Citizenship Applications – Common Causes of Complications: Criminal Matters

Below is the first in a series of information posts from our Immigration Team about some of the most common factors that could cause complications with the processing of Citizenship Applications.

Number One: Criminal Charges or Recent Convictions

There are two ways that being charged or convicted of a criminal offence could have an impact on your eligibility to apply for citizenship and/or the processing of your ongoing citizenship application.

a) Impact on Presence Requirements

In order to be eligible for Canadian citizenship, the person applying must have been physically present in Canada for 1,095 days (3 years) within the five-year period before signing the application form. But, section 21 of the Citizenship Act states that no period of time during which a person has been under a probation order, been serving a sentence of imprisonment, or been on parole can be counted towards physical presence.

This means, if in the five (5) years before applying for Citizenship, you were on probation, imprisoned or in detention, or on parole, those days cannot be counted as part of the presence calculation.  If you subtract that time from the amount of days/years you have been physically present in Canada, and the total is less than 1,095 days, you are not eligible for Citizenship and you should wait to apply or your application will likely be refused.

b) Bars to being allowed to take the Oath of Citizenship or being Granted Citizenship

Section 22 of the Citizenship Act outlines situations where a person is prohibited from being allowed to take the Oath of Citizenship and from being Granted Citizenship (having a successful application). The following prohibitions are those most significantly related to criminal charges and/or convictions:

  • While the person is under a probation order, serving a sentence of imprisonment, or on parole,
  • While the person is charged with an indictable offence, or
  • If the person has been convicted of an indictable offence, in the four (4) year period before submitting the application or during the period of time where the application is in process.

An ‘indictable’ offence is a Criminal Law term that relates to what offence (as defined by legislation – such as the Canadian Criminal Code) the person has been charged/convicted of, and what way the Crown prosecutor elected to proceed during the criminal proceeding. The best way to find out if any criminal charges or convictions you may have would count as ‘indictable’, and affect your citizenship application, is to contact a lawyer for personalized assessment and advice.

If any of the above situations apply to your circumstances, your citizenship application may be paused (temporarily suspended) or refused.  If you have recently been convicted of a criminal offence, you should consult with an Immigration lawyer before you apply for citizenship to assess your eligibility. Likewise, if you are charged with or convicted of an offence while your application is in process, you should contact a lawyer to get advice on the affect on your application, and if there is anything that could be done to prevent a negative result.

For more information, the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website has a helpful webpage about situations that may prevent you from becoming a Canadian Citizen:
Situations that may prevent you from becoming a Canadian citizen

You can also contact our Intake Line at 416-441-1764 ext. 1 for free legal advice specific to your personal circumstances.

This is legal information and not legal advice. If you need further information or need legal advice, please call our Intake Line at 416-441-1764 ext. 1 or complete our online Intake Form.