How to Get Your Canadian Citizenship

Yesterday I took, and passed, the Canadian citizenship test. Much like obtaining the G1 license in Ontario, I didn’t find enough information online about the process, so I thought I would share some details regarding my personal experience here.

Flag of Canada

The process to obtain your Canadian citizenship

Before delving into the details of preparing and passing the citizenship test, I want to provide you with a quick overview of the entire process:

  1. First you’ll need to determine if you are eligible to apply and then, if you are, apply for Canadian citizenship. You’ll need to be a permanent resident who’s been in the country long enough in order to do so.
  2. Wait a long time. The current processing time is, on average, about 19 months. After several months, the status of your application will change to reflect the fact that your application has been received and is now being processed. Thankfully you can check the status of your citizenship application online. At some point you might receive a notice in the mail stating that your application has been accepted. This notice doesn’t mean that you’ll become a Canadian citizen for sure; just that the CIC has verified that your application was prepared correctly and will now be further processed.
  3. Some time later, you’ll receive a notice to appear at a local citizenship and immigration center. This notice will tell you exactly what documents you need to bring, as well as the date and time of your meeting.
  4. Once you pass your knowledge and linguistic ability test, you’ll be invited to a citizenship ceremony, which will is typically attended by yourself and your family and friends. Here you’ll receive a citizenship certificate, which (it’s worth noting) cannot be used for identification purposes (as the government wants you to apply for a passport instead).

Since most people already have citizenship from a different country (in my case, Italy), it’s important to note that Canada is happy to give you citizenship even if you plan to keep your original citizenship. Dual citizenship is allowed in Canada.

Other countries however may not allow you to keep your original citizenship or may require you to go through a process to let them know about your new citizenship. Either way, this has nothing to do with Canada, and you should contact your country of origin’s consulate in Canada for questions related to dual citizenship.

Back to the topic of the citizenship test itself, in this post I focus on the third step in the process outlined above, which is the least documented one. The fourth step is really straightforward. It’s just a formal ceremony where you’ll recite the oath of citizenship, sign and receive your citizenship certificate.

On the day of your citizenship test

You may wondering what things are going to be like on the day of your citizenship test. The notice you receive in the mail prior to this day will include details of where and when you need to appear. If you foresee not being able to attend on your scheduled test date, contact the CIC (by telephone) immediately to let them know and to reschedule your test.

It’s important that you arrive on time. In my case I arrived half an hour beforehand, and I suggest you do the same to be on the safe side. Nevertheless, in my case arriving early turned out to be a moot point because the appointment was at 1pm, and the office was closed between 12pm and 1pm for lunch. (At my local Kelowna center the opening hours were 10am-12pm, and 1pm-3pm, but I’m not 100% sure that your local center will have the same hours.)

You’ll be asked to provide your notice to the clerk at the window, and then to have seat. After a while you’ll be called in for registration. This is an informal interview that should not last more than 10-15 minutes. During this interview you’ll be asked to provide the original documents of the photocopies you sent in with your citizenship application, as well as a photocopy of your passport’s biographical information (basically the first two pages).

They won’t really tell you right there, but during this short interview you’re actually being tested on your linguistic skills (whether you opt to have a conversation in English or French is up to you). The interviewer may ask you generic questions about your life, why you moved here, where you work, and so on. They should not ask you knowledge based questions at this point. This step is primarily done to figure out if your English or French is good enough for you to to become a Canadian citizen.

If your English (or French, if you chose French) is considered to be poor, you won’t be taking the written knowledge test. Instead, you’ll be scheduled to meet with a judge who will ask you knowledge questions and then make a final decision regarding whether your linguistic skills are good enough for you to be granted citizenship.

If your English (or French) is poor to the point of not being able to communicate with at least a certain degree of ease, the immigration official is, in theory, allowed to fail you as though you had failed the knowledge test (more on this topic in a moment). I don’t believe this happens very often though, as they are very understanding of linguistic challenges, but you should be able to communicate in one of the two official languages in order to obtain your Canadian citizenship.

