So you want to become a Canadian citizen!

You’ve made an excellent choice. Canada is known for many world-class offerings, like universal healthcare, hockey and ketchup-flavoured chips. It’s also welcoming to newcomers, with more than 20% of its population being born elsewhere.

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Getting Canadian citizenship can seem like an overwhelming endeavour, but we have good news. If you have questions about how to turn your residency into full-fledged citizenship, you’ve come to the right place. This handy guide will teach you all the ins and outs of becoming a Canuck.

What changes can I expect when I become a Canadian citizen?

Applying for citizenship entails several steps, but the benefits are more than worth your effort. Aside from having easy access to Tim Horton’s coffee and the longest coastline in the world (best enjoyed simultaneously), citizens can enjoy other perks such as being able to vote, run for political office, and receive a Canadian passport. Depending on your home country’s policies, you might even be able to hold dual citizenship.

Who’s eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship?

The first step towards gaining Canadian citizenship is that you need to already have permanent residence status and have lived in Canada for at least 1,095 days (three years) during the five years before the date you sign your citizenship application. Other criteria includes potentially needing to pass a citizenship test and proving your proficiency in one of Canada’s official languages, although these two requirements are only for applicants aged between 18 and 54. If applicable, you may also need to demonstrate you filed your taxes in Canada within the last five years.

Three steps to citizenship

Becoming a Canadian citizen actually involves numerous little tasks, but we prefer to keep it simple. We’ve organized your path to citizenship into three major steps.

Step 1: Prepare and submit your application

Your citizenship application is a package with all of your documentation in a single place so that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) can process your request. Some applicants, such as single adults applying only for themselves, can submit online. Everyone else has to print and fill out a paper application to mail in.

You’ll need to provide certain information for each application you submit for yourself and any family members such as your children. Before you even begin filling out your documents, it’s a good idea to look at this checklist to see what information you’ll need. In addition to identification like your passport and any documentation that shows you meet the eligibility requirements, you’ll have to supply citizenship photos, and the fee.

After you’ve submitted your application, there’s nothing to do but wait until you’ve been processed. Right now, the expected processing time is 27 months—but don’t fret, you could use this time brush up on Canadian history, law and civics. There’s a test for those between 18 and 54 years old that you’re going to want to ace.

Step 2: Pass your citizenship test and complete your interview

Once the IRCC processes your application, they will get in touch with you to have you take a citizenship test or have an interview (or both), depending on your age and situation. If this is giving you flashbacks to high school, don’t worry. They tell you everything that will be on the test and you even get a free study guide. If you’re between 18 and 54 years old, you’ll have to take the test followed by an interview where they’ll confirm your eligibility, assess your language skills and ask any questions they might have about you and your application.

Many people find being tested or interviewed stressful, but your only job is to prepare. The interview typically takes place right after the test on the same day. If you pass, you will either be given your ceremony date right then or receive a follow-up with that information.

Step 3: Did someone say “ceremony”?

Everybody likes a little tradition and Canadians are no different. Along with other successful applicants, you’ll take the Oath of Citizenship, receive your citizenship certificate, sign the form and sing the national anthem, O Canada. Feel free to dress up (with or without a “Canadian tuxedo”) and celebrate your achievement. This is a big moment, so enjoy it!

Setting up your new Canadian life

Earning your Canadian citizenship is a huge deal and now that you’ve received it, you’re free to the same pursuits as your fellow Canadians. Your plans might involve buying a house, sending your children to university or starting a business — goals that can feel monumental in their own right.

Now’s a good time to acquaint yourself with some great pieces of advice available to newcomers to Canada. Check out the Scotiabank Advice+ Program. It offers tons of useful tips and guides on how to continue your journey in Canada financially prepared. And if you need help continuing your career in Canada, consider Windmill Microlending, a Canadian non-profit that, in partnership with Scotiabank, helps skilled immigrants and new citizens achieve career success.

Becoming a Canadian citizen is a milestone. Whatever your future holds, enjoy every moment. You earned it.

Ready to get your finances on track for your future? Come in and speak to a Scotia advisor today