What is the Difference Between Naturalization and Citizenship in Canada?

What is the Difference Between Naturalization and Citizenship in Canada?

1. Overview of Naturalization and Citizenship

Naturalization and citizenship are two terms often used interchangeably in the context of immigration. However, they represent distinct concepts with unique legal implications. In Canada, naturalization refers to the process through which eligible foreign nationals become Canadian citizens, while citizenship refers to the legal status granted to individuals born in Canada or naturalized through the immigration process. This article aims to explore these differences in detail, breaking down each concept and providing a thorough understanding of the processes involved.

2. Defining Key Terms


Naturalization is the legal process through which foreign nationals acquire Canadian citizenship. Eligible individuals must meet specific criteria, such as permanent residency, residency requirements, language proficiency, and knowledge of Canada’s history, culture, and values. The naturalization process also involves background checks, a citizenship test, and a citizenship ceremony. It is important to note that not all permanent residents choose to pursue naturalization, and some may not meet the necessary eligibility criteria.

Source: Government of Canada - Citizenship


Citizenship is a legal status that grants individuals certain rights and responsibilities as members of a country. In Canada, citizenship can be acquired by birth or through naturalization. Canadian citizens enjoy various rights, such as voting in elections, running for public office, and holding a Canadian passport. They also have responsibilities, like obeying the law, serving on a jury, and contributing to the country’s well-being through taxes and community involvement.

Source: Government of Canada - Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship

Permanent Residency

Permanent residency is a legal status granted to foreign nationals who have been approved to live and work in Canada indefinitely. Permanent residents have most of the same rights and responsibilities as Canadian citizens, with some exceptions, such as voting rights and eligibility to hold certain government positions. Permanent residency is a prerequisite for naturalization but does not automatically lead to citizenship. Permanent residents must meet specific criteria and complete the naturalization process to become Canadian citizens.

Source: Government of Canada - Permanent Resident Status

3. The Path to Canadian Citizenship

Overview of the Process

The path to Canadian citizenship involves several steps, including meeting eligibility criteria, submitting an application, passing a citizenship test, and attending a citizenship ceremony. This section will provide a detailed overview of the process, outlining the requirements and steps involved in acquiring Canadian citizenship through naturalization.

Eligibility Criteria

To become a Canadian citizen, applicants must meet specific eligibility criteria. These requirements ensure that prospective citizens possess the necessary knowledge, language skills, and commitment to Canada’s values and laws.

  • Age Requirements

Applicants must be at least 18 years old to apply for Canadian citizenship. Parents or legal guardians can apply on behalf of children under 18, provided the child is a permanent resident and meets other eligibility requirements.

Source: Government of Canada - Age Requirements

  • Permanent Resident Status

Applicants must have permanent resident status in Canada and must not be under a removal order or subject to any immigration investigation or proceeding.

Source: Government of Canada - Permanent Resident Status

  • Physical Presence in Canada

Applicants must have been physically present in Canada for at least 1,095 days within the five years before applying for citizenship.

Source: Government of Canada - Physical Presence

  • Language Proficiency**

Applicants between the ages of 18 and 54 must demonstrate proficiency in one of Canada’s official languages (English or French) by providing acceptable evidence, such as test results from a recognized language testing organization or proof of completion of secondary or post-secondary education in English or French.

Source: Government of Canada - Language Skills

  • Knowledge of Canada

Applicants must demonstrate knowledge of Canada’s history, values, institutions, and symbols, as well as the rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizens. This is typically assessed through a citizenship test.

Source: Government of Canada - Knowledge of Canada

  • Criminal History

Applicants must not have a criminal history that would make them ineligible for citizenship, such as being charged with or convicted of a crime in the past five years or serving a sentence for a crime at the time of application.

Source: Government of Canada - Criminal History

Application Process

The application process for Canadian citizenship involves several steps, including preparing and submitting the required forms and documents, paying application fees, and awaiting processing and approval.

  • Steps to Apply

  1. Obtain and complete the application package, including all necessary forms.
  2. Gather the required documents, such as proof of permanent resident status, language test results, and supporting identification.
  3. Pay the application fees.
  4. Submit the application package by mail to the appropriate processing center.
  5. Await confirmation of receipt and processing of the application.
  6. Complete the citizenship test, if required.
  7. Attend a citizenship interview, if necessary.
  8. Attend the citizenship ceremony and take the Oath of Citizenship.

