Advice, Expat Life

How easy is it to become a citizen of Canada?

Photo by K. Sheridan

Have you ever heard someone say something like, “Oh, it’s so easy to move to Canada. They’ll let anyone in.”

I have, and it’s Canadians who say it. They were probably kidding, and it’s true that Canada is very welcoming to immigrants, but it got me thinking: Is it easy to become a citizen of Canada?

Let’s look at all the things you have to do before you can apply for Canadian citizenship.

One of the steps to become a citizen of another country as an adult is taking that country’s citizenship test.

When you’re already a citizen of a country by birth, the answers to questions on these tests are things you would have learned as a child, mostly at school, and you probably take them for granted.

But if you were quizzed on the spot (and you couldn’t ask Google!) would you pass?

Apparently, most Canadians wouldn’t pass the Canadian citizenship test.

At least, that was the headline circulating the media on Canada Day, which in case you didn’t know, is on July 1st.

There, you already have the answer to one of the possible questions on the Canadian citizenship test. You’re welcome.

Where did these results come from?

Forum Research asked 1,654 Canadians ten questions that would be found on the Canadian citizenship test and found that only 12 per cent of them got enough of them correct to pass the test.

I’m proud to say I don’t fall into this category since I got 100% on the test. But obviously that’s because I was required to take it so I had to study for it.

And in this poll, they only had to do 10 questions. The official Canadian citizenship test is a combination of 20 multiple choice and true/false questions, selected from a list of about 250 possible questions. You have to get at least 15 out of 20 correct to pass, and each person taking the test is given a different set of questions.

While I was studying for the citizenship test, I tested a few of my Canadian friends and they did pretty well. In fact, some of them helped me study by explaining why that was the answer.

I also did some practice questions from the Australian citizenship test and based on results, I would have passed. But I did get a few wrong. And I was born, raised and educated – including a university degree – in Australia.

So why is the citizenship test a requirement of becoming a citizen if so many current citizens don’t even know the answers?

Because becoming a citizen of any country is not as simple as just taking a short test.

It’s not like you just have to answer a bunch of questions correctly and voila, you’re instantly granted citizenship. It’s a long process that takes years.

The application itself takes one year to process and the test is only one part of it. I applied in October, and in December I received a notification that my application had commenced processing.

In February I received a request to get my fingerprints taken. Even though I had done that twice before, once for my second IEC visa and once for my permanent resident application, I had to do it again, because they don’t keep your fingerprints after they have cleared them, so it’s not like you can just ask them to “check the last one.” Believe me, I tried!

At the end of May, I received an invitation to take the citizenship test in the middle of June. It was scheduled for the same day as my graduation ceremony from the post-grad I had just completed at George Brown, but it’s pretty hard to reschedule the test (and my request to do so did not even get a response) so obviously I missed my graduation.

Once I did the test and completed the interview, the officer told me I would receive an invitation to attend an oath ceremony in around October. So that’s about a year from start to finish.

And that’s only one part of the journey to citizenship. First you need to be eligible to apply in the first place, which is a process that could take around 6 or more years.

Just marry someone!

Oftentimes when a non-resident is lamenting wanting to remain in a country they don’t have rights to remain in, people exclaim, “Just marry someone!”

Well, I’m sure you can predict what I’m about to tell you: Marrying a Canadian does not mean you automatically get Canadian citizenship.

The Canadian government explicitly states, ” If you want to become a Canadian citizen, you must follow the same steps as everyone else. There isn’t a special process for spouses of Canadian citizens.”

Want to know what it takes to become a citizen of Canada? Keep reading.

This information is outlined on several sites, including the Government of Canada’s site, but I’ll show you what each of these steps looks like and how I experienced them when applying for Canadian citizenship.

To be eligible to apply to become a Canadian citizen, you must meet the following criteria:

You must be a permanent resident of Canada

This alone requires an extensive application in which you are subjected to a lot of testing and background checks. You also need to be eligible to apply for permanent residency in the first place, and many people are not. Eligibility depends on many factors and vary person to person.

You also need money! The application alone is about $2000 Canadian dollars.

On top of that, the numerous tests and checks you have to do, depending on how many are requested from you by immigration, also cost a lot.

My application in total was about $6000 CAD.

You must have lived in Canada for three out of the past five years

Which means you will acquire a lot of knowledge and experience about the Canadian way of life, and you will learn so much about what it means to be Canadian; things you could never learn in a Citizenship test study book.

