Mandatory IELTS language testing to be enshrined in the law by Canadian Immigration Department

By Author: Admin | January 16, 2011

On December 11 2010, Canada’s Immigration Minister  proposed an amendment to the current law surrounding English language assessments under the Federal Skilled Worker program.  Currently, the law for the FSW program allows written evidence of English language testing to be submitted by a candidate under the FSW program as an alternative to writing the IELTS test.  This non-IELTS option was implicitly meant to accommodate persons whose first language was English and/or who had completed most of their schooling in an English-speaking environment.  Because the non-IELTS option is open to other persons (i.e. persons who were confident of their English language abilities despite being in a non-English speaking environment), almost every applicant had been submitting a skilled worker application with their own written submission asserting their level of English language ability instead of an IELTS result.

Visa officers often received sub-standard submissions asserting English language ability, hence triggering a requirement to ask for the IELTS test later on in the processing.  This second step (of reviewing written self-assessment and then asking for the IELTS test) lengthened processing times, something the immigration department is seeking to curtail.

The only clients I  have assisted whose self-assessment of English language ability was accepted were those clients who were born and raised and educated in the English language in countries such as Australia and the USA and had acquired work experience in those countries.

The Immigration Minister’s proposed amendment shall inevitably pass into law.  Indeed, since June of 2010, the Centralized Intake Office at Sydney, Nova Scotia has rejected FSW applications unless an IELTS or other suitable test has been included with the application.  The proposed law has thus been in effect on a de facto basis since June of 2010.

Alternatives to the across-the-board mandatory testing could include exempting those persons from mandatory IELTS testing who were educated in the English language for all of their schooling, from primary to secondary school, as well as post-secondary schooling, who further, have also worked in an English speaking environment for at least one year.  This alternative will not be considered by the Immigration Minister, to the frustration of those who possess, without a doubt, fluency in the English language, such as a Harvard Educated lawyer practicing law in the United States.

Another alternative would be to make the level of English dependent on the type of job intended to be taken up.  This alternative is already in effect with respect to the Canada-Experience-Class (CEC) class of immigrants – those who have acquired legal work experience in Canada.  CEC candidates who have worked in more technical jobs require a lower score on the IELTS test as opposed to CEC applicants who have worked in white-collar  jobs which require advanced written, speaking and writing skills.   This acknowledges the reality that the hyper-specialization of the labour market in the 21st century entails some workers posing the same phrases at work, or writing the same phrases over and over.  For example, plumber’s invoices are not founts of literary creativity, but rather, include standard phrases (e.g. install toilet, unplug drain, repair faucet etc.)  This would be contrasted by a the duties of a marketing consultant who must conduct research to acquire knowledge about an item or concept to be marketed, synthesize data regarding marketing trends for that item or concept, analyze that data, create a report based on said data, and orally present that report to senior management.

In summary, Canada’s labour market needs (particularly in the hands-on, technical vocations) will be compromised by the proposed amendment imposing mandatory language testing, thus impeding Canadian economic growth.


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I was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario Canada. I am an accomplished author and lecturer and am consulted by the media and other immigration lawyers and consultants on immigration matters and challenging immigration cases, appeals, and federal court matters.

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