Canada Gazette, Part I, Volume 157, Number 8: Regulations Amending the Citizenship Regulations (Oath of Citizenship)
February 25, 2023
Department of Citizenship and Immigration
REGULATORY IMPACT ANALYSIS STATEMENT
(This statement is not part of the Regulations.)
The Government of Canada encourages all eligible immigrants to become Canadian citizens; citizenship provides personal and societal benefits, enabling full participation and inclusion in Canadian society.
Each year, thousands of individuals apply for Canadian citizenship. Increased demand, in-person and paper-based processing, and other factors, such as constraints during COVID-19, have contributed to rising inventories of citizenship applications, resulting in processing times well beyond the published service standard of 12 months. In the 5 years from 2016–2017 to 2021–2022, citizenship grant applications have more than doubled, from 113 000 to 243 000. Immigration levels continue to rise, with a target of 500 000 permanent residents for 2025, which will contribute to ongoing increases in citizenship applications.
Technology offers the potential to vastly transform client service by helping to address long processing times and application inventories. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (the Department) has launched digital and online initiatives aimed at modernizing the Citizenship Program and reducing inventories and wait times to improve client service. Modernization initiatives include providing and processing electronic citizenship applications (e-applications), conducting online citizenship tests, maintaining an online application tracker, holding virtual citizenship ceremonies, and offering electronic certificates (e-certificates) of Canadian citizenship. These changes are beginning to show results: in the past year, citizenship application inventories and processing times have been reduced. The Department is on track to process a record 300 000 new citizenship applications this 2022–2023 fiscal year, an increase of approximately 34% over the 2021–2022 fiscal year, as a result of these innovations, temporary funding, and additional hiring. However, there is more work to be done to advance the modernization of the Citizenship Program. As of October 2022, there was an inventory of approximately 358 000 citizenship applications with clients waiting 24 months from the time of application to the taking of the Oath of Citizenship, which is the final legal requirement to becoming a citizen.
Amendments to the Citizenship Regulations (Regulations) to provide flexibility in the taking of the Oath of Citizenship, for example without the presence of an authorized official, are being proposed as another step towards modernization of the Citizenship Program.
Citizenship serves as a common bond for Canadian-born individuals and naturalized Canadians alike, signifying full membership in Canadian society. Citizenship acquisition results in personal and societal benefits, providing rights and benefits related to mobility with a Canadian passport, voting rights, and access to some jobs, including the ability to run for elected office. By enabling civic participation, citizenship supports the ability of newcomers to contribute to public life and integrate into society.
The Oath of Citizenship has been a legal requirement of becoming a citizen since 1947; it is a solemn promise taken by citizenship applicants to follow the laws of Canada and fulfill their duties as citizens. The requirement to take an oath or to swear allegiance is common across Migration 5 countries (Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom). Swearing an oath to respect the laws of a country or swearing an oath of allegiance to a country, whether online or in-person, is intended to be a meaningful step towards belonging, community, and an attachment to a country.
The requirements for the administration of the Oath of Citizenship are set out in the Regulations, and stipulate that it must be taken before an authorized individual, and, in most cases, at a citizenship ceremony. As part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department introduced virtual citizenship ceremonies: clients are invited to attend the online ceremony via a video conference call and swear or affirm the Oath of Citizenship before an authorized individual, such as a citizenship judge. This shift towards video ceremonies has allowed clients to meet the final legal requirement to become citizens, particularly when it was not possible to hold in-person citizenship ceremonies for this purpose. Since the implementation of virtual ceremonies on April 1, 2020, and the resumption of in-person ceremonies in the summer of 2022, the Department has hosted over 15 457 ceremonies, 15 290 of which were virtual events, resulting in an overall total of 549 290 applicants taking the Oath of Citizenship.
Recognizing that more can be done to further improve client service and processing times, on January 31, 2022, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration (the Minister) announced that the Department would begin pursuing the necessary changes to allow for self-administration of the Oath of Citizenship. This proposal would also complement ongoing work to pursue digital solutions in the Citizenship Program to improve application processing, client services, and overall system efficiency and integrity, respecting the Government’s intent as announced in Budget 2022.
