Canada Gazette, Part I, Volume 146, Number 16: Regulations Amending the Citizenship Regulations
April 21, 2012
Department of Citizenship and Immigration
REGULATORY IMPACT ANALYSIS STATEMENT
(This statement is not part of the Regulations.)
1. Executive summary
Issue: The Citizenship Act (Act) requires that applicants for an adult grant of citizenship demonstrate that they have an “adequate knowledge of one of the official languages of Canada” (paragraph 5(1)(d) of the Act). Under the current system, language is largely assessed through a multiple choice written test which also assesses an applicant’s knowledge of Canada and of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship. The written test is an inadequate method for assessing language as it does not assess listening and speaking skills. The current language assessment leads to program inefficiencies resulting from processing applications from people who apply without adequate language skills. Finally, there are no specific criteria for the assessment of language proficiency and no objective evidence of language proficiency, which makes assessments challenging for decision makers.
Description: The proposed amendments to the Citizenship Regulations would require applicants to furnish evidence of language proficiency with their citizenship application, including language test results or other objective evidence such as evidence of completion of secondary or post-secondary education in English or French or evidence from certain government-funded language training programs. The proposal would also establish clearer language assessment criteria that align with the established Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) level 4, which most closely matches the current level required for citizenship. The language level required for citizenship would not be increased. The proposed regulatory amendments would also clarify that the language skills assessed are speaking and listening. Finally, the proposed amendment would remove the current regulatory requirement that questions to assess language proficiency be prepared by the Minister, thereby allowing the use of external evidence. The proposed amendments would encourage applicants to have the required language level when they apply for citizenship. It would also improve the way language is assessed for citizenship and enhance program integrity and efficiency.
Cost-benefit statement: The Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) suggests the proposal results in a net monetized cost of $1.7M annually; it is believed, however, that the qualitative benefits identified in the CBA offset the monetized costs and generate an overall net benefit to Canadians. The costs associated with this proposal result largely from the provision of government-funded language training, offered for free to all newcomers. Other costs identified are the value of a citizenship applicant’s time to take language training as well as the cost some applicants would incur for choosing to take a third-party test. The benefits identified and monetized in the CBA that arise from the proposal are improved employability and earnings of permanent residents who enhance their language skills at an earlier stage. Social and health benefits which accrue from improved language proficiency have also been identified qualitatively. Finally, benefits to Canadian employers in the form of increased productivity due to better language proficiency have also been identified.
Business and consumer impacts: The proposed amendments principally affect citizenship applicants who do not have evidence of their language proficiency in speaking and listening and would now be required to obtain such evidence to support their citizenship application. For those who do not have basic language proficiency, this proposal would create a strong incentive to attend language training in order to attain language proficiency and provide upfront evidence of their language proficiency in speaking and listening.
The acquisition of citizenship is a significant step in the integration process for newcomers to Canada. Granting citizenship to eligible applicants provides newcomers with the full range of citizenship rights and encourages them to fulfill the responsibilities of citizenship. One of the legal requirements for acquiring citizenship is basic proficiency in one of the two official languages of Canada.
Language proficiency is essential to helping newcomers find work and become more involved in their community. Moreover, language proficiency is one of the biggest determinants of successful integration and participation in active citizenship and civil society. A literature review has revealed a variety of economic, social and health benefits associated with official language competency of newcomers. A 2011 report by the TD Bank Financial Group, based on Statistics Canada’s International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey (IALSS) and other sources, notes that “increased literacy skills lead to higher employment, lower and shorter unemployment, higher income and better jobs.” (see footnote 1) A study by Monica Boyd and Cao Xingshan, which uses Statistics Canada’s census-based levels of language proficiency measurement, also finds that average weekly earnings increase from each language proficiency level to the next. (see footnote 2) The Government of Canada committed, in the 2008 Speech from the Throne, to increase the uptake of immigrant settlement programs, which includes freely-available language training for newcomers.
