Language Test Update – Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)


Canada Language Test

Language Test Update – Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)

The new language test is anticipated for early to mid-2023. The current designated tests, namely IELTS and CELPIP in English, TEF, and TCF in French, are not the ones that will be replaced. We don't know what they are yet though we can speculate based on the fact that a majority of people meet the new requirements with these four designated tests currently.

Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is seeking to improve its language testing process.

The IRCC says despite some initial challenges during the pandemic, the number of designated testing organizations continues to meet the demand of immigration and citizenship applicants. However, with more language test provider organizations seeking designation, IRCC has decided to seek improvements.

Currently, the process for an organization to obtain a designation is lengthy and requires considerable effort.

The memo says that IRCC will seek potential initiatives and improvements within the next year. These changes are expected to lead to more organizations being interested in the designation. Currently, there is no limit on the number of language testing providers who can provide services to IRCC.

This update is part of a series of updates to describe the status of the new language designation policy. It will provide an overview of how IRCC has been implementing this policy and will also identify some emerging issues that we are currently working on.

The language designation team at IRCC, part of the Immigration Branch, is responsible for managing language tests and assessing candidates' eligibility for immigration programs. The department has the overlapping policy and operational implications when it comes to defining roles and responsibilities related to language tests.

Some details of the policy priorities were redacted. However, we know that IRCC’s immediate priority is to sign the service agreement with the unnamed company so that an official designation can be issued and the implementation process can begin. The mid-term priorities are policy analysis of emerging issues and a review of the language designation framework. The long-term priorities focus on broader reviews of language proficiency benchmark levels and core technical criteria related to language designations.

IRCC is assessing the alignment of CLBs with CEFR

The memo states that further research must be done on the CLB levels to ensure that all approved language test constructs are equivalent in difficulty and purpose.

The current system for assessing language proficiency, using the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB), does not align with the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). This means that some tests may have different purposes, or different levels of difficulty, depending on when they were created."

IRCC says that French testing must not be overlooked

The design and implementation of these initiatives would need to be aligned with other department priorities, especially IRCC’s mandate to support francophone immigration across the country.

The memo goes on to say that there is likely to be a greater demand on designated organizations to increase testing capacity and interest from new French-language testing organizations seeking designation.   While organizations that deliver the TEF and TCF are prepared to meet increased demand, this work will better position the Department for any potential increase in demand by streamlining the process by which additional French language tests can be designated.

Who is required to take a language test for Canadian immigration?

The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of language proficiency in Canada’s immigration system. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) specifies that:

All applications for permanent residence must be accompanied by documents proving the applicant meets the established requirements;

Immigration officers will only grant permanent resident status to those who demonstrate good knowledge of English or French;

At least six months before applying for Canadian citizenship, individuals between the ages of 18 and 54 must demonstrate their English or French language competency;

The majority of economic class immigrants do not need to complete a designated language test since they are admitted to Canada for social and humanitarian purposes;

Upon applying for Canadian citizenship, individuals between the ages of 18 and 54 must demonstrate their English or French language competency. They may submit the results of a language test or show that they are proficient in other ways as approved by IRCC.

International students must prove their language proficiency before they can immigrate to Canada. However, temporary foreign workers do not need to demonstrate their language proficiency.

Next steps in this update to the Language test

The Immigration Branch will explore the feasibility of establishing a language designation program to streamline and coordinate language testing.

A dedicated program would help the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada expand its policy while maintaining an open intake approach to language testing designation.

To support IRCC’s ongoing priorities, a review of the designation process should be undertaken to increase efficiency and transparency, as well as improvements in public-facing communication as it relates to the overall framework and harnessing the interest for additional Francophone testing organizations.

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