Becoming a citizen is the next step for many immigrants who have decided to call Canada their home. Of course, most of the information you need to apply for citizenship can be found online, so there’s really no need to repeat that information here (the process is long and involves substantial paperwork).
That being said, having become a citizen in August 2014, I would like to share with you three fond memories from my citizenship journey.
1. The Citizenship Test
Do you know how many electoral districts there are in Canada? The answer is 308.
Don’t feel bad if you didn’t know that, the only reason I do is because it was an actual question on my citizenship test (along with questions of who founded hockey, and the history of the Peace Tower).
If you’ve successfully applied to be a citizen, the next thing you will receive is a notification that you’ve been summoned for a citizenship test, along with a study guide.
Preparing for this test was one the most exciting parts of the entire process, simply because you learn so much about Canada and get to show off your knowledge.
There are different ways to study for this test. If you’re super studious like my Mom was, you can spend weeks reading this booklet, highlighting and making little notes in it. If, on the other hand, you’re pretty confident (read: lazy) and know the basics of Canadian politics and history, you can probably just read the book once and google “citizenship Canada practice tests.” I mean, we both got 10/10 in the end, so it’s really up to you.
Word of advice though, don’t even try to cheat from your family members taking the test alongside you. Not only will it lead to dire consequences, everyone is given a different test anyways, so your answers will all be wrong.
2. The Citizenship Ceremony
This is it. The big day.
The crown jewel of the citizenship process is without a doubt the swearing in ceremony. On this day you will see soon-to-be Canadians of all ethnic backgrounds gathering to take a pledge that will change their family history. There isn’t really a formal dress code, but most people tend to dress up for the occasion, some more than others. For instance, I saw one family dressed in full-on suits, including the baby, and another woman wearing the most beautiful sari I had ever seen.
The actual ceremony itself is pretty quick. After swearing the oath and singing the national anthem, everybody gets called up one by one to receive their citizenship certificate, shake the judge’s hand, and then sign some documents. After that, the judge will give a moving speech about being Canadian, and then everyone lines up to to take a tonne of photos with her and the Canadian flag (like tourists, ironically).
Since Canadians are so generous, you’ll also walk away with a swag bag full of goodies – a starter pack to becoming Canadian if you will. These include a mini Canadian flag, a book and poster of Canadian symbols, a 50% off VIA Rail discount coupon, and a Cultural Access Pass that gains you free entry into any Canadian museum and park for a year. The pass was particularly useful and I miss having that most of all.
3. The Aftermath
I remember my friend, who had been a PR (permanent resident) in Canada for many years, telling me about why she never applied to be citizen:
“You get everything Canadians get as a PR, except you can’t vote, so there’s really no need to become a citizen. Why bother?” she told me.
When I heard that, I did wonder if I was just wasting my time – I mean you still get free healthcare and OSAP no matter what, right?
But I’m happy to say that she was wrong. It’s been almost two years since I became a citizen now, and it’s interesting to see how how my life has changed since then. I’ve voted in two elections, become more politically aware, and am eligible for scholarships, grants, and government jobs that I wasn’t before.
I’m also treated differently when I travel. Not only can I go to most countries safely without a visa, I notice that people are kinder when they see my Canadian passport, versus when I had my Indonesian one before. I guess Canadians are loved the world over.
Aside from the obvious perks, it’s also great to be fully invested in this nation’s future. After struggling to get here and living here for so many years, it’s a wonderful feeling to know that you are now a citizen and belong to this country’s unique mosaic.
So now that you know my citizenship story, what was yours like? For those of you born Canadian, what has your experience been?