Given the importance of newcomers’ language abilities in their successful settlement and integration, citizenship legislation since 1947 has required applicants for an adult grant of citizenship to demonstrate that they have an adequate knowledge of one of Canada’s official languages. The current requirement is set out in paragraph 5(1)(d) of the Citizenship Act (the Act). Currently, those between the ages of 18 and 54, representing approximately 134 000 applicants per year, must meet the language requirement.
Section 14 of the Citizenship Regulations (the Regulations) broadly outlines the criteria for determining whether a person has adequate knowledge of one of the official languages, requiring “basic” comprehension and expression. The Regulations do not outline specific criteria for the assessment of language proficiency, making such assessments challenging for decision-makers.
Furthermore, under the current system, language is largely assessed through a multiple choice written test which also assesses an applicant’s knowledge of Canada and of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship (a separate requirement under paragraph 5(1)(e) of the Act). The written test is an inadequate method for assessing language as it does not assess listening and speaking skills, which are essential language skills for effective communication with fellow Canadians and for effective integration. This creates a risk that applicants without adequate listening and speaking language skills may acquire citizenship.
If an applicant fails the written test, or if concerns about their speaking or listening proficiency are flagged following oral interactions with a citizenship official, the applicant is referred for a hearing with a citizenship judge. The result of the hearing may be that the citizenship application is refused by the judge because the applicant does not meet the official language requirements. This is inefficient for citizenship processing and does not provide good client service as there can be a substantial time delay between submission of the application and a subsequent hearing to assess language proficiency. Hearings in these cases contribute to processing pressures and application inventories. Processing times for straightforward cases that do not necessitate a hearing currently average 19 months. For cases requiring a hearing, there is an additional delay.
There is a need to address the fact that the written citizenship test is an inadequate method for language assessment; that decision-makers currently lack objective evidence on which to base their language assessment; and that program inefficiencies result from processing applications from people who apply without adequate language skills.
The proposed amendments to the Regulations would
- encourage applicants to meet the language requirement when they file their citizenship application, thereby strengthening the integration of new citizens and supporting their full participation in Canadian society;
- clarify the language requirements by aligning them with CLB/ NCLC level 4 speaking and listening indicators. This clarity would benefit applicants, Department of Citizenship and Immigration (CIC) officials and citizenship judges; and
- improve processing by enabling the return of applications, with a refunded fee, if no evidence is provided, thereby enabling CIC to focus on processing applications where satisfactory evidence of the required language level has been provided, resulting in fewer hearings to determine whether applicants meet the language requirements.
The amendments would enhance the integrity of the citizenship program by making language assessment more objective, while improving language outcomes for newcomers. The proposal would provide citizenship applicants with an incentive to acquire the necessary language skills. In addition, the proposal has been designed to minimize the burden on applicants.
The proposed amendments would continue to build on the Government of Canada’s 2008 Speech from the Throne undertaking to increase the uptake of immigrant settlement programs, which includes freely available language training for newcomers. Moreover, the proposal furthers CIC’s Citizenship Action Plan (CAP) which identified that changes to language assessments are required to support an integrated and socially cohesive society. The CAP is a medium-term set of coordinated initiatives to strengthen the value of citizenship.
The Department of Citizenship and Immigration proposes to introduce amendments to section 3 of the Regulations to require applicants to furnish evidence of language proficiency with their citizenship application. The proposed changes would apply to all adult citizenship applicants between the ages of 18 and 54 who are required to meet the language requirement. This represents approximately 134 000 applicants per year. All such applicants would be affected by the new Regulations and would need to provide evidence of their language proficiency. CIC would mitigate the impact on applicants by allowing for a range of objective evidence of language proficiency.
Such evidence could include approved third-party language tests or alternative objective evidence. Administrative guidelines would provide a list of acceptable language tests which are correlated with the CLB/NCLCs, such as tests that are currently accepted for immigration to Canada. Guidelines would also specify acceptable alternative objective evidence such as completion of secondary or post-secondary education in French or English or achievement of a certain level in a language training course such as the federally funded Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada/Cours de langue pour les immigrants au Canada (LINC/ CLIC). It is also proposed that tests previously completed by the applicant and accepted for other purposes, such as tests done as part of their immigration application as a principal applicant in the Federal Skilled Worker Class or the Canada Experience Class, would be considered acceptable for citizenship purposes.
