Canadian federal court denies work permit based on IELTS score

Julia Hornstein
Published: November 6, 2023

A citizen of Iran was a home design and renovation manager for seven years. In 2022, she signed an employment contract to work as a Residential Home Builder with a construction company located in Vancouver. The job duties and responsibilities included planning and preparing work schedules, selecting and employing trade subcontractors and managing budgets.

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The construction company received a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) and was registered to hire temporary foreign workers in British Columbia. She then applied for a work permit under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). As part of the application, she submitted her results of her IELTS language test with a score of 5.

The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) officer assigned to her case denied her work permit due to her language abilities. She applied for judicial review of the decision.

She argued that there is no specific “language requirement” for work permits. In addition, the officer did not explain how she failed to prove that she would be able to perform the work sought and there was no evidence to confirm the officers finding that her language ability was insufficient to gain employment.

However, the Federal Court upheld the officer’s decision.

The officer refused the work permit based on the nature of the work of her new position. According to the officer, when considering the job duties and responsibilities, the ability to meet language requirements was critical.

The court stated that the officer reasonably concluded that she had failed to meet these requirements in light of her “low” IELTS scores and that she provided no other evidence to support her language capabilities.

In addition, according to the court, an overall IELTS score of 5 provides evidence of basic, rather than effective, communication skills. Therefore, the officer was justified in concluding that the evidence of the IELTS score was insufficient to meet the requirements of the position.

The implications of the case’s outcome are that a work permit may be refused based on the applicant’s language ability, regardless of if the job does not explicitly state language requirements or if the employer received a positive LMIA.

When completing immigration applications, applicants should ensure that they provide all relevant information, including any evidence regarding their language ability. Based on this case, an application may be stronger if the applicant can provide other evidence of language ability beyond language test scores, such as completion of English educational programs or proof of English employment.

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