A person who has remained in Canada as a permanent resident for three years less than four years before the date of the application may be eligible for Canadian citizenship.
The decision on whether to meet the three-year requirement is determined by a citizenship judge who will apply different tests to determine the place of residence. These tests differ considerably from one another, which can pose problems for candidates who have not been physically present in Canada for three years.
Canadian citizenship tests
The first test is known as a “strict physical presence” test. This is an astringent residence requirement whereby the applicant must prove physical presence in the country for three years in the four years immediately preceding the application.
For the second test, the residence is determined by the degree of the settlement of a person in Canada because of “social relationships, interests, and amenities at the place or place in question.” Physical presence in Canada is not essential, provided that the immigrant has established and maintained a pied-à-terre in Canada during the three years in question and has demonstrated the intention to live in Canada. As a result of this test, an applicant is eligible to meet the residency requirement, even though they only spent 79 days in the country during the 4-year period preceding the application for citizenship.
The third test is a qualitative analysis of the applicant’s relationship with Canada. To determine whether an applicant has established in Canada or has demonstrated intent, the court assesses various factors, including:
Was the person physically present in Canada for a long time before applying for citizenship?
Where are the immediate family and the applicant’s family members?
Do travelling habits demonstrate a person travelling or interested in living in Canada?
What is the degree of physical absence?
Is their physical absence from Canada caused by a temporary situation such as a job, attending a university, accepting to travel abroad or accompanying a spouse who has taken a temporary job elsewhere?
Recent attempts by the Federal Court to moderate the three tests have been unsuccessful. Currently, case law requires a citizenship judge to choose one of the three criteria when assessing an application for citizenship.
However, the law also dictates the application of the qualitative analysis test if the conditions required for the physical presence test are not met. The Federal Court has always held that the citizenship court documented which of the three criteria had been applied.
It is not certain that Parliament intervenes to complete this confusing interpretation of the residency requirement. Candidates who are not physically present in Canada for three years and wish to increase their chances of success are encouraged to ensure that their application identifies all or some of the factors in the third test of analysis.
Unsuccessful applicants may re-apply if their physical presence conditions are more favourable during the three-year reference period.
Eligibility requirements for all applicants
There are specific requirements you need to meet depending on where you are when you apply for your work permit.
But regardless of where you apply or which type of work permit you apply for, you must
prove to an officer that you will leave Canada when your work permit expires;
show that you have enough money to take care of yourself and your family members during your stay in Canada and to return home;
obey the law and have no record of criminal activity (we may ask you to give us a police clearance certificate);
not be a danger to Canada’s security;
be in good health and have a medical exam, if needed;
not plan to work for an employer listed with the status “ineligible” on the list of employers who failed to comply with the conditions;
not plan to work for an employer who, on a regular basis, offers striptease, erotic dance, escort services or erotic massages; and
give the officer any other documents they ask for to prove you can enter the country.
Eligibility requirements if you apply from outside Canada
Anyone can apply before they enter Canada. However, there may be visa office requirements that you need to meet depending on what country or territory you’re applying from. Make sure you follow the instructions for how to apply.
Find out if you can benefit from the Global Skills Strategy’s two-week application processing.
Eligibility requirements if you apply from inside Canada
You can only apply for a work permit from inside Canada if
you have a valid study or work permit;
your spouse, common-law partner or parents have a valid study or work permit;
you’re eligible for a post-graduation work permit and your study permit is still valid;
you have a temporary resident permit that is valid for six months or more;
you’re waiting on a decision on an application for permanent residence from inside Canada;
you made a claim for refugee protection;
you’ve been recognized as a convention refugee or protected person by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada;
you’re allowed to work in Canada without a work permit but you need a work permit to work in a different job (this does not apply to business visitors); or
you’re a trader, investor, intra-company transferee or professional under the Canada – United States – Mexico Agreement (CUSMA).