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study in Canada without IELTS

How to immigrate to study in Canada without IELTS

International students often ask if there are ways to immigrate to Canada with study permit without IELTS (International English Language Testing System). While this may seem like looking for “a way around the system”, it is a perfectly legitimate question with some surprising plausible answers.

There is no immigration requirement that you must sit and write an English language test in order to apply for a study permit under the general study permit application programs.

See also Canada TOEFL Requirements for international students and immigration.

However, there are some special fast-track Canadian study permit programs targeted at specific countries that may require completion of IELTS test before you can apply for fast-track processing. Examples are the Canada Nigeria Student Express Program and the Canada Student Direct Stream programs for Pakistan, Senegal, Morocco, China, India, Philippines and Vietnam. Even then, international students from these countries can still apply under the regular study permit process which does not require IELTS.

Language skills are very important for settling and integrating into Canadian life. To establish yourself in Canadian society you need to be able to communicate with the locals in one of Canada’s official languages – English or French. For this reason, the Canadian government requires foreign nationals, regardless of their country of birth, to take either an English language test (IELTS or CELPIP) or a French-language test (TEF or TCF) to migrate to Canada.

See also Language Training for Canada.

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) raises a lot of concerns for international students from English-speaking countries who think it is unfair and redundant to be subjected to basic English language proficiency tests. Many of them also think that the IELTS is too expensive and an unnecessary expenditure on top of the already staggering cost of immigrating.

These are valid concerns especially when one appreciates the fundamental domestic economic circumstances that make these international students choose Canada in the first place.

The good news is that you don’t necessarily need to be fluent in either English or French language to successfully apply for immigration to Canada. The level of language proficiency depends on the immigration program through which you choose to apply for permanent residency in Canada.

See also ★ Canadian new immigrants – preparing for life in Canada

International students can study in Canada without IELTS

Look for Canadian Universities that Don’t Require IELTS

An international student will obtain a temporary visa (study permit) into Canada only if officially admitted by one of Canada’s designated colleges and universities. At this point when the student is not seeking permanent residence or any other special immigration program, it is the universities that usually require English proficiency tests, not the IRCC visa center.

To study in Canada without IELTS, you have to look for universities that don’t require it. Canadian universities have found that students who have completed their degrees from a recognized educational institution in the English language often show good proficiency in Reading & Writing. They only have to submit specific documents to get admission to the university of Canada. 

You can immigrate to Canada to study without IELTS in the following institutions:

  • University of Saskatchewan
  • Brock University
  • Carleton University
  • University of Winnipeg
  • University of Regina
  • Memorial University
  • Concordia University
  • Cambrian College
  • Seneca College

Some Canadian universities and colleges will permit conditional admission e.g. you might have to do extra language courses while studying. Simply google “study in Canada without IELTS” for more information.

Get the English Proficiency Certificate from your school

Instead of taking the IELTS, many Canadian universities and colleges require that you simply provide an English proficiency certificate. This is easy to obtain. If you studied in a school where you were taught in English, simply request your certificate and use it as proof of English proficiency. With this, you don’t have to go through the rigors and expenses of taking the IELTS.

Take an Online English Language Course 

You can study in Canada without IELTS if you take an online English language course instead of IELTS. It is easier and far less expensive than the IELTS, plus it doesn’t have a standard required for a pass. All you need is the online test certificate as proof of English language proficiency. See 20 Best Sites for Taking Free English Courses Online

Apply for Canada Work Permit 

Not many people know that you can apply for a Canadian work permit without IELTS.

There is no legal requirement that you must write an English language test or French language test in order to obtain a work permit. The English language or French language test requirement is for individuals who want to immigrate to Canada as permanent residents and not temporary residents like students.

In some cases, applicants for study permits in certain special programs may be required to write an English test. However, generally individuals who want to immigrate to Canada for work are not required to write the IELTS test.

To get a Canadian work permit, you need to secure a job offer from your Canadian employer. If your employer does not ask for your IELTS score, then you do not need IELTS to get your temporary resident visa to work.

All you need to travel to Canada for work is your work permit – only if you later apply for permanent residence or some other immigration status that require IELTS. By then you probably have enough proficiency (and financial resources!) to successfully breeze through the tests. Fortunately, many Canadian employers do not ask for IELTS score.

Alternative Language Tests to Study in Canada

Language TestEligibility
Canadian Academic English Language (CAEL)Accepted by over 180 universities and colleges across Canada, including all English-speaking universities and 82% of English-speaking colleges.
Cambridge Assessment of EnglishAccepted by over 200 schools in Canada including nearly all public universities.
Duolingo English TestAccepted by almost 140 post-secondary institutions in Canada.
IELTS AcademicAccepted by some 400 Canadian universities and colleges
Pearson Test of English (PTE)Accepted by 90% of Canada’s universities and colleges.
Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)Accepted by over 400 Canadian universities and colleges including 100% of universities.
Tests offered by individual institutionsThe University of Toronto and McGill University

General – What Language Test Can You Take to Immigrate to Canada?

As you may know by now, for general immigration purposes you can take the IELTS and the CELPIP tests to demonstrate your English-language proficiency. If you’re a Francophone, then you can take either the TEF or TCF tests. Better yet, if you’re bilingual then you can take both an English and French test to achieve the highest CRS score of 50 points for language ability on your Canada Immigration Express Entry profile!

Learn more about the approved tests for general Canada immigration below.

Approved English Language Tests

CELPIP: Canadian English Language Proficiency Index ProgramYou must take the CELPIP-General test
IELTS: International English Testing SystemYou must take the General Training option

Approved French Language Tests

TEF Canada: Test d’évaluation de français,Your test must include writing, speaking, listening, and reading comprehension.
TCF Canada: Test de connaissance du françaisYour test must include writing, speaking, listening, and reading comprehension.

What is the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB)?

Your language test results will be used to determine your language level according to the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) or the French equivalent, Niveaux de compétence Linguistique canadiens (NCLC). The IRCC refers to CLB and NCLC levels for language requirements on your permanent residency application.

The CLB and NCLC are not tests but rather a scale describing 12 levels of ability in each of four different language skills – Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing. There are three stages in the CLB. Stage 1 covers basic language ability (benchmarks 1 to 4). Stage 2 covers intermediate language ability (benchmarks 5 to 8). Stage 3 covers advanced language ability (benchmarks 9 to 12).

study in Canada without IELTS

For example, candidates who apply through the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) of the Express Entry system need a minimum CLB score of 7 in all four language skills compared to Federal Skilled Trade Program (FSTP) candidates who only need a minimum CLB score of 5 for speaking and listening and a minimum CLB score of 4 for reading and writing to migrate to Canada.

Note: You need to take your language test first before you can work out your CLB levels. Below are the CLB equivalencies for test scores received on the IELTS General Training:


CLB LevelReadingWritingListeningSpeaking
10 and above87.58.57.5

French Language Bonus

If you can speak French you will now be able to immigrate to Canada even easier due to your language skills. IRCC recently announced that new changes to the Express Entry CRS system will allocate more language points to French candidates. French-speaking candidates will now receive 25 additional points for their language skills, up from 15. See Canada Express Entry System to give extra points to French-speaking candidates.