This month Canada celebrated Citizenship Week (October 17 to 23) and held more than 60 citizenship ceremonies and celebrations across the country to mark the occasion. While many were celebrating their new citizenship, some people were concerned with a recent announcement by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) in which they stated the Government of Canada is considering making language requirements harder for those applying for Canadian citizenship.
In order to qualify for Canadian citizenship, Canadian Permanent Residents must have lived in Canada for at least three years (1,095 days) in the past four years before applying. Applicants must be able to pass a multiple choice exam to determine their knowledge of Canadian history, values, institutions, symbols, and proficiency in one of Canada’s two official languages – English or French. However, these multiple choice exams do not properly assess an applicant’s listening and speaking skills.
If an applicant fails a written test, or if concerns arise regarding an applicant’s language abilities following interactions with CIC staff members, an interview with a citizenship judge is scheduled. This can be problematic as there can be a substantial delay between taking the test and seeing a citizenship judge. Furthermore, it is at the discretion of the citizenship judge to determine whether an applicant has a sufficient level of language proficiency.
CIC wants to require future applicants to demonstrate their language proficiency by providing objective evidence, such as proof of post-secondary education completed in English or French or sufficient results of a third party test, such as the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). CIC’s proposed change would not increase the level of language proficiency required, but rather how applicants prove their language ability. These changes would only be applicable to applicants ages 18-54.
“The ability to communicate effectively in either French or English is key to the success of new citizens in Canada,” said Minister 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.”
By providing objective evidence that applicants meet language requirements, citizenship judges would have a better understanding of an applicant’s language abilities and make a more informed decision. If language requirements are not met, CIC would be able to quickly return applicants, a process they hope will result in reduced processing times.