The purpose of the amendments to the Regulations is to add flexibility in how the Oath of Citizenship can be taken, including in the presence or not of an authorized person. The flexibility would allow the Department to implement options aimed at improving client service and reducing processing times of citizenship applications, while continuing to allow citizenship applicants to meet the legal requirement of swearing or affirming to the Oath of Citizenship.
Amendments to the Citizenship Regulations are needed to provide flexibility in how the Oath of Citizenship is taken and to give the Minister discretion in determining how the requirements for taking the Oath are to be met.
Under the proposed Regulations, the Minister would have broad discretion to allow clients to take the Oath by other means and not necessarily before an authorized individual. Currently, clients swear or affirm the Oath of Citizenship before an authorized person at virtual or in-person ceremonies, which are primarily scheduled on weekdays, during working hours, although ceremonies are occasionally scheduled on Saturdays. Many clients have to take time off work to attend citizenship ceremonies, and this time off is not necessarily paid by employers.
Following the implementation of the proposed Regulations, the ceremonial procedures, that are currently set out in the existing Regulations and that are followed by citizenship judges, will be removed from the Regulations and instead be outlined in guidance documents made available on the Department’s website. The proposal would also make minor changes to the Regulations regarding citizenship certificates that reflect the new ways in which the Oath may be taken. Clients would continue to be provided a certificate of Canadian citizenship after they complete the Oath.
The proposed amendments would also make minor changes to confirm that there are no fees for Oath taking, regardless of how the Oath is taken.
The Department intends to use the flexibility provided by the proposed Regulations to offer an additional option for clients to take their Oath to complete their journey of becoming new citizens. Clients would be able to take the Oath via a secure online solution, without the presence of an authorized person, which could eliminate up to three months of processing time, or at a ceremony in front of an authorized person, as is currently the case for most applicants.
Stakeholder and public feedback will be sought through the prepublication process in the Canada Gazette, Part I.
Modern treaty obligations and Indigenous engagement and consultation
This proposal does not have any impacts on modern treaties.
The Citizenship Regulations outline the manner in which the Oath is taken and include ceremonial procedures to be followed by citizenship judges. Amendments to the Regulations are needed to allow for the option of taking the Oath of Citizenship through the means made available or specified by the Minister.
Benefits and costs
An important first step in developing a cost-benefit methodology is establishing a baseline scenario against which options may be measured. For this analysis, the baseline is a scenario where applicants who are required to take the Oath of Citizenship take it at a citizenship ceremony, which is administered either via video conference or in-person, before an authorized individual. The baseline is then compared with the regulatory scenario, where applicants who are required to take the Oath of Citizenship would have the choice between taking the Oath at a ceremony, or taking the Oath via a secure online solution, without the presence of an authorized individual.
The regulatory amendments are expected to come into force in June 2023, and as such, the costs and benefits of the amendments are estimated for the period from 2023 to 2032.
The total cost of the regulatory amendments is estimated at $4.92 million present value (PV) over 10 years. These costs reflect both the transition costs and ongoing costs to the Government of Canada. However, there are expected to be significant qualitative benefits which outweigh these costs.
Transition costs to the Government of Canada include items such as costs for communications products, updates to program delivery instructions and other administrative materials, and costs to develop and implement the information technology (IT) infrastructure necessary to allow candidates to self-administer the Oath of Citizenship online without the presence of an authorized individual. These costs would be assumed in the year 2023 and are estimated at approximately $0.06 million (PV).
Ongoing costs to Government reflect the additional costs of maintaining and supporting the IT functionality to allow candidates to swear or affirm the Oath online, as well as ongoing communications support and legal costs. Total ongoing costs to Government are estimated at $4.86 million (PV) million over 10 years.
The regulatory proposal would present benefits for the Government of Canada. Currently, clients who are required to take the Oath of Citizenship must do so before an authorized individual, either virtually or in-person. Following the regulatory amendments and implementation of the online solution providing for self-administration of the oath, clients would also have the option to take the Oath digitally without the presence of an authorized individual. Consequently, it is expected that participation in ceremonies would be lower than it is currently, and there would likely be fewer ceremonies overall. Therefore, the Government of Canada would save costs, as the proposal would likely reduce the number of ceremonies the Department would be required to arrange.
