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Having a high French proficiency can open the doors to a number of Canadian immigration pathways.

French is one of the official languages of Canada and a key part of its national identity and heritage. As such, Canada offers a number of facilitated measures to attract French-speaking immigrants.

Just how facilitated are these measures?

Canada eases entry for French speakers

Category-based draws for French-speaking Express Entry candidates were launched in the summer of 2023. The points requirement for candidates with French ability — not necessarily fluent or even advanced ability — became significantly lower, sometimes more than 100 points lower, than for candidates with no such proven ability. Other things being equal, the candidate who speaks French has a much better chance of being invited than the candidate who does not. It’s as if Canada is setting a high jump competition, but the bar is set lower for candidates with French.

While the province of Quebec is primarily French and has more say in its immigration system than other provincial governments, Canada also wants to bring French-speaking immigrants to other parts of the country.

In 2022, Canada achieved its goal of gaining 4.4 percent of French-speaking immigrants outside of Quebec. This target was then surpassed in 2023, reaching approximately 4.7 percent. IRCC expects to increase this ratio to 6% in 2024, then 7% in 2025, and reach 8% by 2026.

In launching this lower-bar-for-French category in 2023, Canada’s then-immigration minister, Sean Fraser, recognized the contributions that French speakers bring to Canada.

Fraser said in a written statement:

“By opening new pathways and opportunities, we are not only strengthening our ties with the global Francophonie, but also building a stronger and more vibrant Canada for all. The contribution of Francophone immigration is even more critical because it enriches the linguistic, demographic, and economic uniqueness of Francophone communities.”

In 2023, a new law was passed intending to promote the use of French even further. Among other items, the law mandates that the immigration minister create a policy to attract French-speaking immigrants to Canada. Marc Miller, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, introduced in January 2024 a series of policies and new laws, along with a renewal and expansion of the Welcoming Francophone Communities initiative. He confirmed this later in March with the announcement of a new Francophone Community Immigration pilot program designed to increase the proportion of French-speaking immigrants to settle in rural and northern communities. The clear ambition of these projects, supported by significant funding through the Francophone Immigration Support Program, is to enhance the growth and vitality of Francophone minority communities outside Quebec.

Within the Express Entry system, the proportion of immigrants gaining points for the French language has been rising from 4 percent in 2019 to 6 percent in 2021, according to the Express Entry annual report. In 2021, a total of 18,140 Express Entry candidates gained points for the French language.

Now that French is its own Express Entry category, it won’t be a surprise to see that number continue to grow. Considering the low CRS scores required, proficiency in French might arguably be the most straightforward path to immigration through Express Entry in 2024.


How French helps you immigrate to Canada through Express Entry

Having French language abilities helps you score extra Express Entry points, which increases your chances of getting invited in any given draw—but, it also helps you qualify for specially-tailored French category-based draws, which often have a much lower points threshold.

If you don’t already know, Express Entry is the name of Canada’s electronic application management system for skilled worker immigration programs.

The three Express Entry programs are:

Express Entry works on a points matrix called the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS), which awards points for official language ability, skilled work experience, education experience, and age among other factors. All candidates are required to prove a minimum language ability in English or French, or better yet, both English and French.

You immigrate to Canada through Express Entry by qualifying for an Express Entry program, obtaining CRS points, receiving an Invitation to Apply (ITA) in an Express Entry draw, and submitting a complete and accurate application. The ITA is your ticket to apply for Canadian permanent residence through Express Entry.

How many Express Entry points can you get for French?

Under the CRS criteria, applicants can gain CRS points for demonstrated proficiency in either of Canada’s official languages, French or English. You start getting points in the Express Entry system for your official language competence starting at level 4 of what’s called the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) for English, or the Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadien (NCLC) for French. The maximum points you can get is 32 for a single person or 34 when applying with a spouse under the first official language and 6 points for demonstrating proficiency in the second official language.

In addition to the points you earn for your official language skills, you can also get up to 50 CRS points for having strong French language skills—even if French is not your first language.

To earn these additional points you need to score at least a NCLC 7 in all French language skills. A NCLC 7 ability does not require fluent or even advanced skills (though the better ability you prove, the more points you might earn). From there, you can get 25 additional points if you scored a CLB 4 or lower in English (you can also get it if you did not submit an English language test to your Express Entry profile).

You can get the full 50 additional points for scoring a CLB 5 or higher in all four English language competencies in addition to your NCLC 7 in French.

These are the ways that French can get you extra points in the pool, but as you can see, category-based draws offer an alternative pathway.

Express Entry French category-based draws

Canada also holds category-based draws for Express Entry candidates who have at least an NCLC 7 in French.

The minimum CRS cutoff for these draws tends to be lower because of the fact that they are not competing against other groups of candidates in the pool for invitations. Generally speaking, the more invitations issued in a given draw, the lower the CRS score will be as well.

For instance, in the first 2 months of 2024, Canada invited almost 10,000 Express Entry candidates with French ability. The minimum CRS score was sometimes as low as 336 points. Compare that to the all-program draw on September 19, 2023 when 3,200 were invited and the CRS was 531— that’s over 190 extra points needed to be eligible for that draw.

The following graph shows the most recent trends in Express Entry draws.

The following graph shows the most recent trend in French Express Entry draw sizes and minimum CRS cutoffs.

