If you plan to apply for permanent residence in Quebec, the first step is to identify which immigration program suits you best. Then, you will need to make sure you fulfill all the requirements, including language proficiency.
Quebec assesses English proficiency through the International English Testing System (IELTS) and French proficiency via a range of other tests including the Test d’Evaluation du Français (TEF).
Quebec immigration programs
Quebec offers several immigration programs for Canadian permanent residence.
These are not identical to those offered in the rest of the country, primarily because French is the only official language in Quebec and the provincial government has increased autonomy in its immigration policies.
Quebec immigration applications have two approval processes:
- Selection at a provincial level
- Admission by the federal government
Unless applicants have a Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ) immigration will not be successful.
To get a CSQ, applicants need to apply through one of Quebec’s immigration programs. Three of these have substantial financial requirements:
- Quebec Investor Program: Net assets that total a minimum of CAD 2 million and the ability to invest at least $1.2 million in Quebec
- Quebec Entrepreneur Program: Enough money and experience to manage or buy a business in Quebec
- Quebec Self-Employed Program: Net assets of at least CAD 100,000 plus at least two years of experience being self-employed in your chosen field
The other two are based on proven experience or skills and call for a lot less capital:
- Quebec Experience Program (PEQ)
- Quebec Skilled Worker Program (QSW), also known as the Regular Skilled Worker Program (RSWP)
It is worth noting that the Express Entry Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program is often the quickest pathway for Canadian immigration. But to qualify, you cannot be planning to live in Quebec!
What are the language requirements for immigrating to Quebec?
Quebec is the only Canadian province where French is the sole official language. Despite this, there are pathways for people who don’t speak French to immigrate to Quebec.
If you have the finances to apply for immigration via the Investor, Entrepreneur, or Self-Employed Worker Programs, language will not usually be an issue. However, the PEQ requires an “advanced intermediate knowledge of oral French” and proficiency in French can improve assessment scores for the QSW.
PEQ & QSW basics
Quebec Skilled Worker Program (QSW)
Before you can apply for a CSW you will need to submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) online via the Ministry of Immigration, Francisation, and Integration (MIFI) website.
If your EOI is accepted, you will be invited to apply for permanent residence in Quebec. This involves completing a selection grid that provides the information needed for the authorities to assess your suitability for Quebec immigration.
Even though proficiency in French is not a prerequisite, the EOI does ask for information about language proficiency in French and English, together with education, fields of training, and work experience. The results of this section are included in every applicant’s eligibility points.
A validated job offer will add points to the selection grid.
Quebec Experience Program (PEQ)
The PEQ is an ideal option for applicants who are proficient in French and already have work experience in Quebec.
Applications are generally processed a lot more quickly than those for the QSW, but knowledge of the French language is a must for these applications.
There are two streams for immigration via the PEQ, one for temporary foreign workers and the other for Quebec graduates. There are specific conditions for each stream, but both require a good knowledge of French.
Languages in Canada
There are two official languages in Canada – English, and French – and 98.2% of Canadians speak either English and/or French. Only 1.8% speak neither language.
According to Statistics Canada, 85.4% of the people living in Quebec are French-speaking. Just less than half (44.5%) are bilingual and speak both English and French.
This is interesting because the percentage of French-speaking Canadians is dropping slowly. According to the last census, the figure has dropped from 27.5% (1971) to 22.8% (2016). If Quebec is removed from the stats, the percentage in the rest of Canada has dropped from 6.1% (1971) to 3.8% (2016).
In Quebec, English proficiency is assessed through the IELTS, which is the most popular English language proficiency test used globally for both higher education and migration.
The Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) is another English proficiency test. The Department of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, Canada (IRCC) accepts this test but Quebec doesn’t.
There are several French-language tests that Quebec accepts, the TEFAQ, TCF-Quebec, TEF, TEF Canada, TCF, DELF, and DALF. Candidates usually also need transcripts that prove completion of at least three years of full-time study in French and completion of an advanced intermediate-level French course.