Once this registration/linguistic test is over, you’re asked to take a seat in the waiting room. After everyone (in the room with you) has registered, you’ll be invited into a different room where the actual knowledge test will take place.

The Citizenship Knowledge test

The knowledge test is aimed at verifying your understanding of:

  • The rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizens
  • Canadian knowledge (history, geography, culture, political system, etc)

All the information you need to know in order to pass the test is contained within the Discover Canada guide, which is available for free in print, online, as an ebook, audiobook, and even in iPhone format. This guide is only 50 page long, but it contains a significant amount of details, names, and dates. Do not wait to open up the guide for the first time the day before the test, as this will most likely not give you enough time to adequately study and go on to pass the test.

Federal representatives

Key Federal Government Figures

The citizenship knowledge test contains 20 questions, and you are provided with 4 possible answers for each of them. You need to circle the correct answer for all of these questions on the sheet provided. If you get five or less questions wrong, you’ll pass the test. If you get six or more wrong, you’ll fail. Each applicant gets their own completely randomly generated set of 20 questions, so there’s no way to base your own test questions directly off of those someone else may have had.

The fail rate has increased over the last few years. This used to be a trivial test with a mere 5% failure rate. Today however that number has climbed to over 30%. This is to say, you’ll probably pass, but you need to actually study in order to do so. Your average Canadian citizen polled at random on these questions would not pass the test.

You are given 30 minutes to complete the test, which might not seem like that long, but to be honest, it should be plenty of time for most people. I had 19 of the 20 questions answered within two minutes of sitting down. One question’s phrasing was a bit ambiguous so I spent some time thinking about which answer was “more correct” in their view.

I don’t remember all the questions that I was presented with, but there was definitely a mix of both very basic and somewhat harder ones on the test. For example, among the basic questions, they asked me about Canada’s winter and summer sports (hockey and lacrosse, respectively), who the Prime Minister was (Stephen Harper), and who sits at the House of Commons (MPs elected by citizens to represent their electoral district).

As well I remember questions about things such as which are the Atlantic provinces (Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick), and which provinces formed the Confederation in 1867 (Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick). Topics such as what the highest honor in Canada is (Victoria Cross), who the first Prime Minister (Sir John A. MacDonald) was, and where the majority of Quebec’s population lives (St. Lawrence’s river) were also covered in my sampling of test questions.

I don’t remember the exact questions for the, supposedly more advanced questions, but I believe they delved into such things as when Nunavut became a territory (April 1, 1999), Vimy Ridge, D-Day and Juno Beach, and the names of early Canadian explorers.

Once you are done answering the questions, you leave the room and wait outside. After a little bit someone will come out to inform you regarding whether you passed or failed the test (but no score or feedback on the specific questions will be provided). If you pass, you’ll also receive a notice in the mail inviting you to attend a ceremony where you’ll take the oath and receive your citizenship certificate. In my case this will take place at the end of next month, six or so weeks after the knowledge test, but I’m sure these dates vary a lot depending on your own location.

The whole citizenship test process took about an hour and a half, but this too will depend on the number of people attending the test, how many government employees are working that day, etc.

If you fail the knowledge test, they’ll schedule an interview with a judge on a different date. The judge will ask you to prove your knowledge to see if you’re ready to become a citizen yet or not. If you are, you may receive your citizenship. If you aren’t, I believe you’ll have to reapply for citizenship from scratch (a process that takes at least a year and a half).

Preparing for the Canadian citizenship test

Since the stakes for failing the knowledge test are high, I really recommend that you study the guide in-depth before attempting the test. Personally, I made the mistake of starting to study the guide only a few days before my test. As a result, I had to cram a ton of information into a very short amount of time. Thankfully, I ended up being over-prepared for the test, which I found to be quite easy compared to some of the obscure facts I had learned (from the official guide) in preparation for the citizenship test.