Express Entry French Draw Table

Draw #DateCRSInvitations
Draw #291March 26, 2024 3881,500
Draw #287Feb 29, 20243362,500
Draw #282Feb 1, 20243657,000
Draw #273Dec 74701,000
Draw #270Oct 25486300
Draw #266Sept 27472500
Draw #260Aug 2435800
Draw #258July 123753,800
Draw #256July 7, 20234392,300

What are the other Canadian immigration programs for French speakers?

Quebec certainly offers a number of immigration pathways for people with French ability.

French speakers destined for Quebec might want to check their eligibility for some of these popular programs:

Outside of Quebec, there are a number of immigration programs under the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) that are tailored to French speakers. Some of these programs use an application management system that’s managed by the province.

New Brunswick for example launched the New Brunswick Strategic Initiative Stream dedicated exclusively to French speakers who have the skills and work experience to contribute to New Brunswick’s economy. French speakers should also have a look at the Northwest Territories Francophone Stream.

Other PNPs pull candidates from the Express Entry pool. Express Entry candidates who receive a provincial nomination from a PNP get an automatic 600 CRS points added to their overall score. This award is more than enough to be invited in an Express Entry draw.

For instance, the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) offers a dedicated pathway called the French-Speaking Skilled Worker Stream (FSSWS). It is open to Express Entry candidates who have at least an NCLC 7 in French and a CLB 6 in English. Eligible candidates also need to meet the eligibility criteria for the Federal Skilled Worker Program or the Canadian Experience Class, list “Ontario” as their destination province, and provide proof of adequate settlement funds.

In addition to the French-Speaking Skilled Worker Stream (FSSWS), Ontario also gives extra points to bilingual French and English speakers in its Employer Job Offer and Graduate streams.

Ontario is the most popular destination province for new immigrants and it also has a large French population. About 11 percent of Ontario’s population speaks French, according to the 2021 Census.

Other provinces may also hold draws targeting French-speaking candidates in their existing programs. Learn more about Canada’s PNPs.

Territories also put effort into attracting French speakers, with the Northwest Territories Francophone Stream for example.

In 2024 will also be launched a new Francophone Community Immigration pilot to support IRCC’s commitment to welcome more French speakers outside of Quebec with the goal of accepting a maximum of 2,750 applications per year for the next five years at least.

Temporary options for French speakers in Canada

French speakers working outside Quebec are considered a “significant benefit” to Canadian culture. For that reason, Canada created the Francophone Mobility Program, which allows Canadian employers to hire foreign French speakers more easily.

Canadian employers who hire workers who qualify for the Francophone Mobility Program get to skip the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process. This can be a highly attractive reason to hire a French speaker as the LMIA process is known to be long, expensive, and unpredictable for employers.

To be eligible as a candidate, you need an eligible Canadian job offer outside of Quebec (any occupation other than primary agriculture occupations). You need to speak French at an NCLC level 5 or higher. Plus, you need to meet the general eligibility requirements of all work permit applicants.

With the work experience you get in Canada, you can use it to open the doors to immigration programs such as the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), and some Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs).

What are some benefits of speaking French in Canada?

There are a number of economic opportunities for French speakers in Canada. If you speak both English and French, that can be helpful for you on any job application.

For instance, having French language skills can help you secure sought-after jobs with the Government of Canada, which is required to provide services in both official languages, as well as some provincial governments. Plus, the law enacted under Bill C-13 requires federally-regulated private businesses to offer service options in French.

Also keep in mind, if you want to teach French in Canada there are a number of opportunities throughout the country as Canada offers French immersion schools that teach children in French.

While we can’t get into all the economic opportunities that having French skills can provide in Canada, it is worth mentioning that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation offers media job opportunities in French from coast to coast to coast.

And those examples aren’t even touching on the tourism industry in Canada that caters to French speakers around the world.

The value of speaking French in Canada extends beyond just economic opportunities. It not only helps you build a successful career path but connects you to the entire community of francophones across the nation.

What to do if you don’t speak French – our advice

Learning and proving French to an intermediate-or-better level is the most straightforward way to navigate EE. IRCC’s Commitment to pushing French immigration is a multi- year commitment, to 2028. By starting French now, in a year’s time, you could acquire sufficient proficiency to benefit from the Francophone initiative but it will become more and more competitive.

Consider this: If you commit to learning French to the point of reaching a Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) level of at least 7 over the next year, you could benefit from arguably the lowest CRS scores to entry. As daunting as learning French can be for some (quite understandable), keep in mind that a CLB level of 7 is considered an “Adequate Intermediate” proficiency. In other words, you would be required to understand formal and informal conversations.

Getting advice and support with StartRight

Our sponsor Scotiabank offers banking services in a number of languages, including French.

Not only that, as a newcomer you can earn up to $1,800* in value the first year with the Scotiabank StartRight® Program‡

Book an appointment to speak with a Scotiabank representative to discuss your banking options.

Book an online appointment here.

Legal Disclaimer

‡ Scotiabank StartRight® Program is available only for Canadian Permanent Residents from 0-5 years in Canada and Foreign Workers.

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Are there specific Canadian immigration programs for French speakers?

How can French help your Express Entry application?

What are the benefits of French-speaking immigrants to Canada?

How does Canada support French-speaking immigrants outside Quebec?

Can speaking French help you in the Canadian job market?

What immigration options are available for French speakers in Quebec?

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