What language level do I need to apply for Canadian citizenship?

Vimal Sivakumar
Published: January 30, 2024

For Canadian citizenship applicants between the ages of 18 and 54 years old*, Canada requires that they demonstrate what Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) calls an “adequate knowledge” of either English or French.

Canada uses four general guidelines to define an “adequate” knowledge of either of its official languages. These guidelines, listed below, are considered skills that represent a sufficient ability to speak and listen in either English or French.

  • The ability to take part in short, everyday conversations about common topics
  • The ability to understand simple instructions, questions and directions
  • The ability to use basic grammar, including simple structures and tenses

The ability to show you know enough common words and phrases to answer questions and express yourself

Schedule a Free Canadian Citizenship Consultation with the Cohen Immigration Law Firm

*The age requirement for language skills is determined by the applicant’s age on the day they sign their application for Canadian citizenship

How does IRCC measure my language skills?

IRCC uses the following three methods to evaluate the language skills of eligible* Canadian citizenship applicants.

  •  Review the language proof sent alongside a citizenship application
  • Assess an applicant’s speaking ability when talking to a citizenship official anytime during the application process
  • Evaluate your language level during a citizenship test with an official, if necessary

More: Full details on the Canadian citizenship process, including the types of supporting documents you must include with your application, can be found here

*Certain Canadian citizenship applicants can receive an accommodation (help) for or a waiver (exemption) from this part of the citizenship process. More on that later.

Is there any equivalence between my language level for citizenship and permanent residence?

Many Canadian citizenship applicants will be familiar with either Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) testing (English) or Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadien (NCLC) testing (French).

According to the Government of Canada, “adequate” knowledge of English or French is equivalent to scoring a Level 4 on the speaking and listening portion of the CLB or NCLC language tests.

Can I request an accommodation or waiver for the Canadian citizenship language skills requirement?

Canadian citizenship applicants can request/receive an accommodation for or a waiver from the language skills requirement.

For example, IRCC notes that accommodations can be requested by the following groups of applicants.

  • Applicants with conditions (including disabilities) that are medical, physiological, psychological or cognitive
  • Applicants who cannot take the citizenship test online
  • Applicants who are taking the online citizenship test but cannot remove their face covering

Full details about Canadian citizenship accommodations, including the types of help IRCC can provide (braille, large print, sign-language interpretation etc.) and how to request an accommodation from IRCC, can be found here.

Waivers

Waivers for the testing and language requirements associated with the Canadian citizenship test can be requested by those who meet IRCC’s criteria for a waiver on compassionate grounds.

Valid reasons for a waiver, as decided by IRCC, include but are not limited to:

  • A severe medical condition (serious illness, physical or developmental disability, or mental impairment) that has lasted (or may last) for at least 1 year
  • Trauma due to war, torture, living in a refugee camp etc.
  • Low levels of education or literacy in the first language (mother tongue)

Conversely, waiver requests submitted for the following reasons are deemed invalid by IRCC.

  • An applicant needs time to study for the citizenship test
  • An applicant cannot cover the cost of taking a third-party language test

Click here for more information on receiving a waiver for Canadian citizenship requirements, including how to request a waiver and what to expect after submitting a waiver request.

Schedule a Free Canadian Citizenship Consultation with the Cohen Immigration Law Firm

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