Ottawa busted through its initial target of 5,000 citizenship tests back in November and is now ramping up the numbers in order to clear a backlog.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) officials were quoted in a Toronto Star article earlier this month as saying even more of the citizenship tests are being scheduled.
“Prior to the pandemic, IRCC had embarked on a citizenship modernization program to improve client service delivery,” the IRCC’s Asim Zaidan reportedly said. “Online tests are a part of this program and have been prioritized due to COVID-19.
“Moving citizenship events — ceremonies, tests and interviews — to an online format is a part of the department’s goal of bringing efficiencies to the citizenship program and simplifying the application process.”
In the first 11 months of last year, 107,119 people became Canadian citizens, down 54.1 per cent from the number of new Canadian citizens for the comparable period the previous year.
In 2019, the number of newcomers who took the citizenship oath was 250,367.
But the COVID-19 global pandemic put the skids to citizenship ceremonies early last year, with the number of new Canadian citizens per month dropping from 27,008 in February that year to only 14 in April and 61 in May.
The launch of virtual citizenship ceremonies in July caused those numbers to climb back up.
In July, official statistics show 7,013 took the citizenship oath, and that rose gradually during the next two months to a high of 13,819 in September.
Then, the number of new Canadian citizens per month sagged again as the second wave of the pandemic hit in earnest. Despite that harsher second wave, 9,194 people became Canadian citizens in October and another 3,365 in November.
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Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino says putting the entire citizenship process online is one of Canada’s ways of competing with the rest of the world for valued immigrants.
“My vision for our immigration system going forward is that it is completely virtual and touchless and that each and every one of these steps is integrated so that we become the envy of the world,” Mendicino said in an online interview with TVO.
Canada is already a world leader in putting its immigration processes online, says the immigration minister.
“In a world that is increasingly going virtual, we are leading the way, especially when it comes to our immigration system,” he said in that interview. “We are the only ones that have moved our citizenship ceremony online, to my knowledge, and now we are also moving into the digital space when it comes to testing applicants.”
Canada held its first-ever simultaneous, virtual citizenship ceremony on July 1 last year, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, roughly 50,000 immigrants have become Canadians during 8,000 online ceremonies.
Canada currently charges a citizenship fee of $630 per adult, which includes a $530 processing fee and another $100 right of citizenship fee, but the ruling Liberal Party of Canada has pledged to remove or cut those fees.
Ottawa is bullish on immigration and wants to welcome more than 1.2 million newcomers between 2021 and 2023. There are to be 401,000 new permanent residents to Canada this year, 411,000 next year, and 421,000 in 2023.
The pandemic has hampered the operations of Canada’s immigration department as staff began to work from home and there is currently a backlog of more than 85,000 applicants waiting for citizenship tests.