Under the regulatory scenario, clients who opt to take the Oath digitally via a secure online solution without the presence of an authorized individual would save up to three months of processing time, becoming new citizens faster than those who opt to take the Oath at a citizenship ceremony.
This proposal would also benefit clients by providing greater flexibility in client service and promote inclusivity by allowing them to take the Oath of Citizenship in a manner that works best and at a time that is most convenient for them during the allocated time frame. The regulatory changes could result in less impact on clients, including financial impact, because they would be able to arrange to take the Oath outside of their scheduled work hours.
Lastly, citizenship applicants who choose to take the Oath digitally via a secure online solution without an authorized individual present would enjoy time savings, as taking the Oath of Citizenship digitally in this manner is expected to be less time consuming than taking the Oath at a ceremony. While ceremonies take approximately 90 minutes, swearing or affirming in this manner via the secure online solution is expected to take significantly less time.
Small business lens
Analysis under the small business lens concluded that the proposed Regulations will not impact Canadian small businesses.
The one-for-one rule does not apply as there is no incremental change in the administrative burden on business and no regulatory titles are repealed or introduced.
Regulatory cooperation and alignment
The proposal is not related to a work plan or commitment under a formal regulatory cooperation forum.
Strategic environmental assessment
In accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals, a preliminary scan concluded that a strategic environmental assessment is not required.
Gender-based analysis plus
No gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) impacts have been identified for this proposal.
Implementation, compliance and enforcement, and service standards
The regulatory amendments would allow the Minister to implement a secure online solution to allow applicants to take the Oath by swearing or affirming it online without the presence of an authorized individual. The Department intends to launch this secure online solution soon after the amended Regulations take effect and monitor the online activity regularly to ensure usability and client satisfaction.
The option to take the Oath online would facilitate meeting the final requirement for Canadian citizenship; in doing so, applicants could save up to three months of processing time. This option would be in addition to the current process of taking the Oath in the presence of an authorized individual, generally at a citizenship ceremony. Applicants would be provided with the options available to take the Oath, and instructions on how to take the Oath in the manner that they choose; upon completion, the applicant would have fulfilled the final legal requirement and would become a Canadian citizen.
Legislation and Program Policy
Department of Citizenship and Immigration
180 Kent Street
PROPOSED REGULATORY TEXT
Notice is given that the Governor in Council proposes to make the annexed Regulations Amending the Citizenship Regulations (Oath of Citizenship) under section 23footnote a and paragraphs 27(1)(b), (g) and (h) of the Citizenship Act footnote b.
Interested persons may make representations concerning the proposed Regulations within 30 days after the date of publication of this notice. They are strongly encouraged to use the online commenting feature that is available on the Canada Gazette website but if they use email, mail or any other means, the representations should cite the Canada Gazette, Part I, and the date of publication of this notice, and be addressed to Uyen Hoang, Senior Director, Legislation and Program Policy, Citizenship Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration, 180 Kent Street, Ottawa (Ontario) K1A 1L1 (email: IRCC.CITDGO-BDGCIT.IRCC@cic.gc.ca).
Ottawa, February 16, 2023
Assistant Clerk of the Privy Council
Regulations Amending the Citizenship Regulations (Oath of Citizenship)
1 Section 17 of the Citizenship Regulations footnote 1 and the heading before it are repealed.
2 Sections 19 to 22 of the Regulations are replaced by the following:
19 (1) Subject to subsection 5(3) of the Act, a person who is at least 14 years of age on the day on which the person is granted citizenship under subsection 5(1), (2) or (4) or 11(1) of the Act shall, on the invitation of the Minister, take the oath of citizenship, whether in or outside of Canada,
- (a) by the means that are made available or specified by the Minister for that purpose; or
- (b) before the Minister, a person who is authorized by the Minister in writing to act on the Minister’s behalf or a citizenship judge.