Requiring evidence of language proficiency up-front would make the application process more efficient and reduce administrative burden for CIC by enabling CIC to return applications submitted without adequate evidence of language proficiency. In these cases, the application would be returned with the complete fee and a letter advising the applicant that they have not submitted satisfactory evidence of compliance with the official languages requirement. This would enable CIC to focus on processing applications where satisfactory evidence of the required language level has been provided. Also, requiring evidence of language proficiency would provide citizenship judges with objective evidence on which to base their decision. It is expected that there would be a decrease in the number of language interviews with citizenship judges because applicants would only apply when they have the requisite language proficiency.
It is also proposed to amend section 14 of the Regulations to provide the criteria for assessing speaking and listening skills and to capture the key elements of CLB/NCLC level 4 descriptors, such as the ability to take part in routine conversations about everyday topics, use basic grammatical structures and tenses, to have sufficient vocabulary for routine oral communication and to understand simple instructions and directions. Greater transparency and consistency in language assessment would be achieved by establishing clearer language assessment criteria that align with CLB/NCLC level 4 and clarifying that the language skills required are listening and speaking. The proposed regulatory amendments would not increase the language level required for citizenship, but would clarify the current language requirement.
Finally, the proposed amendment to section 14 of the Regulations would also remove the current requirement that questions to assess language proficiency be prepared by the Minister, thereby allowing the use of external evidence.
6. Regulatory and non-regulatory options considered
The Department of Citizenship and Immigration has attempted to improve language assessments by developing tools to assist officers and judges in assessing applicants’ official language proficiency and improve consistency in assessment. However, language assessments remain subjective and the new tools do not result in efficiency gains. Therefore, requiring objective evidence upfront is the best way to ensure consistency in language assessment, as well as program integrity and achieve operational efficiencies which would benefit clients.
An amendment to section 3 of the Regulations is necessary in order to create a requirement for language evidence to be provided with an application for citizenship. Non-regulatory options are not possible as the material required to apply for a grant of citizenship under subsection 5(1) of the Act is outlined in the Regulations. Requiring upfront evidence through Regulations rather than through administrative guidelines would provide stronger authority to compel applicants to provide the requested evidence.
Currently, section 14 of the Regulations outlines, in broad terms, the criteria to assess language proficiency and therefore, regulatory changes are necessary to provide CIC officials and citizenship judges with more specific criteria by which to assess language proficiency. Clarifying criteria through regulatory changes increases the transparency, consistency and fairness of language assessment and is more binding than administrative guidelines, thus ensuring that all applicants are required to meet the same criteria.
7. Benefits and costs
The table below provides an overview of the Cost-Benefit Analysis study results. Although the proposal would be implemented in 2012, the costs and benefits cannot be measured until 2013, with the exception of certain administrative CIC costs. The total estimated costs for the analysis period (2012–2021) are estimated to be $110 million (present value) [PV]. The total benefits resulting from the proposed Regulations are estimated to be $92.5 million (PV). This results in a total negative net benefit of $17.5 million (PV), which equates to $1.7 million per year. This negative net benefit is outweighed by the qualitative benefits identified in the study.
|Costs, benefits and distribution
|Base Year 2012
|Year Five 2017
|Final Year 2021
|A. Quantified impacts in millions of present value dollars (in 2012 dollars)
|Federal and provincial language training subsidy cost
|CIC and provincial governments
|Call centre costs
|Cost to take third-party test
|Cost in time to take language training
|Sydney processing costs
|Processing benefits at local offices
|Processing efficiency of postponed applications without language proficiency
|Improved employment benefit
|Economy and applicants
|Higher wages benefit
|Economy and applicants
|Reduced reliance on EI benefit
|Government of Canada
|Improved skill matching benefit
|Economy and applicants
|Net benefits (NPV)
|B. Qualitative impacts
|Description of cost or benefit
|Improved participation in Canadian society.
|Improved access to health services and possibly improved health outcomes for recent immigrants.
