IELTS for work permit in Canada | Language for foreign workers

Foreign workers in Canada must show their ability to do the job. Knowing one of the official languages of Canada could be an indication of this ability. However, do you need to take IELTS for a work permit in Canada? Let’s explore this question.

Official languages of Canada and designated tests

Canada has two official languages: French and English. Consequently, you need to know at least one of them while working in Canada. To prove your language abilities, you may only take the following tests.

  • CELPIP: Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program  (Only CELPIP General is acceptable. Don’t take General-LS)
  • IELTS: International English Language Testing System (Only IELTS General is acceptable. Don’t take IELTS Academic)
  • TEF Canada: Test d’évaluation de français
  • TCF Canada: Test de connaissance du français

Of course, you only need to take one test per language. However, if you don’t know one of the languages, there is no need to take any tests. For example, if you know only English, then take IELTS or CELPIP. Moreover, the validity of each test is only two years.

IELTS, CELPIP, PTE: Which is Right for You?

Taking the IELTS or another language test for a work permit application

Generally speaking, you may only work in Canada if you can perform the job. Paragraph 200(3)(a) of IRPR emphasizes this issue. Of course, knowing the local language reflects your capabilities. IRCC does consider the following factors to evaluate the language requirements:

  • The content of your job offer (e.g., on the IMP application)
  • The LMIA application (if applicable)
  • The nature of the job

Officers’ focus is on your ability to do the job. Therefore, they don’t consider your ability to communicate outside the job environment. To evaluate your language skills, an officer may consider one or more of the following:

The first option is the most common one. However, the officers may consider the other two options.

What if the job doesn’t require knowing English or French languages

Generally speaking, officers refuse an LMIA or work permit application that relies on non-official languages. Subsection 203(1.01) of IRPR emphasizes this issue. Therefore, it is risky to claim the job does not require any of the official languages of Canada. Nonetheless, on infrequent occasions, this could be the case. Regardless, you must present several documents to support your claim. I discourage my clients from making such a bold claim. When you work in Canada, you likely need some knowledge of English or French languages to work.

Do I need to submit an IELTS for a work permit in advance?

As I mentioned earlier, IELTS is not mandatory but could certainly help. Therefore, taking an IELTS General test and including your work permit application results is wise. Moreover, consider reading my article on the Federal Court’s point of view.

Note: IRCC made changes to the IMP C11 work permit requirements in November 2022. Therefore, if you are a self-employed person or an entrepreneur seeking a work permit under this program, please include proof of language. The best options are IELTS General or CELPIP-G test results (at least CLB 5 for every language skill).

What test results do you advise?

It is almost impossible to obtain IELTS test results for a work permit in Canada. However, the following tables could give you some hints on best practices.

IELTS for NOC 0 and A work permits and those NOC B jobs that require communication skills

Look at the position requirements. For example, if communication plays an important role, it is in your best interest to have test scores equivalent to or higher than the following table. By the way, click here for more information on NOC. Nonetheless, this table is not an official guideline by the government.

IELTS GeneralEnglish6.0six6.0six
TEF CanadaFrench310249207310
TCF CanadaFrench1045845310

IELTS for NOC C and D work permits and those NOC B jobs that require fewer communication skills

If communication does not play an important role, it is in your best interest to have test scores equivalent to or higher than the following table. Nevertheless, this table is not an official guideline by the government.

IELTS GeneralEnglish5.
TEF CanadaFrench226181121181
TCF CanadaFrench63693424

I must emphasize that neither of these tables is official.

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    Al Parsai, MA, DTM, RCIC
    Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant
    Ashton College Instructor – Immigration Consulting
    Author – 88 Tips on Immigration to Canada

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    Al Parsai

    This article has been expertly crafted by Al Parsai, a distinguished Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (L3 RCIC-IRB – Unrestricted Practice) hailing from vibrant Toronto, Canada. Al's academic achievements include an esteemed role as an adjunct professor at prestigious Queen's University Law School and Ashton College, as well as a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from York University. A respected member of CICC and CAPIC organizations, Al's insights are further enriched by his experience as the dynamic CEO of Parsai Immigration Services. Guiding thousands of applicants from over 55 countries through the immigration process since 2011, Al's articles offer a wealth of invaluable knowledge for readers.