Many people in Canada believe that citizenship judges only preside in a ceremonial manner over those cute swearing in of new Canadians get togethers that are periodically held throughout Canada. But through working at the Citizenship Commission, those judges also get to make crucial decisions at citizenship hearings that decide whether someone really does qualify for that lifetime prize of a Canadian passport.

Who Gets Referred to a Hearing Before a Citizenship Judge? 

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada officers do the initial review of all applications for citizenship in Canada. Sometimes they'll ask an applicant for more information, including requiring that a very detailed "residency questionnaire" be completed. 

If doubts remain within the IRCC over whether someone qualifies for citizenship, a referral might be made to the Citizenship Commission, which is an internal part of the IRCC, and not part of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, for a hearing to be held before a Citizenship Judge. This will be an oral hearing, where an applicant can call witnesses, present documentary evidence, and make legal argument as to why s/he qualifies for citizenship. 

Because of the dire consequences of losing a hearing before a citizenship judge, retaining legal counsel for a hearing is often justified. 

How is a Refusal of Citizenship Appealed?

There is no "appeal" process to challenge a refusal of Canadian citizenship or a citizenship certificate. However, it's possible to start an application in the Federal Court seeking leave (permission) to commence a judicial review application, which is similar to an appeal. The principle difference is that the legal test is harder to succeed on for a judicial review. 

Seeking leave to the Federal Court and then proceeding with a judicial review is a highly technical procedure, which would be very difficult to pursue without the assistance of a lawyer. 

While the number of citizenship cases brought before the Federal Court each year is much smaller than the number of immigration cases presented to the court (hundreds, rather than thousands), citizenship disputes remain a significant source of Federal Court workload, which occasionally even make it to the level of the Supreme Court of Canada.