If you are looking at acquiring permanent residency or are on the pathway to citizenship, you may want to take note of a couple of upcoming information evenings.

While the two informative evenings discuss residency, both evenings will be different and geared towards different stages of the process.

Fleeha Ahmad, Co-Chair of Cochrane Immigrant Services Committee, says the first evening is a general information night. 'Pathways to Residency,' is being planned for February 13th and will be hosted at the Parent Link Centre from 6 to 8 in the evening. "This is a really busy one because it applies to anyone who is not a permanent resident but is looking for information on how to become one."

The last general info night attracted over 25 people from foreign workers, international students, live in caregivers, to those residents just looking to change their status.

Whether or not to stay as a card-carrying permanent resident (PR) or to become a Canadian citizen, really comes down to security, shares Ahmad. "Permanent resident status never expires as long as you keep renewing your PR card. The difference is that you can't obtain a Canadian passport and you won't be called a Canadian citizen unless you have your citizenship, so the security behind it is what most people feel good about. You can also vote and have other privileges."

Although Ahmad receives a number of questions about obtaining citizenship, she says a majority of the inquiries she receives are in regards to people seeking permanent residency. "I think it is because it's a longer path for people and it is more complicated. It depends on how you come to Canada, when you come to Canada, under which class you come, how long you have been here, is your family with you, and if not, where are they?! These questions are per person and not general information."

The general information evenings are hosted roughly every couple of months depending on new information learned by the committee. "I think the Pathway to Permanent Residency is a fantastic session; even if you are a permanent resident it still helps to come because you may have someone you wish to come under that status."

When it comes to citizenship, Ahmad, says although the process is fairly simple, the English language piece can throw people off as well as the fee. To help those community members who are already in the process, a meeting will be held on February 20th from 6 to 8 pm. "This one is more focused on individuals in the process of applying or who have applied, and they need some document assistance. It is more of a one on one small group gathering."

Feeling that there are quite a few people in the already in the process of applying, Ahmad is hopeful she can help make things easier. "The citizenship evening is an ideal time to bring your documents and paperwork with you, and I can walk you through it. It will save you the hassle of having to make an appointment and make you keep coming back. It is like any document, they really look at everything and even if it a small mistake, like a yes to a no, it can prolong your process."

Ahmad says while the information night is open to the public, she hopes those needing assistance with Citizenship applications will register at [email protected]  for the February 20th evening. "Bring your documents with you, your permanent resident card and anything that is required so I can take a look and guide."

Obtaining citizenship costs $633 per adult but is at least a simpler application process compared to obtaining permanent resident status. Ahmad is hopeful a Canadian citizenship ceremony will once again be held in conjunction with this summer's CommUNITY Picnic.

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