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The Liberal party announced the elimination of the processing fees that come along with citizenship for new Canadians to make it “more affordable.”
The current fee is $530 which was brought up from $100 under Harper’s Conservative government. The loss in revenue from this source will represent a cost of $400 million over four years ($100 million per year).
The Liberal Party policy reads that: “Becoming a citizen allows new immigrants to fully participate in Canadian society and the process of granting citizenship is a government service, not something that should be paid for with a user fee…To make citizenship more affordable, we will make the application process free for those who have fulfilled the requirements needed to obtain it.”
The Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) supports the elimination of the fees stating, on their website, that, “Citizenship fees were doubled as of February 2014 (from $200 to $400). This represents a lot of money for someone on a low income, such as a young student or a single-parent family,” although it is worth noting that the CCR also opposes language requirements for french or English.
Andrew Griffith, a former senior immigration official, said that although he did not agree with the “steep” increase in costs for becoming a citizen, he also does not believe in removing the fees altogether. Griffith suggested a reduction of the expenses to $300 for citizenship processing would be a fair middle ground.
“Waiving the fees completely, at a cost of some $100 million a year, is excessive and will likely be perceived as political positioning to attract immigrant voters,” Griffith said.
In a statement made to the CBC Ahmed Hussen, the Liberal immigration minister seeking reelection this year, said, “We heard from groups across the country who have said that the prohibitive fees were stopping families from finally becoming Canadian.”
The minister also highlighted how much citizenship for an entire family can add up.
“Currently, the cost of applying for citizenship for an average family of four is almost $1,500,” Hussen said.
This new Liberal promise opens a divide over whether citizenship is a public good to be paid by Canadian taxpayers, or an individual luxury to be paid for by new Canadians themselves.