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Calculating citizenship eligibility for PRs who live in Canada but work in the U.S.

A “full” day in Canada is not necessarily a full day in Canada if you are applying for citizenship.

Source: CIC News

One of the requirements for Canadian citizenship, is you have to have been physically present in Canada for three out of the last five years. But if you drive to the U.S. for work every day, does that count as a “full day”?

If you are a Canadian permanent resident working in the U.S., your work days do not count against your physical presence requirement for Canadian citizenship as long as you have a residence in Canada and return for at least part of the day.

The Citizenship Act defines the calculation length of physical presence differently depending on if you are a temporary resident, or a permanent resident:

(a) for every day during which the person was physically present in Canada as a temporary resident or protected person under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act before becoming a permanent resident, the person accumulates half of a day of physical presence, up to a maximum of 365 days; and

(b) for every day during which the person has been physically present in Canada since becoming a permanent resident, the person accumulates one day of physical presence.

“Therefore, if a person works in the U.S. for part of the day but has a residence in Canada and spends a portion of their day in Canada, then this time can be calculated towards the physical presence requirement for their citizenship application,” an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) spokesperson wrote to CIC News.

In other words, as long as you are a Canadian permanent resident living in Canada, part of a day in Canada counts as a full day toward your citizenship.

Physical presence requirements for Canadian citizenship

To meet the physical presence requirement, you need to have been a permanent resident for at least two years, and have spent at least 1,095 full days in Canada before the date of your application. IRCC only takes into account the five years before the date of your application.

Every day you spend in Canada as a permanent resident counts as one full day. Any time you spent in Canada on a work or study permit counts as half a day, up to 365 days. So, it takes two years in Canada as a temporary resident to equal one full year toward your physical presence requirement. Refugee claimants can start counting half days after they receive a positive decision on their claim, then full days after receiving permanent residency status.

The IRCC webpage recommends applying with more days than you need, to account for any miscalculations. The immigration department is able to verify your movement in and out of Canada through the Entry/Exit program, which it uses to collect traveller information from the border.

Other eligibility requirements for citizenship

In addition to the physical presence requirement, to apply for Canadian citizenship:

  • You need to be able to speak either English or French well enough to communicate in Canadian society. If you are between ages 18 and 54 you have to submit proof of language proficiency.
  • You cannot have a criminal history that prohibits the granting of citizenship, as decided by IRCC.
  • You must be aware of the rights and responsibilities of citizens and have basic knowledge of Canada’s geography, political system, and history.
  • You may need to file taxes in Canada for at least three years during the five years before the date you apply.
  • Also, you must submit a formal application to IRCC and pay a government processing fee, and right of citizenship fee.

Once you meet the eligibility criteria, you can apply for Canadian citizenship. If approved, applicants between ages 18 and 54 will have to take a citizenship test. Then you must attend a citizenship ceremony and receive a certificate of Canadian citizenship, take the Oath of Citizenship, and officially become a Canadian citizen.

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