|Reduced knowledge hearings with citizenship judges
|Reduction in hearings for people who have failed the knowledge test due to lack of language proficiency.
|Processing benefits to public departments
|Government of Canada
|Benefit to other government departments or agencies who would not have to screen citizenship applications that do not comply with the requirements.
|Ease of interaction with new citizens
|Improved ability to provide government services to immigrants who have better language proficiency and are better able to understand how social services are offered.
|Improved employability of permanent residents/new citizens
|Improved language proficiency at an earlier stage, allows new immigrants to participate in the labour market and better communicate with potential employers.
|Increased client base
|Private language schools
|Potential increase in demand for private language training.
|Improved value of Canadian citizenship
|Increased program integrity through more objective language assessment which strengthens the status of Canadian citizenship.
|Strengthened social cohesion
|Improved language proficiency facilitates interaction with other Canadians, increased participation in the community and improved understanding of Canadian norms and values.
|Cost to take private language training
|Course fees may apply for those applicants that choose private language lessons over freely available government language training.
Business and consumer impacts
The proposed amendments principally affect citizenship applicants who do not have evidence of their language proficiency and would now be required to obtain such evidence to support their citizenship application. For those who do not have basic language proficiency, this proposal would create a strong incentive to attend language training in order to attain language proficiency and provide upfront evidence of their language proficiency. A qualitative benefit has been identified for private language training trainers as the proposal would provide an incentive to citizenship applicants to acquire language skills at an earlier stage. However, this benefit is qualitative as it is very difficult to predict how many applicants with language skills below CLB/NCLC level 4 would choose private language training over freely available government-funded language training. It is also impossible to predict how long they would spend in language training and what the average cost would be.
Once implemented, the proposed measure is expected to result in a net cost to federal, provincial, and territorial governments of $39.1M over the study period (10 years). The main cost is due to an anticipated modest increase in demand for free language training services provided by federal, provincial and territorial governments to prospective citizens.
It is anticipated that the number of citizenship applicants may initially decrease slightly. This would be in part because some permanent residents may postpone their citizenship applications until they improve their language skills, remaining permanent residents until that time. In those first years, a small uptake in the different language training programs (federally funded programs, private language schools, and secondary or post-secondary education in French or English) can be expected. It is important to note, however, that those trends are based on assumptions that may change over time.
There would also be an impact on permanent residents who wish to acquire Canadian citizenship. It is expected that the vast majority of applicants (nearly 99 000 or 73%) would already have some form of required evidence; therefore, the proposed requirement would not pose a new burden for this group. For the minority of applicants who do not already have evidence of language proficiency, the costs of investing time in taking training or paying for third-party language tests to obtain evidence are significant. As seen in the table below, these costs are in the order of $70.9M. The major cost component is the time-value of taking training to improve language proficiency.
However, the benefits of improved language proficiency would accrue to both applicants and the Canadian economy in the form of increased employment and output as well as improved productivity. As seen in the table below, the benefits to applicants, in the form of improved economic and social outcomes, outweigh the identified costs.
The proposal has been designed to minimize the burden on applicants by allowing a variety of evidence. Acceptable evidence would include tests previously done by the applicant and accepted for other purposes, such as immigration to Canada. Therefore, such applicants would not need to obtain new evidence exclusively for citizenship purposes. The proposal also accommodates native speakers by accepting completion of secondary or post-secondary education in French or English and gives added value to achievement in certain government-funded language training programs, which are free to applicants.
|Impact by stakeholder
(in millions of dollars)
|Federal and provincial governments
|Permanent residents seeking citizenship
The full CBA is available upon request.
8. Small business lens
There would be no impact on small businesses as the proposal does not impose an administrative burden or compliance costs on small businesses.
The Department of Citizenship and Immigration has consulted with provincial and territorial senior officials to explain the impact of the proposal and to ascertain the types of evidence provincial and territorial language training programs could provide which would be acceptable for citizenship purposes. These discussions are continuing on a bilateral and multilateral basis. Consultations have also been undertaken with federal, provincial and territorial language specialists and citizenship judges. CIC has held consultations with several third-party testing bodies and would continue these consultations to ensure citizenship applicants have access to acceptable third-party tests. Discussions with other stakeholders such as immigrant settlement service providers, representatives of the Bar and representatives of immigration consultants’ organizations have also taken place.
