New language rules for citizenship



Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will implement new language rules for citizenship applicants as of November 1st. Applicants aged 18-54 are required to provide upfront proof of speaking and listening proficiency in English or French at Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) Level 4.

The proposed regulations were published in the Canada Gazette on April 21, 2012. Click here for the Gazette Notice.

At present, applicants take a multiple choice written test that evaluates language competency as well as knowledge of Canada. The November 1 2012 regulation change will require applicants to provide written proof of CLB together with the application, or it will be returned.

CIC has suggested the following as written proof:
- the results of a CIC-approved third-party test; or
- the evidence of completion of secondary or post-secondary education in English or French; or
- the evidence of achieving the appropriate language level in certain government-funded language training programs.

Click here for details in September 28, 2012 news release from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Click here for explanation of CLB 4.

The Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants submitted a written brief in response to the October 15, 2011 Canada Gazette Notice of the change.

Click here for the OCASI comments on the Gazette Notice.

OCASI had raised two main concerns in the brief:
- some permanent residents will have difficulties in learning a new language
- some permanent residents will have difficulties in providing the upfront proof of language ability.

The government had previously made the citizenship application process more difficult for many applicants. CIC implemented new, stricter requirements for the citizenship in 2010. The change increased the failure rate from 4 to 8% to 30%. An applicant who failed the test could have access to an oral interview with a citizenship judge, thus providing another option to demonstrate competency. With the upcoming change, applicants who cannot provide written proof together with the application will have no other options to demonstrate competency.

OCASI is deeply concerned that the changes will create a barrier to citizenship for some permanent residents.

We urge OCASI member agencies to keep the Council informed of any challenges that their clients may face following the implementation of the new requirements. Please share your comments on this e-list, or email Martha Orellena