IRCC publishes criteria to receive designation as a language testing organization

On August 11, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) published the criteria it uses to determine whether to approve a language testing organization.
IRCC requires language tests for economic class permanent residence applicants as well as Student Direct Stream (SDS) applicants to ensure the candidates meet the required level of English or French language proficiency.

These language standards are in place as a means for IRCC to confirm a candidate is well-placed to integrate in Canada. In addition, when it comes to economic class candidates, a language test score can impact your overall human capital score, which a variety of federal and provincial pathways use to rank candidates. Under the federal Express Entry system, for example, the highest-ranking candidates are invited to apply for permanent residence.

The publication of the criteria language testing organizations must meet to earn IRCC designation is a notable development since IRCC previously acknowledged no such criteria was in place, making it challenging for additional language tests to be offered to economic class and SDS applicants. In the absence of such criteria, a language testing organization did not know which requirements they needed to meet to be approved by IRCC.

IRCC’s criteria to receive designation as a language testing organization

IRCC’s website lists the following four points as the main criteria:

Expertise: A test must be appropriate for IRCC purposes by evaluating proficiency in the four skill areas (i.e., reading, writing, oral comprehension/listening, and speaking) in functional English or French at all levels from basic to high proficiency.

Reliability: A test must produce consistently similar scores among candidates with similar language proficiency. The different versions of a test must be at the same level of difficulty each time the test is written.

Integrity/security: A designated testing agency must meet security standards with respect to the logistics of preparing test sites, registering candidates, test writing and marking, sending out results, etc. Sufficient anti-fraud mechanisms must be in place for a test to be approved.

Availability: A designated testing agency for IRCC purposes should be able to make tests available to applicants in all parts of Canada and abroad where there is sufficient demand for third-party language testing.

Which tests are currently approved by IRCC for economic class immigration?

There are currently five total language testing agencies that are approved by IRCC: 



IRCC has approved the Pearson Test of English (PTE) and it is anticipated to be accepted by IRCC as of late 2023. 

Which tests are approved by IRCC for the SDS?

 On August 10, IRCC began accepting four newly approved English language tests for the SDS:

  • CELPIP General
  • Canadian Academic English Language (CAEL)
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language Internet Based test (TOEFL iBT)

 In addition, the following English language tests are also accepted by IRCC for the SDS:

  • IELTS General Training
  • IELTS Academic


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