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I can't pass the citizenship test or speak and understand English or French well enough. Can I become a citizen?

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I can't pass the citizenship test or speak and understand English or French well enough. Can I become a citizen?
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I can't pass the citizenship test or speak and understand English or French well enough. Can I become a citizen?
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Reviewed: 
October 9, 2018
Answer

To become a citizen, most people must be able to meet certain requirements. But some people don't have to meet all of the requirements. And there are times when Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) can excuse people from some of them.

The general rules

To become a Canadian citizen, you must be a permanent resident and meet a number of requirements.

For most people between 18 and 54 years old, this includes being able to show that they:

IRCC asks you to include documents that prove your language skills when you apply. You take a citizenship test to show your knowledge of Canada.

If you can't meet all of the requirements

Some people are not able to learn to speak and understand spoken English or French at the level that IRCC says they have to. And some people can't pass the citizenship test to show their knowledge of Canada.

There can be many reasons for this. For example, you might:

  • have a medical condition that affects your ability to learn
  • never have had a chance to go to school
  • never have learned to read and write so learning what you need to know for the citizenship test is more difficult for you
  • read and write in a language that uses a script very different than English and French
  • find it difficult to take tests because of trauma

If you can't meet the requirements to know English or French and pass the citizenship test, you can ask IRCC for a waiver.

This means that you ask IRCC to excuse you from one or both of these requirements for "compassionate" reasons. For example, you might have a doctor's report that explains that you've not been able to meet the requirements because of a medical condition. Or there might be other reasons you can't learn what you need to pass the requirements. Step 4 gives examples.

Getting legal help

It's very difficult to get a waiver from IRCC. So it's important to get legal help if you want to ask for one.

Community legal clinics give free legal advice to people with low incomes. Your local community legal clinic may also be able to help you apply for a waiver. 

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