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Citizenship Exam Day In Ottawa

Downtown Buildings Reflecting
Downtown Buildings Reflecting

So here I was, this morning, trying to remember which province joined the Confederation last (in case you were wondering, it’s Newfoundland in 1949).

I studied for the exam using the booklet the CIC sent me, A Look At Canada. I also took some free online practice tests, such as Say I Love Canada. I guess I knew quite a lot about Canada already, but I’m one of those people who can’t show up at an exam without actually preparing it beforehand. I’d be way too nervous. Studying and learning make me feel confident—yes, I know, I’m a nerd.

I was a bit stressed out about the administrative part of the test though. To apply for permanent residence, you need—among other requirements—to have at least 1095 days of physical presence in Canada at the time of your application. Calculating days of presence is a pain in the ass, since you need to subtract days when you were outside Canada. Remembering the exact dates is not easy, especially over a four-year period. Plus, passports are usually stamped when you come back to Canada, not when you leave. I gave a bit of room in my application to make sure I had enough days.

But I had read that before the citizenship test, passports stamps are checked carefully by immigration officers and that if you seem to have too many stamps, you may be asked to have an interview with a judge and/or fill up a residency questionnaire to show that you are indeed living in Canada. I think officials are also getting tougher on people who want to get Canadian citizenship but do not plan to stay and live in Canada.

And even though I did nothing wrong, I felt bad because my passport has so many stamps. The few trips we took to France to see my family can easily be explained. But French passports are valid for 10 years and I got mine in 2003, so I also have a lot of Central America stamps (from our travels before I came to live here). Plus the trip to China last summer and, of course, the Central and South America trip this winter, with a lot of Argentinean and Chilean stamps because we kept on going back and forth in Southern Patagonia. Throw in a few U.S. stamps on top of that and I was afraid I might be misinterpreted.

I could explain and justify everything but it seemed like a hassle, so yes, I was nervous.

The test was technically scheduled at 11:00 am but I arrived early. Many applicants were already in the waiting room and nobody showed up at the last minute. I guess we were all a bit nervous.

I had to bring my passport, permanent resident card, my original landing immigrant document (IMM5292), two pieces if ID and the notice to appear to the test. One by one, we gave the documents to an officer. I was surprised to see that so many people didn’t bring the right documents or were missing some IDs, but the officer seemed to be used to it.

Back to the waiting room, we were called one by one for a short interview. I was asked where I worked, for how long, etc. I assume all the officers were bilingual but the interview was in English, which I did not mind.

I heard some other applicants who struggled with their language skilled and for some, further questions were asked. Where were the kids going to school, do you volunteer somewhere, what do you study, etc.

My passport stamps or absences were not checked in front of me (but I’m sure the officer at a look at my passport before calling me) and no questions were asked.

After the interview, we all proceeded in the room and were given a clipboard and a pencil. Further instructions were given in both official languages. The test was also available in French but nobody asked for it. I had studied the book in English and once again, I did not care which language I used.

There were 20 multiple-choice questions, the pass mark being 12/20. However, it was compulsory to answer questions 16 and 17 right (both dealing with the election process) as well as the last 3 questions (all dealing with the government structure).

The test itself is not really difficult but some questions are tricky and it is necessary to learn the booklet. A general knowledge of Canada isn’t enough for questions such as “when did Nunavut become a territory?” or “which provinces joined to form the Confederation in 1867?

Once the test finish, we just handed back the answer sheet and left.

If applicants pass the test and meet citizenship requirements, the next and final step is the citizenship ceremony. We do not get the test results, basically, if you are invited to the ceremony, it’s all good.

Wish me luck! Should be another few months before the ceremony if everything goes well…

Update—I became Canadian on July 4, 2009.

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French woman in English Canada.

Exploring the world with my camera since 1999, translating sentences for a living, writing stories that may or may not get attention.

Firm believer that nobody is normal... and it’s better this way.

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