By Aaisha Zafar Islam
As a permanent resident of Canada, the first step in getting that coveted citizenship is completing your residency requirements and gathering all relevant documents to send over to the CIC to initiate your citizenship application.
There has been much debate over residency requirements being changed to four years from the current three years of living in Canada. However, at the time of writing this article, Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s website (CIC) still states that:
- have lived in Canada for at least three of the four years before you apply,
- be able to communicate (read, write and speak) in English or French (if you are 55 years of age or older, this does not apply),
- and know about Canada and the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship (if you are 55 years of age or older, this does not apply).
Once you complete the three year milestone, it is time to start gathering all relevant documentation and move onto step 2 of the above stated list: Language proficiency.
Canada, as we all know, has two national languages – English and French. While English is the standard across all of the country, French is required if you are applying from citizenship from Quebec or other provinces.
Our focus here is on English language testing for Citizenship application processing, particularly in Ontario.
Language test requirements are a recent change to citizenship law. I have friends and family who applied within months of each other. One family did not have any language test to sit through while another had to provide a proof of proficiency in English.
The first thing to do in this step is to get assessed.
Canadian Language Benchmarks Assessment (CLBA)
A standard testing system that can be conducted at many language testing centres, this assessment is a comprehensive one that reviews your written, spoken, and reading skills in English. Basically you must be fluent enough in the language to perform your daily tasks when out and about in the country without need for any interpreter or language assistance.
There are 10 levels of the CLBA. The highest a CLBA testing centre can give you is an 8. You can only get level 9 or 10 if complete an ESL or another certificate at a Canadian institute of higher education.
If you are at a level of 4 or above, you can qualify for applying for citizenship, however, the CLBA test report is not a valid and recognized document in Canadian Citizenship application.
If you are at a level below 4 in the CLBA test, you will have to take some English language classes till you can be promoted to a higher level of the CLBA.
LINC / ESL classes
There are many centres that help new immigrants with ESL classes. These are known as LINC, Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada. You can register and attend these sessions for free and improve your language skills till you get a better CLBA level, usually a 6 or above. These centres do not go above level 7.
For permanent residents who have scored a level 7 or 8 on their CLBA test, they can either register for another ESL course offered at community colleges, like the Enhance Language Training (ELT) or sit for a test.
Canadian education certificates
If you have completed studies in any Canadian college or university, a diploma, a certificate as part of continuing education programs, you can also attach your certificates from the institute as proof of English language proficiency. These are accepted by the CIC.
Third party tests
According to the CIC, there are only a few third party tests that are recognized by them for your application to be considered complete and processed any further. These include:
- Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program General test (CELPIP-G)… You must have achieved a score of: 2H or higher (3L, 3H, 4L, 4H, 5 or 6) in speaking and listening; or
- CELPIP-General LS – a two-skills (listening and speaking) version of the CELPIP general test. You must have achieved a score of:2H or higher (3L, 3H, 4L, 4H, 5 or 6) in listening and speaking; or
- International English Language Testing System (IELTS), general training, not the academic version You must have achieved a score of: 4.0 or higher in speaking, and 4.5 or higher in listening.
There are some people who cannot manage the first two options. I had tested for a Level 8 with CLBA, however that is not a valid document to attach to my application, nor was I eligible for any free LINC classes. The only route available to me was to enroll in a paid ESL course or sit for the CELPIP. ESL required attending classes for 12 weeks and I could not manage that, so I chose to sit for CELPIP General LS Test instead.
Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program, the CELPIP is a computer based test. You register for a test, and pay the fee, 175 CAD for the General LS test and appear for the test on the given date.
You also have an option of doing a practice round or two here, just to get comfortable with the system.
The test itself is easy, it’s just getting used to talking to and listening to the computer. Results are available online after 8 days and you are also mailed your results to attach to your application.
Details of the test can be found here.
All tests done, certificates attached, forms completed, you can now send in your application and start waiting for a response from the CIC. If all your papers are in order, hopefully you will get one within six months, with a Study Guide and you can start preparing for the Citizenship test, as quoted above from CIC.
And also get your child to teach you O Canada. I have attended an Oath Ceremony and it truly is a soul stirring occasion…I hope to see mine soon, insha Allah.
About the author:
Aaisha Zafar Islam is the executive editor of MuslimMoms.ca, her children can sing O Canada both in English and French; she can only manage snatches of it in English!