July 1st, 2014

One of the requirements for the Quebec Skilled Worker Program is that you prove competency in the French language. In order to do this, you must pass an exam. There are a few options available:

  • DELF — Diplôme d’études en langue française (English: Diploma in French Studies)
  • TCF (Test de connaissance du français (English: French Knowledge Test)
  • TEFaQ (Test d’évaluation du français adapté pour le Québec (English: French Evaluation Test for Quebec)

I chose to sit the TEFaQ exam in Montreal, primarily for the sake of convenience. Point 3 Language Center in Old Montreal offers sittings of the TEFaQ at regular intervals (around twice per month), so I registered there and took the exam in the Spring of 2014. This article will deal with the TEFaQ.

Before getting into the details of the exam itself, let’s take stock of the French language in Quebec. In doing this, it’s important to cast aside any ideological or prejudicial concepts one might hold. Language issues are a constant subject of discussion in Quebec, and various people and groups have some strong ideas surrounding French. Regarding immigration and your new life in Quebec, however, remember this — French is, and will remain, the predominant language of Quebec. Indeed, it is the only official language in the province.

Without making the effort to learn French, you are limiting your opportunities, professionally and socially. There is a glass ceiling for monolingual residents of Quebec, and that also applies to those who don’t speak English. If you are moving to Quebec and your first language is not French, you would be strongly advised to make a significant effort to learn it. The most effective first step is to embrace the language — learn to like or even love it — and appreciate its influence not just on Quebec, but on the world. It may open doors you didn’t even know existed.



Preparation for the TEFaQ can be viewed in two contexts: the broader context of becoming comfortable with the French language, and the narrower context of preparing for the exam itself.

Before you move to Quebec, there are a number of ways you can get ready for daily interactions in French. You can take a series of formal classes, either as part of a group or with a tutor. Alliance Française is great for this — they have centres in all major countries and cities across the world. There are also some less formal ways you can learn. You can watch the news or a TV show in French (with or without subtitles/captioning), read a newspaper (even figuring out the headlines is wonderful for new vocabulary), listen to French language radio, or organise time for basic conversation with a fluent speaker. When you pick up a new word or phrase, write it down on a flashcard and keep these in your pocket or wallet with French on one side and English on the other. When you get a minute during the day — while you’re waiting for the bus or an elevator, for example — take out the cards and test yourself. It’s a fantastic, free way to learn.

The TEFaQ is split into four modules:

  • Compréhension orale (oral comprehension): 40 minutes, 60 questions.
  • Expression orale (oral expression): 15 minutes, two topics.
  • Compréhension écrite (written comprehension): 60 minutes, 50 questions.
  • Expression écrite (written expression): 60 minutes, two topics.

The candidate’s manual (in French only) is your bible when preparing for this exam. Linked from there are practice sections and all the information you need about each module. When I was preparing for the TEFaQ, my tutor and I did some exercises that mirrored how the exam works. This was of huge benefit come exam day.

For the oral expression module, for example, you will have to discuss two topics, one in the informal “tu” form, and one in the formal “vous” form. Practicing speaking in both forms will allow you to switch between them on the day. It goes without saying that focusing on your verb conjugation is paramount for this module.

For the written expression, keep it simple. Use the basic verbs “être” and “avoir” when possible, and don’t try to show off. The first topic will be written using the past tenses, so make sure you are comfortable with the passé composé and imparfait.

The comprehension sections just demand practice, and lots of it. For the oral comprehension, bear in mind that most of the recordings are played only once. One of the most important things to work on, therefore, is basic concentration. Don’t allow your mind to drift, because once the recording has been played you will not hear it again. For the written comprehension, practice skim-reading and answering the questions at speed — 50 questions is quite a lot.

Get to the exam centre early on the day, ask whoever is working there the exact order of the modules, and ensure any questions you might have are dealt with.



Registration is simple. Click here to learn how to register for the TEFaQ at Point 3 Language Centre. It’s not cheap, however — the four modules come to $460 in total.



The results for the comprehension modules will be emailed to you within 24 hours of sitting the exam. You sit these two modules on a computer, so no human analysis of your completed exam is necessary. The results of the expression modules will be available at the exam centre 4-8 weeks later.