Source: Government of Canada - Apply for Citizenship

  • Required Documents

Some of the required documents for a Canadian citizenship application include:

  • Completed application forms
  • Proof of permanent resident status (such as a copy of your PR card)
  • Language test results or proof of education in English or French, if applicable
  • Two identical citizenship photographs
  • Photocopies of identification documents (e.g., passport, driver’s license)
  • Supporting documents for any name change, if applicable
  • Proof of any military service, if applicable

Source: Government of Canada - Application Package

  • Application Fees

The application fees for Canadian citizenship are as follows:

  • Adult (18 years and older): CAD 630 (including a CAD 100 processing fee and a CAD 530 right of citizenship fee)
  • Minor (under 18 years old): CAD 100 (processing fee only)

Source: Government of Canada - Pay Your Fees

  • Processing Time

The processing time for Canadian citizenship applications varies depending on the complexity of the application, the volume of applications received, and other factors. As of September 2021, the average processing time for routine applications was 12 months. However, it’s essential to note that processing times may change and can be longer in certain cases.

Source: Government of Canada - Check Processing Times

4. Rights and Responsibilities of Canadian Citizens

Canadian citizens enjoy various legal rights, including:

  • The right to vote in federal, provincial, and municipal elections
  • The right to run for public office
  • The right to enter and leave Canada freely without the need for a visa
  • The right to apply for a Canadian passport
  • Protection under Canadian law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Source: Government of Canada - Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship

Social Benefits

Canadian citizens also benefit from a range of social programs and services, such as:

  • Access to publicly funded healthcare
  • Access to public education for children
  • Employment insurance benefits
  • Social assistance programs, including Old Age Security, the Canada Pension Plan, and the Guaranteed Income Supplement
  • Access to government-funded cultural and recreational programs

Civic Responsibilities

As a Canadian citizen, individuals also have civic responsibilities, including:

  • Obeying the law
  • Serving on a jury when called upon
  • Voting in elections
  • Contributing to the country’s well-being through taxes and community involvement
  • Respecting the rights and freedoms of others

Dual Citizenship

Canada recognizes dual citizenship, which means that Canadian citizens can hold citizenship in another country while retaining their Canadian citizenship. However, some countries do not permit dual citizenship, so it is essential for individuals to verify the regulations of their other country of citizenship.

Source: Government of Canada - Dual Citizenship

5. Loss of Citizenship and Revocation

Grounds for Revocation

Canadian citizenship can be revoked under specific circumstances, such as:

  • Citizenship obtained through fraud, false representation, or concealing material facts
  • Conviction for treason, spying, or terrorism offenses
  • Serving as a member of an armed force or organized armed group engaged in armed conflict with Canada

Source: Government of Canada - Revocation of Citizenship

Consequences of Revocation

If an individual’s Canadian citizenship is revoked, they may:

  • Lose the rights and privileges associated with Canadian citizenship
  • Be subject to removal from Canada if they do not hold another valid status (e.g., permanent resident status)
  • Face difficulties in obtaining citizenship or permanent residence in other countries due to the revocation

Appeals Process

Individuals who have their Canadian citizenship revoked can appeal the decision to the Federal Court of Canada within 60 days of receiving the notice of revocation. If the Federal Court upholds the decision, the individual may seek leave to appeal to the Federal Court of Appeal.

Source: Government of Canada - Appeal a Decision

6. Summary of Differences

In conclusion, naturalization and citizenship are related but distinct concepts in the Canadian context. While naturalization refers to the legal process through which a foreign national becomes a citizen of Canada, citizenship encompasses the legal status, rights, and responsibilities granted to an individual as a result of either naturalization or birth in the country. Here are the key differences between the two:

  1. Eligibility: Naturalization is a process reserved for permanent residents of Canada, while citizenship applies to both naturalized individuals and those born in the country.
  2. Process: Naturalization requires meeting specific eligibility criteria, completing an application process, and passing a citizenship test, while citizenship is granted automatically to those born in Canada or to Canadian parents abroad.
  3. Rights and Responsibilities: Naturalized citizens and citizens by birth enjoy the same rights and responsibilities, such as voting in elections, holding a Canadian passport, and abiding by Canadian laws.

Importance of Understanding Naturalization and Citizenship

Understanding the differences between naturalization and citizenship is crucial for immigrants and prospective immigrants to Canada. It allows them to make informed decisions about their immigration journey, fully comprehend their rights and responsibilities, and integrate more effectively into Canadian society. Moreover, a clear grasp of these concepts can help dispel misconceptions and encourage respectful dialogue about immigration and citizenship in the public sphere.

For more information on naturalization and citizenship in Canada, visit Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

“Becoming a Canadian citizen is a significant milestone in one’s life, and understanding the nuances of naturalization and citizenship empowers individuals to make well-informed decisions about their future in this country.” - The Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship