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Stricter language screening for would-be Canadian citizens starts in November

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer raises his hand as a group of 60 people take the oath of citizenship during a special Canada Day citizenship ceremony in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday July 1, 2012.


Would-be Canadians will be required to submit tangible proof of how well they speak English or French beginning this November.

The new requirements were unveiled last year and will see citizenship applicants given three ways to prove their proficiency.

Applicants will have to submit results of a government-approved third-party language test, show they've finished high school or post-secondary education in English or French or prove they've received an appropriate level of language education via government-funded training programs.

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Knowledge of French or English has been a requirement to obtain citizenship since 1977, but Immigration Minister Jason Kenney had sought to find an objective way to prove proficiency.

It used to be assessed as part of the general citizenship test and related interview.

That will still be part of the criteria but before would-be citizens even get to that step, they'll have to submit the evidence as part of their overall application.

The changes come into effect as of November 1.

An analysis published in April found the new rules could have the effect of decreasing the number of citizenship applications, as people hold back in order to seek out language training.

The government analysis also suggested the changes will be costly: as much as over $70-million for applicants and close to $40-million for governments who'll need to increase free language training programs.

But the analysis said the benefits to society and to individual applicants that will come with stronger language skills outweigh the costs.

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