Act). It is mandatory to have filed your taxes in respect of three taxation years that are fully or partially within the five years immediately prior to signing.
You must prove your ability to speak English or French
If you’re between the ages of 18 to 54, you must prove your skill level in one of these languages to justify you meet the minimum Canadian Language Benchmarks Level 4 (CLB 4) in speaking and listening. This is a very important component that will be necessary to prove upfront and later assessed by a citizenship officer.
Depending on how long you’ve been physically present in Canada since becoming a resident and whether you’ve had valid temporary residence status in the last five years, the amount of presence in Canada will vary.