However, the language proficiency tests for the QSW and PEQ programs are different.
Language proficiency for QSW
The MiFi assesses both knowledge of French and English as part of the QSW language proficiency test, even if one is your native language.
Points are awarded for oral comprehension, oral expression, written comprehension, and written expression in both languages.
Spouses of the applicant may also be required to demonstrate language proficiency.
Applicants don’t have to submit diplomas or test results for their knowledge of French or English, but it can be useful.
Language proficiency for PEQ
You will usually need to be able to speak French to qualify for the PEQ.
The MIFI judges proficiency in terms of Level 7 on the Échelle québécoise des niveaux de compétence en français des personnes immigrantes adultes or an equivalent program. They also take both oral comprehension and oral expression into account.
A spouse moving to Quebec with the applicant is required to have a Level 4 knowledge of oral French.
Additionally, applicants must supply transcripts that prove their knowledge of French.
All the tests listed above are included, but we recommend the TEF (Test d’Evaluation du Français), which is accepted by both Quebec specifically and federal immigration.
TEFAQ is only accepted in Quebec. If you submit results for DELF or DALF, you may be asked for the original diploma or a certified copy.
MIFI officers may also ask to interview you to assess your French in person.
What is the minimum score I will need?
The process of scoring tests varies, but the norm is to assign scores for listening, reading, writing, and speaking.
When evaluating knowledge of English, the IELTS score for Quebec immigration for QSW needs to be no lower than Level 5 (intermediate) as defined by the Center for Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB). If your result is any less than this, you likely won’t gain any points for English language proficiency.
For French, the Quebec immigration system requires at least a Level 7 score before they will award points.
IELTS scores range from 0 to 9, so the optimum score is a 9, which indicates the person trading the test is an “expert user”.
A score of 8 indicates a “very good user” and 7, a “good user”. The individual scores for each of the four sections are averaged and rounded off to produce an overall score.
The maximum you can score for the TEF Quebec (TEFAQ) is 16 for the same four sections but in French.
There is no need for an IELTS score for Quebec immigration via the PEQ.
French is the most important language for this application, and you likely won’t get permanent residence without it. When it comes to language proficiency for the QSW, being fully bilingual is a definite advantage, but it is not mandatory.
How can I prepare for the test?
Preparing for the language tests you will have to take to get permanent residence in Canada can take significant time and effort.
However, in many ways, it can be no more difficult than preparing for any other type of test or exam. Here are a few tips to help you boost your scores.
Whether you are preparing for one of the French language tests or aiming to get an excellent IELTS score for Quebec immigration, it can help to plan ahead. Unless you are already totally proficient in English and/or French, it may be beneficial to sign up for a course as you prepare for the exam.
Improve your speaking, listening, reading, and writing abilities
The best way to learn and improve your ability is to speak the language often – every day if possible. Read books, magazines, or articles on the Internet and listen to the language on the radio or in conversation.
Watching movies, whether on TV, in a cinema, or on YouTube will also help you to improve your English and French language skills. It will also be helpful if you listen to different accents and compare them. For instance, British English sounds very different from Australian English, and both contrast quite dramatically with Canadian and American English.
Get familiar with the test format
Familiarize yourself with the format of the test you are planning to take. Read everything you can about the test and make sure you understand how the scoring works. You can watch and listen to IELTS speaking test samples on their website.
Do practice tests
Download sample test questions and practice by doing them. Some, like IELTS, are timed, which can make an enormous difference to the outcome of your test.
You can buy official IELTS study guides and practice materials online. They also offer a free masterclass.
We can help you improve your language scores for Quebec immigration
While we don’t offer specific English or French courses here at Express Entry, we can help you improve your language scores for your Quebec immigration application.
While Quebec is in Canada, the immigration requirements are, in many ways, quite different from those in other parts of the country.
We provide the advice you need to ensure that you meet the language requirements for the immigration program you are pursuing. Check out Express Entry today to find out more!