Shifts in Canadian Citizenship Interest Among Recent Immigrants 

Statistics Canada’s recent study reveals a significant decline in the rate of Canadian citizenship acquisition among recent immigrants compared to the past two decades. According to the data spanning from 1996 to 2021, there has been a notable decrease of nearly 30% in the citizenship rate among recent immigrants. This decline, primarily observed over the last decade, marks a significant shift in citizenship interest among immigrants to Canada.

It’s important to note that in this study, the term “immigrants” predominantly refers to Canadian permanent residents (PR) who have obtained this status. The findings underscore a changing trend in citizenship acquisition patterns among recent immigrants, prompting further examination into the factors influencing this shift and its implications for immigrant integration and participation in Canadian society.

Shifts in Canadian Citizenship Interest Among Immigrants 

The study discovered that the rate of citizenship attainment among recent immigrants between 5, 10, or 15 years had been dropping since 1996. Notably, at that time, around 75.4% of immigrants acquired Canadian citizenship. 

By 2021, the perception had dropped to 45.7% of immigrants, with the most significant decrease occurring between 2016 and 2021.

The study also discovered some variation in citizenship acceptance rates between different immigrant groups.

For instance, compared to recent immigrants with lower income (less than $10,000 CAD), immigrants with higher income levels (between $50,000 – $100,000 CAD) were most likely to obtain citizenship. 

This trend is also evident in immigrants’ education levels. For instance, only 30.4% of immigrants with a high school degree obtained citizenship, whereas 51.8% of immigrants with a university degree obtained citizenship.

Another variation was seen in candidates with greater language proficiency. For instance, immigrants who did not speak English or French as their mother tongue had a citizenship acceptance rate of 19.7% compared to those who spoke either English or French as their mother tongue, who had a citizenship acceptance rate of 49.8%.

Lastly, the difference is also recorded based on the country of origin. The most recent decline in the citizenship rate was recorded among the immigrants from East (-58%) and Southeast Asia (-40.7%). 

After these followed immigrants from West Asia (-29.3%), Eastern Europe (-28.9%), and Central America (-28.2%).

What are the reasons for the shift of immigrant interest from attaining citizenship?

Some of the factors around which the difference can be noticed, such as education, language ability, and job experience (based on earnings), correlate with the factors considered under Canada’s Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). This could imply that greater adaptability to Canadian life can influence the recent immigrant’s citizenship rate.

The study also revealed other reasons that could support the shift of immigrant interest from attaining citizenship. 

The most significant event was the global COVID-19 pandemic. As per the study, up to 40% of the drop in citizenship rate was recorded between 2016 and 2021. 

This indicates the highest drop in citizenship uptake within five years. However, the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have intensified the decline rate.

Additionally, the study revealed that various policy modifications between 2006 and 2016 may have also influenced the citizenship acceptance rate. Some of these include:

  • Requirement of evidence of French and English language abilities for permanent residents,
  • Requirement of applicant’s increased general knowledge of Canada via citizenship tests and 
  • Rise of citizenship application fees.

Finally, the report noted that the quick decline in the citizenship rate among Southeast and East Asians implies that international events specific to these areas may play a considerable role in explaining the citizenship decline.

Is Canada to be concerned about these shifts in Canadian citizenship interest among immigrants?

Among recent immigrants, the citizenship acceptance rate has shown a significant drop. However, Canada continues to have one of the highest overall immigrant citizenship rates among Western countries.

In 2021, this rate was 81.7%. This indicates that the majority of immigrants in Canada prefer to obtain citizenship.

Besides this, many immigrants from overseas continue to benefit Canada as PRs, especially the economic immigrants, with others opting not to pursue citizenship in order to keep ties to their home country.

Also, several countries, such as India, do not permit dual citizenship for immigrants. This means that immigrants have to choose between their new and home countries.

Permanent residents in Canada may take advantage of several benefits similar to those of citizens. However, they are not allowed to vote or hold any political office in the country.

No matter what, the recent drop in citizenship interest may cause a concern for the government. This is especially true if the trend continues.

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