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Benefits to becoming a Canadian citizen

Published:Tuesday | June 12, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Deidre S. Powell

Dear Miss Powell,

I look forward to reading your articles online each week. I am a Jamaican by birth and have been living in Canada since 1985. I pay my taxes and I am a good citizen. I have always held onto my Jamaican citizenship and do not want to give that up. But I think it is time to apply for my citizenship in Canada. I am just wondering about the benefits and if I will have to give my Jamaican citizenship. What is your advice?

- M.N.

Dear M.N,

You have indicated you have lived in Canada more than 25 years, so I am going to assume that since you have been paying taxes, that you are a permanent resident and have been living in Canada legally.

There are several benefits to becoming a citizen of a country. The most fundamental is the right to vote and play a role in the political process. Other benefits of being a citizen of Canada are:

1. You will have a Canadian passport and will have the benefit of travelling to certain countries without a visa.

2. As a citizen you will not have the same restriction on the time you choose to remain outside of Canada.

3. Being a citizen guarantees you the right to remain in Canada and not run the risk of deportation if you should commit certain crimes after you have become a citizen.

4. You will no longer have to renew your permanent-resident card every five years and have to deal with application procedure and costs.

5. If you have a child in another country your child will have the benefit of becoming a Canadian citizen by descent.

6. You will be able to take advantage of NAFTA Treaty provision and could access work in the USA and Mexico.

7. Certain federal jobs require you to have high security clearance and be a Canadian citizen.

8. You can get to sit on some of the exciting court cases as a juror.

Dual citizenship

I understand your concern about losing your Jamaican citizenship. however, you will not automatically lose your Jamaican citizenship upon becoming a Canadian citizen, unless you choose to revoke your Jamaican citizenship. You can hold what is called 'dual citizenship' if you maintain your Canadian and Jamaican citizenship.

If you have not been absent from Canada for an extended period of time and have lived in Canada at least 1095 days within the past four years, then you may apply for your citizenship. You will need to complete the required form, pay the fees and submit the relevant supporting documents. You will also have to do a written citizenship test if you are between the ages of 18- 55 years.

If you are having issues or concerns about the application process, or if you are currently not living legally in Canada, consult a lawyer to ensure you are protecting your interests.

Deidre S. Powell is a lawyer, mediator and notary public who is a member of the Jamaican and Ontario, Canada bars, with main office located in Ottawa, Ontario. Her areas of practice are in immigration, real estate, personal injury, family and administration of estates. She is on the roster of mediators for Ottawa, Toronto and the Dispute Resolution Foundation of Jamaica. Email: info@deidrepowell.com. Subject line: Immigration