New Canadians can take online citizenship oath soon
The public swearing of the oath, a Citizenship Act requirement since 1947, will lapse on July 1. The Department of Citizenship in a legal notice Saturday said qualified applicants will be able to swear allegiance to Canada by clicking a box on a government website.
“Under the proposed regulations the Minister of Immigration would have broad discretion to allow clients to take the oath by other means and not necessarily before an authorized individual,” cabinet wrote in a Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement. Online oaths would eliminate a current two-year backlog of immigrants who’ve passed all tests and paid a $630 fee but are waiting to swear the oath.
The federal government is seeking feedback from the public on proposed amendments to Canada’s citizenship regulations that would allow applicants to take the Oath of Citizenship through “a secure online solution, without the presence of an authorized person”, which means that new Canadians could soon have the option to forgo a citizenship ceremony and take their oath online as Ottawa seeks to cut processing times for citizenship applications.
According to a policy analysis statement published in the Canada Gazette, adding the option to take the oath online without accompaniment could save three months of processing time and allow applicants to receive their citizenship faster.
In addition, the analysis statement says self-administered citizenship oaths could be a more convenient option for new Canadians, noting that citizenship ceremonies are typically held during working hours and run for around 90 minutes.
“Many clients have to take time off work to attend citizenship ceremonies, and this time off is not necessarily paid by employers,” the analysis statement reads.
“This proposal would also benefit clients by providing greater flexibility in client service and promote inclusivity by allowing them to take the Oath of Citizenship in a manner that works best and at a time that is most convenient for them during the allocated time frame.”
Since 1947, taking the Oath of Citizenship has been the final stage in becoming naturalized as a Canadian citizen. It involves standing in front of a citizenship judge and swearing allegiance to the King and all of his heirs and successors while vowing to observe the laws of Canada.
When COVID-19 first hit in 2020, Canada began allowing virtual citizenship ceremonies held over video conference calls.
The feds say as of October 2022, there was a backlog of 358,000 citizenship applications, with applicants waiting 24 months from the time of application to taking the oath.
Self-administered online oaths would not be mandatory under this proposal, as new Canadians would still have the option to take the Oath of Citizenship the traditional way in front of a judge, either in person or through a live video conference call.
But not everyone is on board with the proposal, including former citizenship and immigration minister Christopher Alexander.
“By abandoning a centuries-old feature of citizenship in Canada, this government is further undermining its own — at best — shaky commitment to safeguarding Canada’s democratic institutions, national security, national defence & the rule of law,” Alexander tweeted on Monday evening.
However, Vancouver-based immigration lawyer Steven Meurrens says if self-administered online oaths can speed up processing, it could be a good option, especially for those whose permanent resident cards are close to expiry.
“I believe that the citizenship oath is meaningful and am sure that many people will continue to do it. However, if it is true that scheduling ceremonies adds three months to processing time then that can complicate things for people with expiring permanent resident cards. As such, I agree that it should be optional,” he said.
If approved, the proposal is expected to come in force in June 2023. Members of the public can add their comments on the Canada Gazette website during the consultation period, which runs until March 27.
A total 243,000 immigrants applied for citizenship last year, by official estimate, more than double the 113,000 applications in 2017. “Immigration levels continue to rise with a target of 500,000 permanent residents for 2025 which will contribute to ongoing increases in citizenship applications,” said the immigration department’s Analysis Statement.
Part of the article was reported by Western Standard.