(2) A certificate of citizenship shall be delivered to a person who has taken the oath of citizenship.
20 When a person takes the oath of citizenship under subsection 19(1), they shall sign the form made available by the Minister, certifying that they have taken the oath.
21 The Minister, a person authorized by the Minister in writing to act on the Minister’s behalf as well as a citizenship judge may be the person before whom any person who has been granted citizenship can take the oath of citizenship, and, in such case, the Registrar shall make all necessary arrangements for the purpose of the taking of the oath.
3 The portion of section 24 of the Regulations before paragraph (a) is replaced by the following:
24 Subject to sections 19 to 21, any oath, solemn affirmation or declaration that is made for the purposes of the Act or these Regulations may be taken before
4 Subsections 31(2) and (3) of the English version of the Regulations are replaced by the following:
(2) No fee is payable in respect of the taking of an oath of citizenship.
(3) No fee is payable in respect of the taking of an oath, or the administration of a solemn affirmation or statutory declaration where it is administered by a person employed by His Majesty in right of Canada.
Coming into Force
5 These Regulations come into force on the day on which they are registered.
It is your responsibility to ensure that the comments you provide do not:
- contain personal information
- contain protected or classified information of the Government of Canada
- express or incite discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or against any other group protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
- contain hateful, defamatory, or obscene language
- contain threatening, violent, intimidating or harassing language
- contain language contrary to any federal, provincial or territorial laws of Canada
- constitute impersonation, advertising or spam
- encourage or incite any criminal activity
- contain a language other than English or French
- otherwise violate this notice
The federal institution managing the proposed regulatory change retains the right to review and remove personal information, hate speech, or other information deemed inappropriate for public posting as listed above.
Confidential Business Information should only be posted in the specific Confidential Business Information text box. In general, Confidential Business Information includes information that (i) is not publicly available, (ii) is treated in a confidential manner by the person to whose business the information relates, and (iii) has actual or potential economic value to the person or their competitors because it is not publicly available and whose disclosure would result in financial loss to the person or a material gain to their competitors. Comments that you provide in the Confidential Business Information section that satisfy this description will not be made publicly available. The federal institution managing the proposed regulatory change retains the right to post the comment publicly if it is not deemed to be Confidential Business Information.
Your comments will be posted on the Canada Gazette website for public review. However, you have the right to submit your comments anonymously. If you choose to remain anonymous, your comments will be made public and attributed to an anonymous individual. No other information about you will be made publicly available.
Comments will remain posted on the Canada Gazette website for at least 10 years.
Please note that public email is not secure, if the attachment you wish to send contains sensitive information, please contact the departmental email to discuss ways in which you can transmit sensitive information.
The information you provide is collected under the authority of the Financial Administration Act, the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act, the Canada–United States–Mexico Agreement Implementation Act,and applicable regulators’ enabling statutes for the purpose of collecting comments related to the proposed regulatory changes. Your comments and documents are collected for the purpose of increasing transparency in the regulatory process and making Government more accessible to Canadians.
Personal information submitted is collected, used, disclosed, retained, and protected from unauthorized persons and/or agencies pursuant to the provisions of the Privacy Act and the Privacy Regulations. Individual names that are submitted will not be posted online but will be kept for contact if needed. The names of organizations that submit comments will be posted online.
Submitted information, including personal information, will be accessible to Public Services and Procurement Canada, who is responsible for the Canada Gazette webpage, and the federal institution managing the proposed regulatory change.
You have the right of access to and correction of your personal information. To seek access or correction of your personal information, contact the Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Office of the federal institution managing the proposed regulatory change.
You have the right to file a complaint to the Privacy Commission of Canada regarding any federal institution’s handling of your personal information.
The personal information provided is included in Personal Information Bank PSU 938 Outreach Activities. Individuals requesting access to their personal information under the Privacy Act should submit their request to the appropriate regulator with sufficient information for that federal institution to retrieve their personal information. For individuals who choose to submit comments anonymously, requests for their information may not be reasonably retrievable by the government institution.