ARCHIVED – Backgrounder — New minimum language requirements for immigrants under the Provincial Nominee Program

Starting July 1, 2012, most Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) applicants for semi- and low-skilled occupations that fall under National Occupational Classification (NOC) Skill Levels C and D will have to undergo mandatory language testing and achieve a minimum standard of Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) 4 in English or Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens (NCLC) level 4 in French across all four categories: listening, speaking, reading and writing.

National Occupational Classification Skill Levels

The NOC is the nationally accepted reference for occupations in Canada. It organizes over 40,000 job titles into 500 occupational group descriptions.

NOC Skill Levels C and D occupations include semi- and low-skilled workers in the trades, primary and manufacturing industries, sales and services, as well as certain clerical and assistant categories. For more information, please consult the Human Resources and Skills Development website at

Canadian Language Benchmark Language Standards

As of July 1, 2012, most applicants for semi- and low-skilled occupations under the PNP program will be required to first take a language proficiency test and obtain a minimum standard of CLB 4 across all four categories: listening, speaking, reading and writing.

The CLB is the national standard used in Canada for describing, measuring and recognizing the English language proficiency of adult immigrants and prospective immigrants for living and working in Canada. It provides a descriptive scale of communicative proficiency in English as a second language, expressed as benchmarks or reference points.

The NCLC are used for assessment of French language proficiency.

CLB 4 is considered “Basic Proficiency” and means that an individual being tested who “meets” CLB 4:

  • can communicate basic needs and personal experience;
  • can follow, with considerable effort, simple formal and informal conversations;
  • can read a simple set of instructions, plain language; and
  • can write short messages, postcards, notes or directions.

Applicants must provide valid results from a language test administered by a designated testing agency to Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The acceptable tests are:

  • the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) General Training;
  • the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP-General); and
  • the Test d’évaluation de français (to test proficiency in French).

No other evidence of language proficiency will be accepted.

One-Year Exemption for Certain Temporary Foreign Workers

As temporary foreign workers (TFWs) often make the transition to provincial nominees, there will be a one-time exemption for TFWs in NOC C and D occupations who arrived in Canada on or before July 1, 2012, and who are subsequently nominated in employer-driven PNP streams no later than July 1, 2013. This ensures that all individuals who arrived as temporary foreign workers under the previous regime, when no minimum standards existed, will not be disadvantaged.


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