On September 28 2012 the minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism announced that citizenship applicants will now be required to provide upfront objective evidence of their language ability at the time of their citizenship application. This change came into effect on November 1 2012.

According to Paragraph 5(1)(d) of the Citizenship Act (RSC, 1985, c C-29), an applicant for citizenship must have an adequate knowledge of one of the official languages of Canada. 'Adequate knowledge' is defined as the ability to speak and understand basic statements and questions in the given language.

All adult applicants aged between 18 and 54 years who are applying for citizenship are assessed on their ability to communicate in English or French. Under the former procedure, language ability was assessed by a written citizenship test; an applicant who failed the written test had to pass an oral interview with a citizenship judge.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) officials also confirmed some of the basic information on the application for citizenship with the applicant at the time of testing. Previously, where there was an indication that the applicant did not comprehend basic spoken statements and/or questions, this information was passed on to the citizenship judge. The judge could then consider this information when determining whether the applicant met the language requirements.

Until November 1 2012, there was no procedure in place to test objectively the language abilities of Canadian citizenship applicants. Under the new rules, applicants are required to submit objective evidence that they have achieved the Canadian Language Benchmark Level 4, in speaking and listening, when they file their application. Acceptable evidence of language ability may include the following:

  • the results of a CIC-approved third-party test;
  • evidence of the applicant's completion of secondary or post-secondary education in English or French; or
  • evidence that the applicant has achieved the appropriate language level in certain government-funded language training programmes.

The requirement for adult applicants to provide objective evidence of language ability with their citizenship submission applies to applications received as of November 1 2012. After that date, CIC will return any citizenship applications filed by applicants between the ages of 18 and 54 which include no objective evidence of language ability.

For further information on this topic please contact Henry J Chang at Blaney McMurtry LLP by telephone (+1 416 593 1221), fax (+1 416 593 5437) or email (hchang@blaney.com).

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