This also means you have to keep track of and recount your travel history to the day. Depending on your lifestyle, this may be a huge pain in the ass!

Even if you aren’t applying for citizenship, if you travel at all, I recommend you find a way to record and track all your trips. I have had to recount mine twice, and since not all countries stamp your passport on entry and exit, it can be hard to remember going back five or ten years! Going through your emails for past flight itineraries helps, but if you’ve also done land border-crossings, good luck!

You need to have been filing taxes while you’ve lived here

Living in a country means you will earn and/or spend money in that country, so you’re also contributing to the economy while you’re living here.

Paying taxes is another way to contribute to the economy and help the country to continue to supply services for citizens and residents. It’s kind of like investing in a country’s prosperity. So by the time you apply for citizenship you would have been “investing” in your life in Canada for a while.

You need to prove that you can communicate in at least one of Canada’s two official languages

If you’re 18 to 54 years old, you must show that you can speak and listen at a specific level in one of these languages.

This is done by taking a test at an approved testing centre, and it costs about $300.

I was born and raised in an English-speaking Commonwealth country, English is my first language and I have a bachelors degree from an Australian university with a major in English, but I still had to take a test to prove my English language skills. So there are no passes here!

You are also assessed on your English and/or French communication skills during your interactions with customs officials at the citizenship testing centre (such as the person at the front desk with whom you check in, and the test adjudicators).

Once you’re done the test, you have an interview with an immigration officer who checks all your documents and tells you the results of your test. In the interview, you’re asked a lot of questions and your language skills are assessed as you answer them.

The officer is behind a glass panel and the room is filled with people so it feels kind of like when you go through customs at an airport and they ask you questions before they let you enter.

There are also a bunch of reasons someone may not be eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship.

Most of them involve having some sort of criminal history, like being convicted of a crime, being on trial for a crime, being asked to leave Canada by a Canadian official, or having a citizenship application for another country refused, and other such things outlined by the Government of Canada.

So there you go. It’s not “easy” to become a citizen of Canada. They don’t just “give it to anyone”. So if you ever hear someone say that, you can just laugh in their face. Or show them this blog post!

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Expat Life

Why I avoided Australians when I first moved to Canada

I bet you read the title and thought, “Um, who do you think you are?

Let me explain.

I read this post from The Betoota Advocate and they had quoted a representative from The Australian Bureau of Statistics who said the fact that only 1 in 30 Australian expats make friends with locals is pathetic.

That got me thinking about how I hear expats talk about how hard it is to make friends with locals when they’re on a working holiday. They often end up hanging out with other expats who also have an expiry date and soon leave them.

So they cycle through friends for the one to two years they’re there, and if they are lucky enough to transition to a permanent visa, find themselves lonely because all their expat friends have left. If they leave at the end of their visa, all they did was hang out with a bunch of people who were also foreigners.

Is there anything wrong with this? Of course not.

It makes sense, because expats flock to the parts of the country that are most famous and have the best resources for temporary residents. It’s also comforting to surround yourself with people who are going through the same thing as you are.

But are you really going to experience what life is like in your new country if you construct your life so that it feels exactly like your home country?

It’s kind of like learning a new language – you can study and practice it all you want, and know how to speak it in theory, but that can’t compare to immersing yourself in an environment where they communicate in that language.

That’s why when I came here, I decided that the best way to truly experience the Canadian way of life was to make my life fully Canadian.

That meant embracing everything Canada had to offer that Australia didn’t, including its people. It also meant avoiding parts of the country that have a huge concentration of Aussies, like Whistler. So many Australians go there that is has earnt the nickname “Whistralia” and they call Australians “Jafas” which stands for “just another f***ing Aussie.”

I did so because I thought to myself, I’m not going to move to the other side of the world just to feel like I haven’t left. I want the country to feel very different and new, and it won’t feel that way if I’m surrounded by Australians.

I was so excited by this new adventure that I totally embraced my new life in Canada and kind of ignored my life back in Australia. I didn’t keep up with anything that was going on back home and I focused fully on life in Canada. I figured it would always be there waiting for me when I went home.

Obviously I don’t have anything against Australians! I’m Australian, and I love my people, of course! I just think it would have been a different experience for me if I had closed myself off to building relationships in Canada by finding my Aussie tribe and relying on them to carry me through my time here.

I couldn’t avoid it forever though. After about five years I started to get really homesick and I wanted to be around Aussies again, and I ended up finding a couple of Facebook groups and of course met some cool ones living here.

