Canada tightens language rules for new citizens

by Ray Clancy on October 26, 2011

New citizens must be able to communicate effectively in English or French

Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney is proposing changes to the way the government in Canada assesses the language abilities of prospective new citizens.

Under the proposal adult citizenship applicants would be required to provide objective evidence of language ability with their citizenship applications.

‘The ability to communicate effectively in either French or English is key to the success of new citizens in Canada,’ said Kenney.

‘This change will encourage applicants to ensure that they can speak English or French when they apply for citizenship, thereby improving the integrity and effectiveness of the citizenship program for Canada and for new Canadians alike,’ he added.

The Citizenship Act already requires that applicants be able to communicate in one of Canada’s official languages. This proposed change would not increase the language level required, but would change the way that citizenship applicants aged 18 to 54 prove their language ability.

Under the new system, applicants would have to provide objective evidence that they meet the language requirement when they file their application. Applicants would be able to demonstrate language ability by submitting a variety of evidence.

Acceptable evidence of language skill include the results of a third party test; evidence of completion of secondary or post-secondary education in English or French; or evidence of achieving CLB/NCLC 4 in certain government funded language training programmes.

CIC currently uses the citizenship knowledge test as well as the applicant’s interaction with CIC staff to assess language ability. If it appears an applicant does not meet language requirements, they are invited for an interview with a citizenship judge. There can be a significant time delay between the submission of the application and the subsequent hearing for language.

The proposed new rule that applicants must provide objective evidence that they meet the language requirement when they file their application would give citizenship judges better evidence on which to base their decision.

CIC would also be able to return applications of those who do not provide evidence they meet the requirements more quickly, thus improving application processing.

CIC is also proposing to clarify that the language skills to be assessed would be speaking and listening, and the criteria would clearly align with Canadian Language Benchmark/Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens (CLB/NCLC) 4, which represents basic fluent proficiency. This would allow applicants to understand the requirements they need to meet.

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