Ideally you’ll want to start studying from the day that you receive the notice onwards. If you do, hopefully you’ll find the test to be easy and will save yourself a lot of last minute stress.

If all you do is read the guide through once, cover to cover, you’ll probably fail the test. Read/study it at least a couple of times and then take as many practice tests as you can. Also, don’t forget to look up information about key government figures in your own province or territory. I personally made sure I knew even the names of the leaders of the opposition parties at both the federal and provincial level (I knew the federal ones already, having a keen interest in politics, but I had to look up and memorize the local ones for British Columbia, the province where I now live.)

Provincial representatives for B.C.

Key B.C. Provincial Government Figures

I have found the following citizenship practice tests to be beneficial. 90% of the questions on my actual citizenship test were not new to me, as I had encountered very similar ones before through these practice tests.

Keep in mind that some of the answers for things that change may be slightly outdated on these tests (e.g., who the leader of the Opposition Party is), but generally speaking they do a terrific job at helping you prepare.

I truly believe that if you can pass the practice tests with ease, you won’t have a problem with the real one, as many of the sample questions are extremely close to the real deal.

Should you face a question for which you truly don’t know the answer, you can start by excluding the answers that you feel are obviously wrong. Usually you’ll instinctively feel that 2 out the 4 possible answers are wrong. If you can narrow it down to two choices, you have a 50% chance of picking the right one.

Many non-profit organizations provide free classes to help you prepare for the test as well. I went to the South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Service center for the first time a couple of days before my test, so there was no time for me to take an actual course. However I did get to have a volunteer test me on my knowledge (by asking me sample questions).

Similar organizations exist all across the country and if you contact your nearest one as soon as you receive your notice to appear (or sooner, if you want to get a lot of prep work in), you’ll be able to attend classes on the material you need to learn and will feel less like you’re on your own throughout the study process. (A list of local organizations of this kind are provided on the pinky-orange colored sheet of paper you should receive with your notice to appear.)

In conclusion, if you prepare for the test, you stand a good chance of coming out just fine. Best of luck to you, soon to be, fellow Canadian citizen.

Comments

  1. Thanks for your experience. I had recently applied for my Canadian Citizenship after having worked here for 10 years. One question I have is how long is the wait time once you get your study guide. Is it the 19 months that I see on the website or shorter. IF shorter, how short.

    • Hi Ramon, I got the first notice (where you are supposed to receive the guide) a few months before the second notice (for the actual test). The whole process in my case took less than 19 months (about 14). Best of luck to you.

      • Hi Antonio, I am just wondering, right now the time frame is 21 months. So, 21 months from the time they sent you the guide or when they start processing your application? On my cic page, there are two notices: One when they sent me the book and second when they start processing my application. The second notice is 6 months after they sent me the guide. SO far, after guide almost 14 months I havent heard about the test. Can you plese advise?? Or is it normal??

        Thanks

        • > So, 21 months from the time they sent you the guide or when they start processing your application?

          21 months since they received your application (so a few days after you sent it).

          > Can you plese advise?? Or is it normal??

          Give them a phone call and ask about the status of your application. If there is an issue they will tell you.

          Best of luck.

          • Hi Anotonio,

            Hope you are having a great week. I appled for citizenship last year end of aug, after 14 months, today I got a letter, it wants all my addresses and tax receipts for the last ten years, that how long i have lived here. I dont understand why I need to do it, and dont know where I ‘ll get all rent reciepts . Your thoughts and comments?

          • hi i applied for my citizenship in 2009 still didn’t received what should i do?

          • Ali and Fiza, I would contact the call centre at 1-888-242-2100 if I were you. Best of luck to both.