Getting a background check from the RCMP

May 7th, 2014

If you have lived in Canada for longer than six months since you turned 18 and are applying for any residency program, you will have to get a background check performed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the federal police agency in Canada. Background checks from provincial or municipal forces will not suffice; it must be an RCMP check.

If you are already in Canada, this process is simple. As I did for my FBI background check, I went to Canadian Fingerprinting Solutions in Montreal, explained my situation — that I needed an RCMP background check for a Quebec immigration program — and they knew exactly what to. You must bring two pieces of photo ID, one of which must be government issued. I brought my passport and Irish driving license.

The staff will take your fingerprints electronically, as opposed to actual ink. Once your prints have been taken and uploaded, they will send them directly to the RCMP office in Ottawa. You don’t need to go anything else. You should receive your background check in the mail after between three and 15 business days from the date they are sent. The total cost is $45.00.

For those outside Canada, you should refer to this RCMP page. As of July 1, 2014, paper (i.e. ink) submissions will no longer be accepted directly by the RCMP. You will need to have them digitized first. You may contact accredited companies within Canada who will digitize ink fingerprints and submit them electronically to the RCMP. This process will inevitably take longer than if you were in Canada for the fingerprinting stage.


Cost for this component: $45.00

Running cost before this component: $88.09

Total running cost for QSWP: $133.09

QSWP: Police Background Checks

April 23rd, 2014

One of the major tasks you must complete when applying for residency through the Quebec Skilled Worker Program — or any of the economic classes of immigration, for that matter — is obtaining police background checks. You need one of these for each country in which you have lived for longer than six months since your 18th birthday. Quebec and Canada understandably want to ensure that immigrants to their communities do not have a criminal background. If you don’t have any charges or convictions in your past, this stage is just about getting the paperwork done. If you do have one, this could present an issue down the line. Fortunately, I knew going into this process that I’ve never been arrested, let alone charged, in any jurisdiction.

Having already had two International Experience Canada (IEC) work permits, as well as a J1 permit for the United States, I am well versed in how to go about getting these. Since I turned 18, I have lived in Ireland, Canada and the United States, so I will need a certificate from the federal law enforcement agencies of all three countries. Let’s look at them in turn.


United States

I lived in the United States for most of 2012. When I moved back to Canada in March, 2013, I had to get a background check performed through the FBI. Therefore, the routine was familiar to me — it was just a case of performing it again.

It’s quite a simple process. I went to Canadian Fingerprinting Solutions (formerly L1 Identity Solutions) at 200 Rene-Levesque Blvd Ouest, near Old Montreal. Canadian Fingerprinting Solutions has locations across Canada, which you can see here. When you enter one of their locations, just say that you need fingerprinting done for a FBI background check. You need two pieces of photo identification; I brought my passport and Irish driving license. They will take your prints, give you a form to fill out to send to the FBI address in Clarksburg, West Virginia, and send you on your way once you have paid $36.75 for their services. You shouldn’t be there longer than five minutes.

With a sheet containing your fingerprints and the application form, you’re almost ready to send the items to West Virginia. Fill out the form clearly and accurately. Also make sure that you keep the sheet with the fingerprints in pristine condition. If it gets damaged, they may not be able to perform the necessary checks.

The next step is to obtain a money order from your local post office. This covers payment to the FBI itself to perform the background check, and costs $18 USD. Once the amount has been converted into Canadian dollars and taxes and fees have been applied, this comes to $24 CA. While you’re at the post office, you may as well take the opportunity to send the form and the fingerprints to the address below. I used Canada Post’s Xpresspost service, which ensures faster shipping and a tracked package. This cost $27.34. It can take a couple of months for the background check to be posted to your home, but this time I received mine within a month.

FBI CJIS Division – Summary Request
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WV 26306

Total cost: $88.09 CA

My fingerprints that were sent to the FBI

My fingerprints that were sent to the FBI


Things are a bit more straightforward in my homeland when it comes to getting this police background check performed. I went to my local police (Garda Siochána) station, explained what I needed, and filled out the form. Every member of the force should know which form you need to fill out, given that these requests have been coming at them in huge numbers in recent years due to increased emigration from the country. Fill out the form, supply a photocopy of the photo page of your passport along with a stamped, addressed envelope, and the item should be posted to you within a couple of weeks. The entire process is free.


The next post will deal with getting a background check from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).