Through a Notice of Intent published in the Canada Gazette on October 15, 2011, CIC has also informed the public and stakeholders of the proposal and invited submissions. The majority of those who responded were in favour of the proposal. Out of a total of 68 responses received, 40 expressed support for the proposal, and 17 responses were opposed to the proposal. The remaining 11 responses were requests for further details on the proposal. CIC received a mix of feedback from individuals (46) and organizations (22).
The primary reasons provided for supporting the proposal were that language proficiency should be one of the basic requirements for becoming a citizen and that language proficiency is critical to enable newcomers to receive services and benefits, e.g. health services. The strongest support came from private individuals. Some of those in favour of the proposal offered conditional support, contingent on the new rules continuing to provide an exemption for older applicants, the maintenance of federally funded language training programs and access to an individual waiver in cases of need.
The main concerns raised by stakeholders referred to impacts on vulnerable groups, such as refugees, people with learning disabilities, people in rural areas with limited access to language facilities, as well as concerns about certain groups who may not have the time or money to take language training or testing.
In response to these comments, it is important to note that
- The language level required to obtain citizenship is not changing; rather, the proposal addresses the way in which language proficiency is assessed, such as through provision of objective evidence;
- The proposal applies to adults aged 18–54;
- CIC estimates that 73% of all applicants would already have evidence of language proficiency, which could include previous third-party test results or evidence of completion of secondary school in English or French;
- CIC has considered the impact on vulnerable groups and has taken their needs into account in developing this proposal. Accepting a variety of evidence would mitigate the impact on vulnerable groups — for example, some refugees may have completed Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) or education in English or French and some applicants in remote areas may have completed education in English or French or done a third-party test prior to immigrating to Canada;
- Newcomers have access to free government-funded language training, including, in some cases, free childcare and transportation. Accepting certification from such programs would lessen the burden of this requirement on those who have taken this form of language training; and
- Currently, applicants who supply evidence of special needs which prevent them from acquiring official language proficiency may be considered for a waiver of the official language requirement. Applicants would continue to have access to the existing waiver.
The proposed amendment to require upfront evidence of language proficiency to be submitted with the citizenship application would act as an incentive for applicants to acquire the required language skills before applying for citizenship. Given the centrality of language to successful integration, this would have a positive impact on facilitating integration of new citizens into Canadian society, enabling them to better exercise their rights and responsibilities as citizens and supporting improved economic and social outcomes.
Through the requirement to provide up-front evidence of language proficiency, the proposed amendment would also improve the integrity of language assessment and strengthen decision making. Having an upfront requirement with a clear standard (CLB/ NCLC level 4) that applicants are required to meet would also streamline processing by enabling the return of applications, with a refunded fee, if acceptable evidence of language skills is not provided with the application. It would also lessen administrative burdens for CIC officials when assessing an applicant’s language proficiency.
In addition, applicants would benefit from clear language requirements and from being able to determine, when their application is submitted, whether they have provided appropriate proof of language proficiency. Applicants without the required level of language proficiency would benefit from not having to wait an average of 19 months to have their application processed, only to have it refused at the end of the process. These same applicants would also benefit from not having to pay the application fee if their application is ultimately refused.
The proposed amendment to section 14 of the Regulations uses CLB/NCLC benchmarks which are recognized as the official Canadian standards for describing, measuring and recognizing the language proficiency of adult immigrants in both English and French. External tests have been correlated against them as they are used under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Clarifying the language assessment criteria in section 14 of the Regulations would increase consistency, fairness and transparency. Clear and consistent standards would also benefit government officials, employers and fellow members of society by increasing confidence in the language proficiency of citizens and in the citizenship program generally.
