See Notice of Intent published by the Government of Canada. Language testing is coming, and it is inevitable.
DEPARTMENT OF CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION
Notice requesting comments on a proposal to require applicants to furnish upfront evidence of language ability showing achievement of at least Canadian Language Benchmarklevel 4 in speaking and listening with their citizenship application
The Citizenship Act (Act) requires that applicants for an adult grant of citizenship demonstrate that they have an “adequate knowledge of one of the official languages of Canada” (paragraph 5(1)(d) of the Act). Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is inviting written comments from all interested parties on a proposal to amend the Citizenship Regulations (Regulations) which would introduce a requirement for applicants to provide evidence that they meet this legislative requirement when they submit their application for citizenship. This proposed measure would apply to all adult citizenship applicants who must meet the language requirement. Currently, those between the ages of 18 and 54, representing approximately 134 000 applicants per year, must meet the language requirement. All such applicants would be impacted by the proposed requirement and would be asked to provide evidence showing that they have achieved at least Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) level 4 with their citizenship application. The proposal would not increase the language level required for citizenship but would provide citizenship officials and judges with objective evidence of an applicant’s language ability.
The acquisition of citizenship is a significant step in the integration process for newcomers to Canada. Given the vital importance of newcomers’ language abilities in their successful settlement and integration, the Citizenship Act (Act) requires that applicants for an adult grant of citizenship demonstrate that they have an “adequate knowledge of one of the official languages of Canada” (paragraph 5(1)(d) of the Act).
Under the current system, language is largely assessed through a multiple choice written test which also assesses an applicant’s knowledge of Canada and of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship (a separate requirement under paragraph 5(1)(e) of the Act). The written test is an inadequate proxy for assessing language as it does not adequately assess listening and speaking skills, which are the essential language skills for effective communication with fellow Canadians and for effective integration. If an applicant fails the written test, or if concerns about their speaking or listening ability are flagged following oral interactions with a citizenship official, the applicant is referred for an interview with a citizenship judge. This is inefficient for citizenship processing and does not provide good client service as the processing fee has been paid and there can be a substantial time delay between submission of the application and a subsequent hearing for language. Interviews in these cases contribute to processing pressure and application inventories.
This Notice of Intent is to signal an intention to add a regulatory requirement for applicants to include evidence of compliance with the official languages criteria when submitting their application. The objective of the proposed regulations would be to require applicants to meet the language requirement when they file their application, thus strengthening the integration of newcomers by improving language outcomes and encouraging their full participation in Canadian society. This proposed requirement would also make the application process more efficient and reduce administrative burden by enabling CIC to return applications with the complete fee and a letter advising the applicant that they have not submitted satisfactory evidence of compliance with the official languages requirement. Furthermore, requiring evidence of language ability would provide citizenship judges, who are the decision-makers on citizenship applications, with additional objective evidence on which to base their decisions.
Along with the proposal to introduce a regulatory authority to require that evidence of language be submitted with an application, CIC is also proposing a specific amendment to the Regulations to establish clearer language assessment criteria that align with the established CLB 4, which is the current required level for citizenship. The CLBs are the nationally accepted benchmarks to measure the proficiency of adult immigrants in both official languages as a second language. Moreover, clarifying that the language skills required are listening and speaking would enable greater transparency and consistency in language assessment. These proposed changes would not increase the language level required for citizenship.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada proposes to introduce amendments to section 3 of the Regulations to require applicants to furnish evidence of language ability with their citizenship application. Such evidence could include third-party language tests or alternative evidence. Administrative guidelines would provide a list of preferred language tests which are correlated with the Canadian Language Benchmarks, such as tests which are currently accepted for immigration purposes to Canada. Alternative evidence could include completion of secondary or post-secondary education in French or English or achievement of a certain level in a language training course like the federally funded Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC).
It is proposed that tests previously done by the applicant and accepted for other purposes, such as immigration to Canada, would also be considered acceptable for citizenship purposes. It is expected that the majority of citizenship applicants would already have evidence that they could submit with their application. Therefore, the requirement is not anticipated to pose a burden on the majority of applicants who would already have available to them the evidence of complying with the official languages requirement.
It is also proposed to amend section 14 of the Regulations to provide the ability to assess speaking and listening skills and to capture the key elements of CLB 4 descriptors, such as the ability to take part in routine conversations about everyday topics, use basic grammatical structures and tenses, have sufficient vocabulary for routine oral communication and follow simple instructions and directions.
Finally, the proposed amendment to section 14 of the Regulations would also remove the current requirement that questions be prepared by the Minister, thereby allowing the use of external evidence.
Any person (including citizenship lawyers, stakeholders, provincial, territorial and municipal governments, interested groups, and the general public) may, within 30 days of the publication of this notice, provide their comments on this Notice of Intent, in writing, to the person named below at the address provided.
Comments would be appreciated on the proposed regulatory amendments to require that applicants provide up-front evidence of language ability showing achievement of at least CLB 4 level in speaking and listening with their citizenship application.
Questions and requests for additional information, as well as comments regarding this Notice of Intent, may be directed to Mary-Ann Hubers, Acting Director, Citizenship Legislation and Program Policy, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, 180 Kent Street, 6th Floor, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1L1, 613-998-1756 (telephone), 613-991-2485 (fax), firstname.lastname@example.org (email).
Acting Director General
Citizenship and Multiculturalism Branch