    • It received “Discover Canada” package on July 18, 2013 & did my test on January 6th, 2014. I have passed the test, meet with an agent who asked some documents & passed me the residence application to fill again. I have asked her how long do i have to wait because i am thinking to leave Canada for 6 months or a bit more. she told me that i will get a letter in the coming 3 – 4 month, max 6 months. Now i have been waiting since than to now (May 24, 2014) with nothing on the mail or email & online status didn’t change as well. I called using the phone, i was told that my application was moved to an agent for investigation & will process as non formal process and that can take between 1 year to 3 years. I have 3 answers, online say the max time is 36 months from the day i submit my application to citizenship ceremony, the lady told me mas 3 – 4, max 6 month & on the phone was told 36 months after the test day & there is no way to contact anyone who can give you a direct answer or at least proximate time.

  2. What’s the wait time after passing the citizenship test and being called to attend the citizenship ceremony? I took my test yesterday and I just want to get an idea of how long I would have to wait before I get invited to the citizenship ceremony…I read somewhere that its 6 weeks…is that right?

    Shay

  3. Hi,

    Can any one suggest if CIC update the citizenship exam date on line on CIC website. I am not in Toronto for last 1 month and affraid if they have sent the letter at my mailing address to appear for citizenship test.
    I tried calling CIC many times not able to reach any one it’s always ringing. My online status shows application received. I applied my citienship in Jan. 2012.

    • Smiley, if you applied for citizenship in January, you won’t hear back from them for a long time. I wouldn’t worry until well in 2013.

      • Thank you for above response. I got the confirmation from CIC in Mar saying that they have received my application and sent me a test guide along the confirmation letter.
        Do they update online the test dates under the file status?

        • I’m not sure if they actually update the online status with your test date (they might), but I can tell you that once you receive the letter that invites you to the test, everything happens relatively quickly. In a matter of weeks you’ll be done with the whole process.

  4. Thank you for sharing your experiences in obtaining your Canadian Citizenship! My husband is still a PR card holder, but one day he’ll take the plunge.

    A belated welcome to the Okanagan, Antonio! :)

  5. Charmaine says:

    Hi Everyone. I landed in 2011 and I am considering to submit my application for citizenship in June 2014…would this be viewed as being too eager…I want to get it out of the way for me and my 3 year old so that we dont have issues travelling. Am I wrong to think that if I apply as soon as I have completed the 3 year stint it would be looked on unfavourably!

  6. Shirley Rose says:

    Hello
    Can anyone answer a question for me. I applied for my citizenship in Nov 2011 and received acknowlegement of my application from CIC in Dec 2011. I was 54 years old when I applied but by the time my application will be processed I will be 55 years old. Will I need to write the citizenship test because I am now 55 or will I need to write the test because I was 54 at time of application date? any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

  7. Hi Antonio,

    My test is this coming Tuesday, and I was wondering, do they tell you to wait around for the results? I’m asking because most people I’ve read of online had no idea how they did after they took the test. Also, I’ve been reading online they only let you know if you’d failed it, so now I am really confused. I wonder if they expect you to hang around after you took the test, and all these people for some reason didn’t.

    I would prefer I knew right away if something was wrong, so please let me know if I should ask during registration or if this is something they tell at that time.

    Thanks a lot,
    Roxy

    • I was told to wait around for the results. At my location they told us whether one passed or failed. You will be instructed on what to do, so don’t worry. Worst case scenario, even if they instruct you to go home after the test, you’ll receive an answer by mail in a couple of weeks or so. Realistically, chances are you’ll get an answer on the same day though.

      • Thanks a lot Antonio, that helps a lot! I’m getting a little worked up with all of this and your blog really helped me stay focused on the test. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, sadly, so I really appreciate you taking the time to post this and reply to comments.

      • Hi again Antonio,

        I’m just back from my test this morning, and it seems that local offices have a lot of leeway as to how they conduct these tests.

        In my case, we started off with having the test and then we had our interviews with the Immigration Officers. Also, before the test, we were told that the results will not be made public, and that instead we’ll have to wait between three and five months to either receive our notice to appear for the oath ceremony or we’ll receive instructions re. the next steps in our application.

