Wendy Zarr

Wendy Zarr

Immigrants face new challenges

The Vernon and District Immigrant Services Society is offering classes to assist newcomers to Canada with their applications for citizenship

Last year’s changes to Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s language requirements mean that applicants for citizenship must meet a higher standard of knowledge of either English or French.

“The idea is to make sure that new citizens are proficient in one of the official languages and have a good basic knowledge of Canada. This is a move to help new citizens have better opportunities and integrate better,” said Wendy Zarr, Vernon and District Immigrant Services Society ELSA (English Language Services for Adults) co-ordinator/instructor.

There are testing centres for written and oral communication on the Lower Mainland and  in Victoria and applicants for citizenship (ages 18 to 54) may visit one of these sites to get a certificate of language proficiency.

“That can be difficult for people in smaller centres so we are now able to offer provincially funded English language classes for adults, which will be proof that the language requirements are met. Certificates are issued,” said Zarr.

Applicants must do a test that shows they meet Canadian language benchmark 4 and attend and participate in classes for at least 150 hours, which can be done over a  longer or shorter period of time to accommodate individual schedules.

“These classes are free for people who are eligible. There is an assessment interview before people are assigned classes so they are placed at the right level and they can start classes at any time of the year,” said Tanis Farina, settlement worker, Vernon and District Immigrant Services Society.

Zarr added, “People who come to the classes say they learn English and enjoy the classes for social networking, support and learning about other countries.  We have had students from as many as 13 countries in one class.”

The society also offers citizenship classes, help with citizenship applications, links with community services, filling out forms and legal aid, among other things. There is also translation available and the society would like to add more people to its list of translators.

For more information about language classes and other services, contact Vernon and District Immigrant Services Society at 250-542-4177 or vdiss@shaw.ca or see www.vdiss.com.