Language tests are a common requirement for immigration. Almost every category of economic immigration to Canada requires the results of a language test in order to apply. The version of the test that you need to take, and the score you need to get, depend on the specific program you are applying under.
As usual, we are interested in helping you make informed decisions in your immigration process. So in this article, we will take a look at the language requirements for Canadian immigration and what your options are.
Language Test for Canadian immigration
What are the available language tests?
Which one should you sit for if you’re planning to move to Canada?
IELTS, TOEFL, CELPIP, or TEF?
For Canadian immigration, you have to provide language test results from an authorized organization. There are two authorized test providers in English, the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP). If you want to take your language test in French, you must take the Test d’évaluation de français (TEF).
Canadian universities accept TOEFL (though they would prefer IELTS) but Canadian immigration authorities do not, so if you are applying for Express Entry, for instance, your TOEFL results will not be considered. As a result, it is better for you to write IELTS if you have Canadian immigration in mind.
Fo Canadian immigration options, any of IELTS, CELPIP or TEF is accepted. IRCC, Canada’s immigration agency, does not have a preferred test. Since results from all three tests are valued equally, you can choose to take whichever test is more convenient for you.
No matter which language test you take, the results must be from within the last two years (24 months) to be valid.
IELTS, CELPIP and TEF all assign a score for each of four language abilities: listening, reading, writing and speaking.
Canada is a bilingual country, so you may be able to increase your eligibility by submitting test results in both official languages, English and French. However, you do not need to be bilingual to qualify to immigrate to Canada.
What is IELTS
IELTS is an internationally available English proficiency test. We usually recommend our clients take the IELTS for their immigration file, and provide them with IELTS training, because there are many testing centres around the world. There are two categories of IELTS: General Training and Academic. For Canadian immigration, you should take the IELTS – General Training. IELTS results provide a score for each language ability, as well as an overall band score that averages your results in each ability.
For Canadian immigration purposes, your overall band score does not matter.
What is CELPIP?
CELPIP was designed by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Unlike the IELTS, which is designed for international English proficiency, the CELPIP was designed for Canadian English, which contains elements of British English and American English, as well as Canadian accents. There are two CELPIP test types: the General Test and the General LS Test. For immigration, you have to take the CELPIP – General Test. Originally, the CELPIP could only be taken from within Canada, but it’s now expanded internationally with a test centre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).
What is TEF?
If you are a native French speaker, or would prefer to submit language test results demonstrating French proficiency, you must take the TEF. There are two types of TEF available: the TEF and the TEFAQ. It is usually more advisable to take the TEF. The TEFAQ is only accepted for Quebec immigration, while the TEF is accepted by both Quebec and federal immigration.
What Score Do I Need?
Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer to this question.
Most Canadian economic immigration programs have minimum language requirements, but they are not all the same. So the score you need to get may depend on the program you’re applying to.
However, many programs operate on points systems. Points may be awarded for things like age, work experience, and education, in addition to language proficiency. Depending on your profile, the language test score you need to qualify could be different from the minimum requirement.
Our advice is to give it your best effort. If you don’t like your results, you can also take the test again to try to improve them. The important thing to remember is that these are tests. Even if you are confident in your English or French language ability, you should prepare by studying and doing practice tests.
Canadian Language Benchmark
No matter which test you take, your results will be converted into Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB), or Niveaux de competence linguistique canadiens (NCLC), levels. CLB levels run from 4 (poor) to 10 (excellent). When Canadian immigration programs indicate a language requirement, they usually refer to a CLB level.
Example: Say a program has a minimum language requirement of CLB 4. That means that your lowest score among the four language abilities must be at least CLB 4. If you score below that level on any of the abilities, you will not meet the minimum language requirement.