On December 30, 2009, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) issued new guidance on assessing the language requirement for temporary foreign workers.

Current Canadian regulations state that immigration officers shall deny an application for a work permit to a foreign national if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the applicant cannot perform the duties stated in the work permit application. In this regard, immigration officers are instructed to assess temporary foreign workers’ knowledge of French or English before issuing a work permit, irrespective of the National Occupational Classification (NOC) skill level of the intended position in Canada.

In their assessment, immigration officers may consider the working conditions and/or any efforts undertaken by the employer to accommodate the limitations of the applicant’s proficiency in English or French, as well as resulting potential safety concerns. Immigration officers may also consider the terms in the actual job offer, in addition to the more generalized requirements stated in the NOC, in order to determine whether the applicant’s lack of language skills could compromise his/her ability to perform the job.

However, immigration officers are not authorized to consider perceived challenges the applicant might face in interacting with the broader community if it is not relevant to his/her job performance.

It is likely that immigration officers will require, going forward, proof from official testing (IELTS for English or TEF for French) for candidates whose native language is neither English nor French.

Where to Find Help

The Seyfarth Global Mobility Team (GMT) is a team of attorneys and paralegals with extensive experience in obtaining global visas and work permits in a multitude of foreign jurisdictions. The GMT provides employers with comprehensive immigration services for employees headed to foreign-country assignments.