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Building French language ability in Canada through immigration

Kathleen Leighton

Canada is committed to developing Francophone minority communities in the country (outside of Quebec). In furtherance of this goal, there are a number of immigration initiatives in place to attract French speakers. By 2023, the government’s target is to reach 4.4% French-speaking immigration admissions in these communities, as noted in a news release from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Relevant federal government measures, along with a few provincial initiatives, aimed at building French language ability in Canada are discussed below.

Francophone mobility

Many employers in Canada must obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA”) from Service Canada / Employment and Social Development Canada before they can hire a foreign worker. This process involves a demonstration by the employer that there are no suitably available or qualified Canadians or permanent residents in Canada for the role in which they wish to hire a foreign worker, and that the hiring of the foreign worker will have a neutral, if not positive impact on the Canadian labour market. Typically, this requires the employer to undergo specific recruitment efforts for a 28-day period.

However, there are some categories of work permits that are LMIA-exempt. One such category is the Mobilité Francophone LMIA-exemption, which has been available since June 2016. Foreign nationals looking to work in Canada outside of Quebec in certain higher skilled occupations may be eligible for this type of work permit. As a result, the employer may be able to bypass some of the more onerous requirements of the LMIA process.

The foreign national’s habitual language of daily use must be French to be eligible, but the language of the position they are coming to work in does not have to be French. The foreign national’s Canadian employer will have to submit to the government an Offer of Employment with details of the business, job, and candidate, along with a $230 compliance fee, to help facilitate the work permit application.

This LMIA-exempt work permit category recognizes the significant social and cultural benefits to Canada that arise from developing minority official language communities in the country.

Express Entry

The Express Entry system is a federal points-based permanent residency application process for skilled workers looking to settle in Canada. Interested applicants must post an Express Entry profile in a pool of candidates and will then receive a score based on various human capital factors, including age, work experience, language ability, and education. If an applicant has sufficient points to receive an Invitation to Apply in a given round of invitations, they may then submit an application for permanent residency.

In June 2017, points began to be awarded to candidates for French language ability. However, more recently near the end of 2020, the government announced that additional points would be awarded to French-speaking and bilingual Express Entry candidates. Now, candidates can earn up to 50 additional points for their French language ability, even if French is their second language. The necessary language test evaluates writing, reading, listening, and speaking. These additional points will allow French-speaking candidates to be more competitive when vying for an Invitation to Apply for permanent residency in Canada.

Provincial initiatives

Some provinces have also recognized the value of attracting French-speaking immigrants to their communities. For example, the New Brunswick Strategic Initiative Stream came into effect on March 13, 2020. This immigration stream allows the province to nominate French-speaking workers with skills, education, and work experience that will benefit New Brunswick’s economy for permanent residence in Canada. Interested applicants must plan to work and live in New Brunswick on an indefinite basis.

Ontario also has an Express Entry stream for French-speaking skilled workers as part of the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program. This stream allows French-speaking skilled workers who also have strong English language abilities to apply to permanently live and work in Ontario; it runs in conjunction with the previously mentioned federal Express Entry system.

Conclusion

French-speaking foreign nationals who are seeking to immigrate to Canada may have unique options to seek temporary work status and permanent residency in Canada based on their language ability, if they are destined for a province or territory that is outside of Quebec. The initiatives available for French-speakers demonstrate the government’s commitment to developing minority Francophone communities in the country. Some of the relevant measures were introduced more recently in order to help the government meet its French-speaking immigration admissions target, particularly in light of the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on immigration numbers in general.


This update is intended for general information only. Our immigration group would be pleased to advise on how to pursue any of the above-mentioned options for French-speakers destined for Canada.

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