        Just thought I’d put this out here if there’s anyone reading your blog who’s going to appear to take the test in Vancouver.

        Cheers!

        • Thanks for reporting back, Roxy. I guess the Vancouver center is a lot more busy than mine. Good to know that it takes longer there.

          • Hello Antonio and Roxy,
            I am glad Roxy mentioned the Vancouver thing, because I wrote my citizenship test in March and I am still waiting for my ceremony to be scheduled:( I wrote to immigration and they said they were waiting for my ceremony to be scheduled. I know someone else who wrote the test around the same time as I did and she is also still waiting for her ceremony! Its taking so long here on the West Coast!

          • Just an update for people who may be using this to compare their timelines: the timeframe from test to oath in Vancouver as of January 2013 seems to be close to three months.

            I had my test October 30th and will have my oath January 23.

            HTH

          • Hello roxy,

            Did you just received this letter. I wrote my exam in surrey on October 17 but still waiting for a reply! Did you wrote yours in vancouver or surrey and does the time frame makes different if it’s another location in lower mainland?

            Aseem

  8. hi antonio ! hey why is it that im from the united states and my friends in your country is begging me to come and reside here .but .. geeZ u know that im not quite sure about that there and my mom is 93 yrs there. and im 54 alos can i skip the requirement of interview and test there .alos can i waiver my resdiency requirement in court there too. ?i LOVe to be a canaadian citixen here BUT with all these requiements ? I DONT KNOW ??

  9. Hi Antonio ,
    I wrote the test last monday:( it was trible, I guss Icould not pass it:(:( I’m wondering how many month after this test I could meet the judge? any idea? I live in mississauga
    thank you

  10. It was very thoughtful and kind of you to dedicate your time and effort to compile and share this valuable info. Very well compiled. Thank you!!

  11. We applied for Citizenship May 19th 2011, they started processing February 14th 2012. What happens between May 2011 and February 2012? I really wish you just could contact these guys in person! Our son was 12 when we landed he will be 18 the time we can do the test :(

    • Did you take the exam already? You have the same timeline with my husband and the whole family took the exam last may 2012. Until now they’re waiting for the result. I guess, it’s better to apply individually than to apply as a family or group coz it will take forever. 4 o my friends who applied alone (meaning not in a group nor family) took an exam and had their oath taking 3 weeks after.

      • No we are still waiting for the invite to actually do the test. Have not heard yet. Hopefully not too long anymore:)

  12. I had applied for citizenship and I am above 55 years of age. I understand there will not be any written knowledge test for me. I would appreciate your response on the type of interview with immigration officer when I will be called to verify my documents. Will the interview be covering to check Canadian knowledge or and english competency,

  13. Hello Aseem,

    I’m gonna have my written test on 13 February in Surrey Central, and was wondering if I will have my written test first or the interview with the officer first?

  14. Ahmad Massi says:

    Hi.
    i want to become a Canadian now i am an Afghan and i am in Afghanistan how can i get you application and now i apply for these things that you mention in above pls send all info to my mention it Email in above

  15. Can you help me understand this properly. So I just mailed all my paperwork, the citizenship package, to Sydney office Feb 5, 2013. How long does it take for them to actually confirm that all is in order and give you a ID number? It would be nice to know how long that would take, so that I know not to worry about it. Thanks for your help.

