The government of Quebec has completely backtracked on a controversial immigration reform to the Quebec Experience Program, known by its French acronym PEQ, which was first announced last week.
Under those now-suspended reforms, Quebec had tightened access to permanent resident status via the PEQ to a far narrower range of students, graduates, and work permit holders than was previously the case. Whereas foreign students in all fields of study were admissible for immigration to Quebec via the PEQ in the past, the rules adopted for implementation on November 1 only included seven doctoral programs, 24 master’s programs, 54 bachelor’s programs, and 59 junior college diploma programs.
Moreover, a report by Radio-Canada on November 8 revealed that many of the academic programs, which the government said would continue to be eligible for the PEQ, are no longer in existence or are not even offered to international students, calling into question the basic due diligence, or lack thereof, performed for reforms that purported to bring Quebec’s immigration system up to date with its modern economy.
“Over the past few days, different actors from the economic and education milieus have raised questions in connection with lists within the domain of training and (types of) employment that are in shortage. In order to reassure those actors, the Quebec government is announcing the temporary suspension of modifications to the Programme de l’expérience québécoise [PEQ],” the minister wrote in a statement posted on his Facebook page Friday evening.
While the actors referred to by the minister appear to mean business leaders and academia, the greatest fury directed his way over the past week has been from would-be applicants left in the lurch by sudden changes that were initially applied retroactively to students already studying in Quebec. The government then introduced a grandfather clause for such students already in Quebec, before then suspending the reforms in their entirety just two days later.
“We’re humans. We’re abandoned. We’re abandoned right now,” stated 36-year-old Jin Xing, a student from China studying commercial drafting in Quebec whose hopes of being able to settle in the province after she graduates appeared to be gone. Her mood summed up the feelings of thousands of students in Quebec who had made their feelings known by protesting outside party offices and online.
Earlier this week, Jolin-Barrette performed a whirlwind media tour in which he doubled down on the reforms, stating over and again that they were in the best interests of Quebec’s economy and followed consultations with the business community. Alas, for Jolin-Barrette at least, pressure from that very same community, together with academia, led to suspension of the reforms within days. The narrative that Jolin-Barrette had been running on all week was no longer credible, and Quebec’s Premier, Francois Legault, was forced to pull his upstart minister into line. Facing reporters mid-week, Legault acknowledged it was a “bad day”, adding “I understand why Simon wanted to make the changes, but we also have to be [humane] with people who made decisions [based on] former programs.”
Within two days Jolin-Barrette’s reforms were dropped, at least for now.
As of November 8, it is not certain whether this all means that the previous eligibility criteria that were in place prior to November are again in effect.
This is likely to be a developing story, please return for further developments.
New rules introduced for PEQ applicants
Note: The reforms outlined below are currently suspended.
On October 30, 2019, Quebec’s immigration ministry announced several important changes to the Quebec Experience Program:
Effective as of November 1, 2019:
- Applicants through the Quebec Students/Graduates stream of PEQ must complete their Quebec study in an eligible area of training (see below for complete list);
- Applicants through the Foreign Worker stream of PEQ must have gained their work experience in one of 162 eligible occupations (see below for complete list). Applicants with eligible experience in an occupation at NOC C or D must now have at least 18 months of Quebec experience (increased from the previous 12 month requirement);
Effective as of January 1, 2020:
- PEQ applicants are no longer able to demonstrate French-language proficiency by completing a French-language training course (refer below for options for demonstrating French proficiency);
- If a candidate is applying to PEQ with a spouse or common-law partner, the spousal applicant must also demonstrate advanced-intermediate French-language proficiency;
- All candidates for permanent resident status in Quebec must demonstrate they adhere to ‘Quebec values‘ by completing a course in Quebec values or passing a Quebec values test.
Notably, the Quebec Student Graduates stream of the Quebec Experience Program was closed to new applicants on July 10, 2019. As of November 1, 2019, this stream will be open to new applicants.