Big changes for Canadian citizenship applications and the refugee settlement loan program

Beginning October 11, new rules applying to applications for Canadian citizenship come into effect, introduced by the Liberal government. Here’s what’s changing:

  • Permanent Residents can apply for Canadian citizenship if they have lived in the country for 3 of the 5 previous years (not 4 of the previous 6, as was previously the case)
  • For time spent in the country before becoming Permanent Residents, international students, foreign workers and refugees will be granted up to 1 year of residency credit toward their Canadian citizenship application
  • Applicants over 55 and under 18 are exempt from the language and knowledge tests for citizenship

Additionally, changes to the refugee settlement loan program have been proposed, but there is no date set for them to take effect. The program has been in place since the end of World War 2, when immigrants from Europe couldn’t afford the travel costs associated with moving to Canada and the government extended loans to help them. According to CTV News, the government issues $13 million in refugee loans each year, and 93% are eventually repaid. Here are the proposed changes:

  • The government proposes to eliminate interest charges on all new loans
  • The repayment period (as well as the time before the loan must be repaid) will be extended (giving newcomers more time to focus on settlement before they must pay back their loans)
  • Current loan-holders will not accumulate any new interest on their loans, but their repayment schedule remains the same