The proposed changes would apply to adult citizenship applicants who must meet the language requirement. Currently, applicants aged between 18 and 54 must meet the language requirement and therefore, this is the group of people who would be required to provide upfront evidence of language proficiency. This represents approximately 134 000 applicants per year. All such applicants would be impacted by the new Regulations and would need to provide evidence of their language proficiency. CIC would mitigate adverse impacts on applicants by allowing for a range of objective language proficiency evidence.
It is expected that the majority of citizenship applicants (nearly 99 000 applicants per year — 73%) would already have evidence that they could submit with their application. Therefore, the requirement is not anticipated to pose a burden on the majority of applicants who would already have available to them the evidence of complying with the new official languages requirement.
11. Implementation, enforcement and service standards
The proposed amendments would entail a range of implementation requirements, such as amendments to application forms and the CIC Web site, IT systems, training for CIC officials and judges, determination of acceptable evidence from federal/provincial/territorial language training programs and arrangements with external testing bodies to ensure availability of relevant tests.
The Department of Citizenship and Immigration will adopt a proactive communications approach to ensure applicants are aware of the new assessment process and the requirement to provide evidence of language proficiency up front.
An implementation working group comprised of CIC officials from all branches and divisions affected by the changes has been established to ensure that the necessary procedures, system support and communication tools would be in place by the time the Regulations come into force. A Director General Steering Committee was also created to provide project oversight on the activities being carried out by the Language Regulations Implementation Working Group.
The Department of Citizenship and Immigration would monitor the results of the new language assessment regime. CIC would also look at mitigating the risk of fraud associated with the new requirements, through verification of third-party tests and adjustments to existing quality assurance mechanisms.
12. Performance measurement and evaluation
A PMEP is being developed to evaluate the proposed changes. In the short term, intended impacts include: (a) streamlined processing for citizenship applications; (b) increased enrolment of newcomers in federally funded language training program (LINC); and (c) increased awareness of new upfront language requirement criteria for a citizenship grant. Intermediate outcomes include: (a) eligible applicants are able to acquire citizenship grants efficiently; and (b) citizenship applicants have an adequate knowledge of an official language. Final outcomes include: (a) improved integrity of the citizenship application process and citizenship program; and (b) improved language level at the citizenship application stage contributes to employability of new citizens.
These impacts would be monitored and evaluated according to regular program evaluation schedules, anticipated for fiscal year 2018–2019.
Citizenship Legislation and Program Policy
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
180 Kent Street
PROPOSED REGULATORY TEXT
Notice is hereby given that the Governor in Council, pursuant to section 27 (see footnote a) of the Citizenship Act (see footnote b), proposes to make the annexed Regulations Amending the Citizenship Regulations.
Interested persons may make representations concerning the proposed Regulations within 30 days after the date of publication of this notice. All such representations must cite the Canada Gazette, Part Ⅰ, and the date of publication of this notice, and be addressed to Mary-Ann Hubers, Acting Director, Citizenship Legislation and Program Policy, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration, 180 Kent Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1L1 (tel.: 613-998-1756; fax: 613-991-2485; email: Mary-Ann.Hubers@cic.gc.ca).
Ottawa, April 4, 2012
Assistant Clerk of the Privy Council
REGULATIONS AMENDING THE CITIZENSHIP REGULATIONS
1. Subsection 3(4) of the Citizenship Regulations (see footnote 3) is amended by striking out “and” at the end of paragraph (c), by adding “and” at the end of paragraph (d) and by adding the following after paragraph (d):
- (e) evidence that demonstrates that the applicant has an adequate knowledge of one of the official languages of Canada, including language test results or other evidence that demonstrates that the applicant meets the criteria set out in section 14.
2. Section 14 of the Regulations is replaced by the following:
14. A person is considered to have an adequate knowledge of one of the official languages of Canada if they demonstrate that they have competence in basic communication in that language such that they are able to
- (a) take part in short, routine conversations about everyday topics;
- (b) understand simple instructions and directions;
- (c) use basic grammar, including simple structures and tenses in oral communication; and
- (d) use vocabulary that is adequate for routine oral communication.
COMING INTO FORCE
3. These Regulations come into force on the day on which they are registered.