Ottawa is charges minors like adults when it comes to charging them for their citizenship applications.
Although recent changes to the citizenship act allow those under age 18 to make an application without their parents, they must pay the same fee as adults — $530.
By contrast, the fee is $100 for minors who apply for citizenship together with their parents.
Critics say children applying for citizenship on their own are probably unaccompanied minors who came to Canada alone for asylum or are estranged from their family and in such difficult situations that they can’t afford the application fee.
The government supports the amendment to make it easier for children to obtain citizenship without a Canadian parent and has made changes to clarify who can apply for citizenship on behalf of the child.
Conservative Senator Victor Oh, who put forward the amendment in the Senate to allow children to apply for citizenship on their own, said no fee-specific provisions were made in his motion at the time because he was told setting processing fees did not require legislative changes and fell within the immigration minister’s discretion.
Oh said he sent a letter to Hussen in early July and asked him to lower the fee to no more than $100, but he has yet to hear back from the minister. “We can’t discriminate and penalize the minors who apply on their own,” Oh said. “These children are the most vulnerable and they are not making it easier for them to become citizens.”
Immigration officials said the $530 application fee was put in place to reflect the increasing cost of processing. Over the past three years, an average of 29,740 children under age 18 applied for citizenship per year, the majority of them with their parents.
That’s a lot of money. The government has removed the legal barrier to citizenship for them but has now set up a new financial barrier. Theoretically, more young people could become citizens. In practice, they will find it a lot harder.
Passport Canada currently charges those 16 or older $160 for a 10-year passport and $57 for children younger than that for in-Canada applications. Immigration lawyers expect the number of unaccompanied minors applying for citizenship to be fewer than a couple hundred a year.