As of July 1, passports now come with a small, embedded chip digitally containing personal information that used to be handwritten.
The federal government has tabled changes to Canada’s citizenship law, billed as the first overhaul in a generation.The rules make it tougher to get citizenship but also pledge to tackle the backlog of applications. The Globe and MailLonger waits to apply for citizenshipThe wait time for a resident to apply for citizenship is getting longer. The Globe and MailHigher fines, prison sentences for fraudThe penalties for fraud – by either an applicant or a citizenship consultant – are being substantially hiked. ThinkstockTax requirementsProspective citizens will need to file taxes in Canada for four out of six years in order to submit an application for residency. Under the new rules, when passed, a resident will need to have lived at least four of six years in Canada, including at least half a year physically in the country for four of those six years. Critically, it applies only to dual citizens, as Canada isn’t able to leave someone stateless. Such fraud can include lying about whether someone lives in Canada or has adequate knowledge of the country, or misrepresenting whether any criminal issues would prevent someone from getting citizenship. Previously, the requirement was that an applicant live three of four years in Canada, though with no minimum requirement to be physically present in those years, so long as they could somehow demonstrate they were living in the country.

The new bill would allow Canada to strip citizenship from dual citizens convicted of terrorism, treason or spying abroad. The changes will also include a new question on a citizenship application form, asking applicants to declare an “intent to reside” in Canada as a citizen, with the government saying the purpose is to signal citizenship is meant for people who want to live in Canada. Authorities could also revoke citizenship from dual citizens involved in an organized “armed conflict” within Canada, and deny citizenship to permanent residents who do the same. The new law will define who an “authorized representative” is and develop regulations to create a regulatory body.
Departmental officials said no one will check if citizens actually do, but the Immigration Minister now has the power to revoke citizenship if people make “false representations” on their applications. Catherine Dauvergne, a law professor at the University of British Columbia who studies immigration, called this change “possibly the most dangerous” reform because it creates a two-tier system and “expresses a profound lack of trust in the Canadian justice system,” which would otherwise deal with criminal charges in domestic cases.
Citizenship consultants had asked for this, to ward off those who aren’t legitimate professionals.The Canadian PressMore help for "Lost Canadians"Changes made in 2009 fixed a loophole that excluded citizenship for some so-called “Lost Canadians,” such as Jackie Scott, pictured above. Critically, it also gives him the power to revoke citizenship without a court hearing in cases where “false representation or fraud” led to citizenship being granted. Those changes applied to the vast majority of cases, departmental officials said, but the new rules tabled Thursday will further expand the initiative.

Under the outgoing rules, a subject facing that kind of revocation had a right to a court hearing. Under the new rules, those born before 1947 in the country, and their first generation born abroad, will be eligible for citizenship. They no longer will.The Globe and MailStreamlining the application processThe current process takes three steps and includes a citizenship judge. The new one will take one step and require only a citizenship officer, with judges instead mostly presiding over citizenship applications. The number of citizenship judges – 30 full-time-equivalent positions, currently – is expected to decline. Amid it all, the government hopes to cut down a backlog, which is currently between two and three years and includes 320,000 cases, to one year by 2015-2016.
Liberal Immigration Critic John McCallum has doubts about raising the fee at a time when wait times have soared, roughly doubling since 2008.

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