Last Updated on November 12, 2020
Canadian citizenship applicants are calling for the resumption of knowledge tests placed on hold since March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Many permanent residents applying to become Canadian citizens have seen processing halted due to service restrictions caused by COVID-19.
But with many services resuming either online or in-person, applicants are now asking why the same does not apply to the citizenship test.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) says online tests are an option, although there is no information on when they might begin.
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There are also concerns over the integrity of online tests.
Canada requires all candidates aged 18 to 54 to take the test, which includes 20 questions on anything from culture to the rights and responsibilities on citizens.
Candidates for citizenship must also prove their knowledge of English or French, and meet physical presence requirements.
Under current law, candidates must have three years of physical presence as a permanent resident during the preceding five years.
Meanwhile, some citizenship candidates are playing a waiting game over the federal government’s promise to abolish the citizenship fee.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals made a pre-election pledge in 2019 to waive the $630 fee associated with obtaining Canadian citizenship.
Since the pledge was made, the coronavirus crisis has taken grip in Canada, with Ottawa forced to step in and provide financial aid to many who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Now permanent residents are reluctant to file citizenship applications as they wait for news on the Liberal promise to remove the application fee.
The current $630 fee includes a $530 processing fee – increased from $100 under the previous Conservative government – and a further $100 ‘right of citizenship’ fee.
Despite cheaper fees for children, a typical family of four would need to pay $1,460 for their citizenship, provided they met other requirements.
As ceremonies were cancelled in the early part of the pandemic in Canada, the number of new citizens plummeted in March, April, May and June, the latest available figures show.
Just five people became Canadian citizenships in April, compared to the 26,730 in February, the last month before coronavirus restrictions took hold.
The latest figures show 1,656 people became citizens in June, as virtual ceremonies gradually increased the numbers, but this is still dramatically down on pre-pandemic numbers, and down on the 20,667 who became citizens in June 2019.
In the first half of 2020, 62,696 people became citizens, with more than 50,000 doing so in January and February, before coronavirus hit Canada.
By comparison, 127,580 became citizens in the first six months of 2019, with more than 250,000 becoming citizens in the yea