IELTS for work permit in Canada | Language for foreign workers

A foreign worker who works 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 when you are 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 the English language only, then take IELTS or CELPIP only. Moreover, the validity of each test is only two years.

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, it is wise to take an IELTS General test and include your work permit application results. Of course, you may take any other tests from the list I posted earlier.

What test results do you advise?

It is almost impossible to come up with any 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.

Test Language Speaking Listening Reading Writing
CELPIP English 7 seven 7 seven
IELTS General English 6.0 six 6.0 six
TEF Canada French 310 249 207 310
TCF Canada French 10 458 453 10


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.

Test Language Speaking Listening Reading Writing
CELPIP English 5 5 4 4
IELTS General English 5.0 5.0 3.5 4.0
TEF Canada French 226 181 121 181
TCF Canada French 6 369 342 4

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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    This article provides information of a general nature only. Considering the fluid nature of the immigration world, it may no longer be current. Of course, the item does not give legal advice. Therefore, do not rely on it as legal advice or immigration advice. Consequently, no one could hold us accountable for the content of these articles. Of course, if you have specific legal questions, you must consult a lawyer. Alternatively, if you are looking for immigration advice, book an appointment.

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    Al Parsai

    Al Parsai is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC) in Toronto, Canada. He also teaches immigration courses at Ashton College in Vancouver, Canada. Al, who holds a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from York University, is a member of ICCRC and CAPIC organizations. Al, the CEO of Parsai Immigration Services, has represented thousands of applicants from more than 50 countries to the immigration authorities since January 2011.

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