But I’m glad that at first, my social circle was mostly locals because I didn’t have the Australian way of life influencing the experience I was having in Canada, and I could see what life here was really like.

I also didn’t have the cushion of having mostly Australian friends to see me through my time there, so it forced me to make friends with locals, no matter how hard it was. Because it can be hard!

If I didn’t, maybe my experience would have been totally different. Or maybe I just secretly loved being the only Australian amongst all my Canadian friends and I didn’t want to share the spotlight!

What do you think? Is it better to seek out familiarity in an unfamiliar situation, or dive into the uncertainty of a whole new world?

Let me know in the comments!

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Expat Life

How a Canadian ad made me question my Australian identity

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com


Australia is pretty famous for its unusual and colourful slang. There are videos all over YouTube of non-Australians comparing or guessing the meaning of certain words Australians use – and they’re very entertaining to watch. But language is fluid and ever-evolving. Over time, new words are introduced while old ones are phased out.

If you’re an expat, this could happen while you’re away. And the longer you’re away from home, the more out of touch you’ll become. Unless you only surround yourself with people who are also from your home country (which isn’t too hard in some parts of some countries), you will adopt and get used to the language of the country you’re in and start to forget the one you left behind. It’s just inevitable.

Even if you think “people should just accept that you’re a foreigner and you talk funny”, and you try to maintain your “Australianisms” abroad, it gets old trying to explain what you mean and having every interaction interrupted with reactions to the fact that you’re different.

This is especially true in a work environment. You can’t insist on calling things what they’re called in your home country, even if it’s in the same language. You have to use the local terms, just like you would expect foreigners to do if they lived and worked in your country.

This kind of thing can cause issues on a bigger scale. Online news source news.com.au reported that Australian soldiers have been banned from using Australian slang around US troops because it caused a miscommunication. It’s the reason why certain industries, such as aviation, use standard universal terms and codes.

As an Australian who’s been living in Canada for seven years, I can attest to this. I’ve experienced first-hand the miscommunication that can be caused by using an everyday phrase in Australia to find that means something else entirely here. My brain has become a mish-mash of Aussie and Canadian lingo, and every year I notice more Australian words disappear from my vocabulary.

But in the past year or two, I’ve noticed more Australian-themed advertising pop up in this part of the world, complete with Aussie lingo. There are ads for Australian wine and footwear on the subway, and the didgeridoo appeared in a commercial for e-marketing, to name a couple. Some of the ads are great! They’re cute, clever and make home seem a little closer.

But some of these ads are using interesting versions of what I know to be Australian slang, and it’s making me ask: do Australians actually say these? Have they always said it, or is it new? Or is it just the North American twist being put on it that’s confusing me?

It’s gotten to the point where, even though I was born and raised in Australia, I’m questioning whether these are authentic Australian lingo or not.

And I’m not the only one. It’s throwing off other Aussies living here as well. Here are a few examples.

1. Calling Australia “Aussie”

I’ve heard some North American celebrities do this. I’ve always known “Aussie” to be an abbreviation of the word “Australian” . You can call someone or something “Aussie” or “an Aussie”. But you can’t call Australia “Aussie”. If you want to shorten Australia, it’s Oz. To me, it’s like calling the USA “Yankee” or Canada “Canuck.” I polled a group of Australians and got 60 responses. 92% of them said you can’t call Australia “Aussie”. That means 8% of them said you can! Which is it?

2. Calling flat whites “flatties”

Second Cup, a Canadian coffee chain, has been really trying with the Australian lately. First the meat pie effort, now this. Australians in Canada appreciate it. But I’ve never heard a flat white referred to as a “flatty”.

Second Cup Canada

To find out, a bunch of Aussies living in Toronto were polled, and out of 71 responses, only a few of them said they’ve heard Australians in some parts call a flat white a “flatty”. Is it true?

3. Saying “shrimp on the barbie”

This is the only one I’m sure about. Australians definitely don’t call them shrimp.

It’s prawn. PRAWN.

We can thank Paul Hogan and Jim Carrey for this delightful one. I wonder how much they both got paid for this abomination?

At least this Flight Centre Canada ad got most of the lingo right.

It’s amazing how the usage of word can be permanently altered because it’s used a certain way and that way catches on. I no longer trust my own knowledge of Australia and the North American influence in my life isn’t helping. I hope globalization and the need for a universal language doesn’t eradicate Australia’s unique slang. It’s one of our many amazing qualities. Any thoughts on this? Let me know in the comments.

The joys of being an expat!

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