It is known to most that English or French language proficiency is crucial for those who want to live economically successful in Canada. Although there are immigrants who are not that fluent in any of these two languages and still manage to find employers, their career opportunities are usually very limited.
In fact, many studies have proven that language adaptability is the most important factor that determines whether or not an immigrant becomes economically productive in this country.
Of course, the Government of Canada has not ignored this finding, and is now imposing language requirements on many of its immigration programs.
Canadian Language Benchmark
Language abilities of adult Canadian immigration applicants and prospective applicants are evaluated through the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) which is considered the national standard for measuring language proficiency. It includes four key areas, namely, speaking, writing, listening and reading.
People are given a rank in these areas using a 1 to 12 scale. There are two tests recognized by the Canadian government when measuring CLB level – the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP.)
Although these two systems use scales that are independent of CLB’s, with IELTS using a scale of 1 to 9 and CELPIP, 0 to 6, their test scores have corresponding CLB values.
Language-crucial Immigration Programs
The main immigration program where language is considered a key eligibility factor is the Canadian Experience. For English speakers, IELTS is the only testing system that can be accepted. There are many IELTS score combinations that applicants must reach to qualify under the program.
Although these required scores differ, depending on the applicant’s work experience, the general rule is for people working in managerial positions or those that need a university degree to reach a score of, at least, 7 in each of the four testing areas, while the rest need to reach, at least, five.
Applicants under the Federal Skilled Worker Program are evaluated through a points system and are not required to reach any language threshold. However, they can get points for English proficiency by providing a passing IELTS or CELPIP score. Most applicants under this program do provide test results which help them reach the 67 point threshold that is required for them to qualify under the program.
People who wish to immigrate to Canada as investors, entrepreneurs or under the self-employed category can receive points for their English language abilities, but they must also present IELTS or CELPIP results. But since applicants for these programs only need a minimum of 35 points, they usually don’t.
New Requirements for Language Testing
Provincial nominee programs (PNP) have usually been exempt from requirements regarding language testing. However, since July 1st of 2012, most individuals in low or semi-skilled occupations with work experience have had to meet a language point threshold.
Those who take the IELTS must obtain at least four points in all four testing areas, while those taking the CELPIP need at least 2H. However, this change does not apply to all temporary foreign workers arriving in Canada on or before July 1, 2013 and getting provincial nominations on or before July 1, 2013.
Another area of eligibility where applicants will be required to take language tests is citizenship.
Usually, language ability is tested by way of a citizenship exam, but very soon, citizenship applicants will have to provide proof of either English or French language proficiency together with other documents needed to file an application.
For English-speaking applicants, the only acceptable proof include IELTS or CELPIP test scores, where the minimum score requirements are the same as PNP applicants’, documents proving completion of secondary or post-secondary education where English is the main medium of instruction, and completion of and achievement of a particular level in a language program funded by the government.
It has been announced by the Canadian government that language testing will soon be required of all provincial nominee program or PNP applicants. It has also expressed concern over the inability of some foreign workers to communicate effectively with emergency service staff, and that language requirements may soon apply to applicants under the temporary foreign worker program as well.
It is also not impossible for language requirements to be applied to applicants under the family or refugee class, considering that UK has introduced a language requirement for spousal sponsorships. In any case, it is best to learn at least one of Canada’s two official languages in order to increase the chances of having a successful immigration application.