Here’s what you need to know about the process, the time involved, and the cost.

Considering moving to Canada to work or study and wondering if you’ll be able to work in your profession or pursue an advanced degree?

Many professionals and tradespeople must get re-credentialed to work in other countries, including Canada.

As part of the Canadian immigration process you may need to submit documents certifying your credentials. Here’s what you need to know about the process, the time involved, and the cost.

Why do you need your credentials assessed for immigration?

Many of Canada’s skilled worker immigration programs require you to get foreign credentials assessed to ensure they meet Canadian standards.

You also will likely want to know before you immigrate if your credentials are equivalent to Canadian credentials or if you’ll need to upgrade them. In addition, an assessment could help future employers understand how your credentials stack up against those of other candidates. As a result of a credential assessment, you might find out that you need more training or education in Canada before you’re qualified to practice your profession or trade here. If so, you’ll have to get re-credentialed in Canada. What’s involved in that process will depend on your field.

Why do you need your credentials assessed to study in Canada?

Each Canadian Designated Learning Institution (DLI) sets their own requirements, which can be general requirements or program specific requirements. They might include things like having received your previous degrees from an accredited institution, specific course prerequisites, or proof of language proficiency. You might not need to get your credentials formally assessed via an educational credential assessment (ECA) as some post-secondary institutions will complete the assessment themselves. Before you do that, contact the admissions office at the institutions you’re applying for to see if they accept your foreign credentials.

What is an educational credential assessment?

An ECA is an evaluation of your educational credentials for immigration purposes, but it could also help you when you’re looking for a job to prove to a potential employer that you’re qualified. The assessment looks at your degree, certificate, diploma, or experience to gauge if it’s equivalent to a Canadian one.

For those who have multiple degrees, the good news is that you generally only need to get an assessment for your highest level of education. For example, if you have a doctorate, you don’t need to get your bachelor’s and master’s degrees assessed. However, if you want to get extra points on your immigration application for having multiple credentials, you might want to get all of your degrees assessed.

What to know about regulated occupations, professions, and trade assessments?

You have to be certified by the provincial or territorial body in the jurisdiction you move to in Canada in order to work in a skilled trade or profession. Trades that are regulated in Canada include carpenters, electricians, and plumbers. Professions that are regulated include architects, pharmacists, and doctors. Some professions and trades are regulated in certain provinces and territories and not in others, and you often need a license to work in a specific province even if you already have a license to work in another province or territory.

For professionals, you might have to complete a written exam, a specific period of supervised work, or have your language and communication skills assessed. If you work in the trades, you may need to take an examination or work an apprenticeship.

Each regulatory body has different credential requirements for certification. What’s involved depends on your profession or trade, and the best way to find out what’s needed is to research your specific circumstances.

Some re-credentialing processes can be complex. For example, to be licensed as a doctor, the Medical Council of Canada has to grant you a qualification called a Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada. To qualify, you must submit evidence that you’ve graduated from a medical school listed in the World Directory of Medical Schools with a sponsor note indicating it’s an acceptable medical school in Canada. You must then receive a passing grade on the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examination and provide proof you completed 12 months of clinical postgraduate medical training. Once you’re a licentiate, you will need certification from the College of Family Physicians of Canada or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada – at which point you’ll be qualified to apply for provincial or territorial license.

What if you don’t qualify?

If your credentials are not deemed comparable to Canadian standards, you may not meet the educational requirement for certain immigration programs and you won’t get extra points on your immigration application for your credentials.

But there are often options for getting additional education or training or having your ability assessed if you don’t qualify immediately to practice your profession or trade in Canada.

For example, physicians who’ve done a residency program or practiced abroad can apply for a practice-ready assessment. In this program, you work for 12 weeks with an experienced physician who evaluates your skills and helps you adapt to Canadian practice.

Other professions and trades might offer additional paths to Canadian credentials if your credentials aren’t seen as equivalent, including additional training, apprenticeships, or tests.

How do you get an ECA?

If you need an ECA for immigration, work, or studying, you’ll have to get it through the proper channels. Education credentials must be done by an organization approved to do so by the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada. They work with five general organizations and two specialty organizations for specific professions:

Comparative Education Service: University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies

International Credential Assessment Service of Canada

World Education Services

International Qualifications Assessment Service (IQAS)

International Credential Evaluation Service

Physicians: Medical Council of Canada

Pharmacists: Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada

Make sure to plan ahead when getting your assessment as it could take a few weeks to several months to hear back. Most organizations and professional bodies will list the estimated wait times. Once you have your assessment, it’s good for five years, after which you’ll have to get your ECA done again. It costs more than $200 for most ECA reports with physicians and pharmacist assessments generally costing more.

Need help to pay for your ECA?

Windmill Microlending is a registered charity that has supported immigrants and refugees in Canada since 2005. With loans up to $15,000, newcomers can pay for education and training programs, fees for licences or qualifying exams, living allowance during a period of study and many other expenses. To date, they have supported over 6,800 newcomers with over $50M in low-interest loans to help skilled immigrants achieve career success in Canada. Windmill’s affordable loans help new Canadians build credit in their new country, a critical step in establishing themselves for future borrowing towards the purchase of a home or car. Windmill loans deliver transformative impact on the lives of newcomers enabling income growth of 3.6x with unemployment falling from 41 to eight per cent. With the recent $2.5M donation from Scotiabank as a part of the ScotiaRISE initiative, Windmill is well prepared to help you along your professional journey in Canada.

To learn more about Windmill Microlending or to access their programs and services, please click here

To learn more about how Scotiabank helps newcomers to succeed in Canada and get access to useful articles, please click here

Re-credentialing is worth it

While the process of re-credentialing might sound complicated, getting your ECA boosts your chances of being approved for immigration and helps you get licensed once you arrive in Canada so you can work in your profession or trade. Make sure to do your research into the road to re-credentialing in Canada based on your profession or trade so that you’ll know the exact cost, timeline, and process you need to follow.

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