What are the language requirements for Canadian citizenship?

Canada has 2 official languages: English and French. You must provide proof of your language skills in either language.

When you are applying for Canadian citizenship, you must prove that you know enough of either French or English so that you can understand other people and they can understand you. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will return your citizenship application as incomplete if you do not send acceptable proof that you have adequate knowledge of English or French.

IRCC has identified the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) or Niveau de compétence linguistique canadien (NCLC) level 4 as the language assessment description that best fits the current Citizenship Regulations.

A CLB/NCLC level 4 means that you:

  • Are able to understand a conversation on familiar, everyday topics;
  • Are able to understand simple questions;
  • Are able to ask and answer simple questions;
  • Have enough vocabulary for everyday conversations; and
  • Demonstrate an understanding of basic grammar, including proper use of verbs and tenses.

Citizenship Tests

Adult applicants (18-54 years old) usually take a written citizenship test in either English or French. The test has multiple-choice questions about Canada. In some cases, IRCC may decide that your will have a spoken (oral) test with a citizenship judge.

The questions are based on the information in the brochure, Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship. After you apply for citizenship, IRCC will send this brochure to you with a letter of acknowledgement that confirms IRCC received your application. You can take citizenship classes held by ESL programs, community centres or settlement agencies. You can also take practice tests online. Other study tips can be found in the article: How can I prepare for the citizenship test?

A citizenship judge will look at the results of your test. If you do not pass the test, the judge will give you an oral interview. During the interview, you are expected to show listening comprehension of basic spoken statements or questions and the ability to respond either orally or in writing, in English or French. Your communication skills in English or French will be part of the judge's final decision on your application.

For More Information

  • Applying for Citizenship - Information from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) on Canadian Citizenship.
  • Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) - The nationally recognized standard for assessing the English language proficiency of adults.
  • CLB - Online Self-Assessment - This tool will assess your CLB levels in reading and listening. Your test results are for your information only - they are not official results.
  • IRCC Help Centre - A tool that helps answer frequently asked questions on immigration matters. It offers several ways of searching through the information available, including search by keyword. From Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). 
  • CitizenshipCounts.ca - A website and free iPhone/Android app that helps people study for the citizenship test and learn about the benefits of citizenship.
Last updated: July 11, 2016 4000339