  16. Yes finally we can write our test on March 8th in Ottawa. Thanks for your info aboutv this on your blog! My husband and I are competing against each other on the test apps:)

  17. v shields says:

    Applied with Atlantic Provinces Citizenship June 2011, Updated to IN Process July 2012, by Sydney office.
    New Brunswick requested a residency questionnaire, that was complete in full and returned within 2 days. We felt
    that the questionnaire was not necessary, for both myself and spouse,… but we completed it same day
    we received it and had every piece of documentation they wanted. We are over 54 and would not be required to take citizenship test…Received call from CIC that nothing more was needed from us to do evaluation, that was Oct 2102.Here now, March 2013… 21 months and still waiting. I check CIC website everyday, Atlantic provinces have very ceremonies.. apparently few applicants and do not post future dates of ceremonies as other
    provinces do. Why are they so slow. When we applied it should have been 19 months to process,
    then 2013 they updated website to now say 21 months…. this is progress????
    very few ceremonies

  18. Wynonah says:

    Hi! Thanks for the helpful info Antonio, we are planning to submit an application for the Citizenship but my daughter is not in Canada at the moment but she already stayed here for more than three years she’s turning 14 and just want to know if she needs to be here while the Citizenship is in process and will she take the test too?. Thanks and best regards.

  19. Hi,
    In the list of documents to be taken with me to the test, it says: “all your original documents that support your citizenship application”. Other than my Passport, PR card, and Immigration land of landing, which are already in the list, I am not sure what else should I take. Can anyone suggest what do they mean by “all your original documents that support your citizenship application”?

    Thanks,
    SB

    • Hi!
      I also have a question about ‘all the original documents that support your application’.
      My husband travels a lot abroad and we cannot find the residence calculator print out for him anymore.
      do we have to bring this document, too? It would take me about three hours to fill it out again!
      Thanks
      Sue

  20. I applied for Canadian Citizenship on 12th Feb. 2011. Went for test in January 2013. Ceremony is 24th April 2013, exactly 2 years and 12 days after I first applied.
    Hope this helps someone.

  21. Willy de Kidd says:

    Has anyone sent a citzenship application around August 2011 in Nova Scotia????????I sent mine and heard from them a month later acknowledging that they had received my application but after that I havent heard anything whatsoever…Just wanna have an idea of how long is it taking them to process applications in nova Scotia…Been studying that book forever and know everything on it. from dates to names I even can tell who anyone in the book is just by looking at the pictures. If anyone here applied from Nova Scotia around mid 2011, please share your timeline

  22. Hello everyone,
    CIC received my application on June 2013. I received the first acknowlegement letter with the book in September. Now, my status says, the process started on September 5th, 2013. Any idea how long will it take before I get another notification? A friend of mine applied just 2 months before me, following the first acknowlegement letter in the summer, she also received another letter, I think residency questionnare, was asked to send docs showing her residency in Canada. I haven’t received such thing, and haven’t heard anything back :-(

    Thank you all for your in puts in advance,

  23. Solaiman says:

    Hi, I live in calgary right now nd will apply for Canada citizenship on this august. But waiting time is for citizenship is toooo long. Can anyone tell me, can I reduce my waiting time if I apply from Ontario or Quebec ? As my some family members live in different states. Thanks

  24. Jesslyn says:

    Hi Antonio,

    Thanks for sharing your experience with the rest of us. I have a quick question about your local MP/MLA. Should you know the MP/MLA in your district or in the district that you’ll be taking the test in?

    • I am wondering the same thing. In the discover Canada s study guide there is the space to fill out MY Provence Provencal government details so i hope i don’t need to know anything on Richmond.

  25. I don’t live in Richmond, will there be any questions on Richmond s government?

  26. Hi Antonio,
    Do you know or remember if at the time of the exam, CIC kept your permanent resident card?

  27. Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge!

  28. I have been scheduled for the test. I’d like to know how much time off work I should take.

  29. Corrie Laven says:

    I am a dual citizen (the first citizenship is from Europe) but do not want to purchase two passports as this is expensive.
    I have Canadian picture ID and the Canadian citizenship certificate and my Dutch passport. Can I re-enter Canada with this ID after I visit the States (or Europe) if I were ever to do so?

  30. Hi, was born in Aug 1960 and just completed 54years. I am putting my papers for Canadian citizenship and would like to know whether i have to sit for the language test

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