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Key changes proposed for Canada's Citizenship Act

Canada's Citizenship and Immigration Minister, Chris Alexander speaks after unveiling changes to Canada's Citizenship Act in Toronto on Thursday February 6, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Frank Gunn

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Canada's Citizenship and Immigration Minister, Chris Alexander speaks after unveiling changes to Canada's Citizenship Act in Toronto on Thursday February 6, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Frank Gunn

TORONTO - The Conservative government has proposed a significant revamp of Canada's Citizenship Act. Here are some of the key changes that were announced Thursday.

— Residency: Permanent residents would have to maintain a "physical presence" in Canada for four years within six years before applying for citizenship. That would include spending a minimum of 183 days in the country per year in four out of six years. Currently, immigrants need to reside in Canada for three out of four years.

— Language and knowledge: Permanent residents aged 14 to 64 would have to meet official language requirements and pass a test before getting citizenship, compared to the current range of those aged 18-54.

— Taxes: Adult applicants would have to file Canadian income taxes to be eligible for citizenship, a requirement which currently doesn't exist.

— Criminality: Citizenship would be denied to criminals charged or convicted of serious crimes outside Canada. Currently only those with domestic criminal charges and convictions are prevented from becoming Canadian.

— Terrorists, Enemies: Dual nationals who are members of an armed force or group which engages in conflict with Canada, and dual nationals convicted of terrorism, high treason, or spying offences could be stripped of their Canadian citizenship.

— Cracking down on fraud: The penalty for citizenship fraud would be raised to a maximum fine of $100,000 and/or five years in prison, compared to the current fine of $1,000 and/or one year in prison.

— Canadian Forces: Permanent residents who serve with the Canadian Forces would be put on a fast track to citizenship.

— Lost Canadians: Citizenship would be extended to a group of individuals who fell through the cracks of current legislation, including some children of war brides born before 1947.

— Ministerial Powers: More decision-making power would be placed in the hands of the citizenship and immigration minister when it comes to routine revocation cases and discretionary grants of citizenship.

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