Canada is upgrading immigration rules for expats for the first time in nearly 40 years.
Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has unveiled a raft of comprehensive reforms designed to streamline moving to Canada for expats.
The plan is to process citizenship applications in less than 12 months by cutting out burdensome red tape.
The minister hopes a backlog in processing citizenship applications will be cut by 80% by 2016.
Another key change is reviewing the cost of applications and shifting the burden of paying for administrating citizenship away from Canadian taxpayers to expats.
The government also wants to tighten up who gains citizenship by only granting leave to stay to expats with strong ties to Canada and who speak English well.
Welcome mat for expats
The new bill before the Canadian parliament also includes clauses to help expats born in Canada and their children regain lost citizenship.
Other parts of the bill brings Canada’s immigration rules in line with other developed countries which ban expats from entering the country who have criminal records, links with terrorism or spying.
The minister also explained Canada turns down a relatively low number of citizenship applications – with only 15% rejected.
“The government puts a value on Canadian citizenship and does not operate a pay for passports scheme that offers a convenient route for the wealthy to stay in the country,” said the minister.
“We want people who want to help Canada prosper, people who will work hard and stay in the country for the long term. That’s why I am proposing the most far-reaching changes in immigration controls in Canada for more than a generation.”
Japan says no to immigration
Canada sees easing citizenship laws as a way of topping up an aging talent pool with younger workers – unlike Japan which only has an expat population of 2%.
However, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has shut the door on inviting in more expats despite having the same problems with an aging population as Canada.
“Countries that accept immigrants tend to see a lot of friction and bad feelings between nationals and incomers,” he said.
“We don’t want to see that in Japan and will not be easing our immigration controls in the foreseeable future.”
The government predicts that if expats are not allowed to supplement the population, the number of Japanese will fall from the current 130 million to 100 million by 2050 and between 40 and 60 million by 2100.