Canadian Immigration News

What Are the Language Requirements for Work Permit Applications?

3 minute read
"If you are coming to Canada to work in an occupation, then you are required by the legislation to demonstrate your language proficiency in English or French. Recently there has been a notable increase in the number of Judicial Review petitions filed to the Federal Court of Canada regarding their denied work permit applications."
Written by My Visa Source Team
Published on:  Aug 16, 2021
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If you are coming to Canada to work in an occupation, then you are required by the legislation to demonstrate your language proficiency in English or French. Recently there has been a notable increase in the number of Judicial Review petitions filed to the Federal Court of Canada regarding their denied work permit applications. 

This is mainly due to applicants being refused for not being able to demonstrate the required level of language proficiency for their occupation. Usually, such Canadian immigration refusals were rarely challenged. However, an increase in the number of court cases indicates a larger trend emerging.

A growing number of Canadian visa offices have also started requesting work permit applicants to include copies of their approved language tests in their applications. This means that there is a greater emphasis on ensuring that the applicant has the required level of English or French language proficiency to perform their job in Canada. 

What Are the Guidelines Provided by the IRCC for Work Permit Applications? 

The IRCC requires visa officers to assess an applicant’s language proficiency based on the following criteria:

  • Based on what is mentioned in the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) report, if applicable 
  • The specific actions were taken by their employer to accommodate the applicant’s limited English or French proficiency and address the potential security concerns
  • The terms and conditions of the employment offer
  • The general requirements set by the National Occupational Classification (NOC) code for each occupation

The IRCC also cautions visa officers to disregard any concerns about perceived challenges that might be faced by the applicant in interacting with the broader community if it does not affect their ability to perform their job.

Why Are the Language Proficiency Requirements Increasing?

The guidelines provided by the IRCC clearly state that visa officers must consider several factors to assess an applicant’s language proficiency to perform their job. However, it seems that many visa officers are increasingly fixating on approved language test results to determine an applicant’s language proficiency.

Approved language tests include the following:

  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
  • Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP)
  • Test d'Évaluation de Français pour le Canada (TEF Canada)

A review of the decisions made by the Federal Court of Canada regarding work permit refusal due to language ability clearly shows that visa officers are imposing a higher language requirement on work permit applicants.

For example, under the British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program (BC PNP) and the Temporary Residency to Permanent Residency Pathway, truck drivers employed in Canada are required to score at least a level 4 on the Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) to demonstrate language proficiency. However, a review of the Federal Court decisions reveals that the IRCC rejected applicants who had much higher scores.

Mostly, such appeals are usually denied and the decision made by the IRCC is upheld. However, in June 2021, Justice Bell accepted such an appeal by stating that the refusal was made disregarding other factors such as the employer’s language requirements, the employer’s assessment of the language proficiency, and the Canadian Language Benchmarks as the applicant had IELTS test scores that were enough to qualify for their occupation. See the IELTS TEF CELPIP Calculator.

Hopefully, this decision will urge other judges to consider these appeals to avoid wrong assessment decisions.

It is also a reminder for applicants that just scoring high on approved language tests will not guarantee that they meet their language proficiency requirements.

Therefore, it is always better to include additional evidence to demonstrate your fluency, for example, previous education in English, reference letters from current and past employers affirming your language ability, and an explanation on how to interpret test results. 

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