ARCHIVED – Operational Bulletin 246 - November 30, 2010

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by IRCC staff. It is posted on the department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

Implementation of the New Language Screening Tool in the Citizenship Process


The purpose of this Operational Bulletin is to provide instructions on the use of the new language screening tool. This screening tool is intended to provide a more uniform and formalized method for Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) officials to identify applicants who may need to be referred to a language hearing with a citizenship judge.


Section 5(1)(d) of the Citizenship Act requires adult applicants for a grant of citizenship to have an adequate knowledge of one of the official languages of Canada. The criteria for determining adequate knowledge of English or French are described in section 14 of the Citizenship Regulations:

The criteria for determining whether a person has an adequate knowledge of one of the official languages of Canada are, based on questions prepared by the Minister:

  1. That the person comprehends, in that language, basic spoken statements and questions; and
  2. That the person can convey orally or in writing, in that language, basic information or answers to questions.

For citizenship applicants, the ability to meet the language requirement is generally satisfied through the citizenship knowledge test and through interaction with CIC officials. Applicants who either fail the knowledge test or who do not appear to meet the language criteria in the regulations, (e.g., because they show difficulties with language communication and/or comprehension) are invited to appear before a citizenship judge who decides whether the applicant meets the language requirement for citizenship.

With the objective of ensuring that knowledge of one of Canada’s official languages is assessed uniformly and consistently for all adult applicants, CIC is introducing a standardized screening tool to assist CIC officials in identifying those applicants who should be referred to a citizenship judge for an assessment of their official language proficiency against the regulatory criteria. CIC has identified the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) level 4 as the language assessment description which closely aligns with the current regulatory criteria as set out under section 14 of the Citizenship Regulations. Achieving a CLB 4 level signifies that an individual:

  • Is able to understand a conversation on familiar, everyday topics;
  • Is able to understand simple questions;
  • Is able to ask and answer simple questions;
  • Has enough vocabulary for everyday conversations; and
  • Demonstrates a control of basic grammar, including proper use of verbs and tenses.

The language requirement itself has not changed.


The Citizenship Language Screening Tool (CLST) is a new tool that has been created to assist citizenship officials in determining whether an applicant for a grant of citizenship, between the ages of 18 and 54 (incl.), should be referred to a citizenship judge for an in-depth assessment on language.

The CLST must be used when CIC officials are referring an applicant for a hearing with a citizenship judge or when CIC officials are unsure if the applicant should be referred for a hearing with a citizenship judge. The CLST does not need to be completed when applicants are clearly at ease in speaking and understanding English or French. The CLST does not need to be fully completed if, because of communication difficulties, the applicant’s grasp of all elements on the screening tool cannot be verified.

When a citizenship official has concerns that the applicant may not meet the language requirements for citizenship, the following steps are to be taken:

  • The official completes the CLST form;
  • If the applicant does not have all six elements, or if the official is unable to assess all six elements due to communication difficulties, the CIC official refers the applicant to a judge for a full language assessment. In the latter situation, the CIC official must check the last box on the CLST to indicate to the judge that the screening tool was not completed because of difficulties communicating with the client;
  • The CIC official signs and dates the CLST; and
  • Fully and partially completed screening tools must remain in the file regardless of whether or not the applicant is referred for an interview with a citizenship judge.

The comments box can be used when a CIC official wants to note some information for the citizenship judge or for the permanent file.

Fully and partially completed CLST forms must remain on file to be microfilmed.

Until further notice, offices are to continue collecting information on the revised language assessment data excel spreadsheet regarding the number of tests being administered, and the number of referrals to the citizenship judge.

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