On July 22, 2020, Quebec’s immigration department introduced key changes to the Quebec Experience Program, often known by its French acronym, PEQ.
The PEQ is segmented into two streams, one for workers in Quebec and one for students and graduates who attended post-secondary programs in Quebec. The program allows temporary work permit holders and international students in Quebec to transition to Canadian permanent resident status.
In 2019, the vast majority of people approved for immigration to Quebec were approved through the PEQ.
Here are the changes, announced today:
- Worker applicants will now require two years’ work experience in Quebec. While this change does not revert to the long-standing requirement of one year that was in place for more than a decade, it is still shorter than the three-year requirement announced in May, 2020.
- In order to respond to the concern of foreign students already in Quebec, a transitional measure will apply for those who have obtained a qualification eligible for the PEQ, or who will obtain it on or before December 31, 2020. These students may submit an application under the conditions in effect before the coming into force of the new regulation.
- The work experience requirement for students will also be changed. Work experience acquired during a mandatory internship as part of the study program will be considered in the calculation of work experience, up to a maximum of three months of full-time work. In addition, the work experience required of holders of a vocational diploma is reduced to 18 months.
These changes took effect on July 22, 2020. Applications received before the entry into force of the new regulations will be processed according to the previous regulations.
Though the latest changes may come as a huge relief to many students, graduates, and workers in Quebec who wish to stay permanently, the fact that Quebec has changed its immigration criteria substantially and suddenly multiple times over recent months — only to then row back on those changes — may leave potential applicants wondering what the criteria may actually be down the road.
The latest round of changes were announced on July 9 by Quebec’s new Minister of Immigration, Nadine Girault, who took over from Simon Jolin-Barrette last month. Jolin-Barrette had earned the ire of immigration stakeholders, including students and temporary workers, as well as universities, for repeated and sudden changes to Quebec’s immigration criteria, with an eye to making those criteria more onerous.
Many worried students and workers in Montreal and across Quebec have been gathering to protest the changes introduced under Jolin-Barrette.
Now, after less than a month in the Quebec immigration hot seat and less than two months after her predecessor had brought in radical changes making it far more difficult for would-be applicants to qualify — including a three-year work experience requirement — Minister Girault has softened up the criteria for the Quebec Experience Program.
Source: Government of Quebec
Criteria prior to July 22
Applications received before July 22 (i.e. before the changes outlined above came into effect) will be assessed according to the following criteria.
Foreign workers need three years of experience in Quebec
Foreign worker applicants now need to build up 36 months of work experience in Quebec within the preceding 48 months preceding their application. Previously, applicants only needed 12 months of work experience. Current temporary foreign workers with a valid work permit may benefit from a transitional measure allowing them to apply under previous requirements before the new regulations come into force in the coming weeks.
Students also need work experience
Students and graduates now need to have full-time work experience of 12 or 24 months before applying to the PEQ. Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree students and graduates need 12 months of experience at National Occupational Classification (NOC) level 0, A or B; this does not need to be related to the field of study. Students and graduates in other courses of study need 24 months of experience in NOC skill level 0, A or B; NOC level C may also be accepted, provided it is related to the field of study.
2020 and 2021 also see some other changes to the Quebec Experience Program.
Knowledge of French for spouses (coming later)
Starting at an undetermined date in 2021, the spouses and partners of principal applicants must demonstrate a knowledge of oral French of level 4. The Government of Quebec currently outlines a number of tests it may accept for proof of French ability for the purposes of immigration.
French test now needed, completion of a course won’t suffice
Quebec will no longer accept a certificate of success of an advanced intermediate level French course offered in Quebec by an educational institution as proof of knowledge of French. The Government points to “irregularities” in some institutions, and notes that in some “checks with the candidates” a majority of them did not speak French at the required level, though no specific data has been provided so far.
Longer processing times
The estimated processing time for issuance of a Quebec Selection Certificate, or CSQ, is now six months. Previously, the government officially aimed to turn applications around within 20 business days, or around one month.
This six-month processing standard does not include the processing time at the federal level, which over recent years has been around 18 additional months.
Therefore, new foreign workers in Quebec may expect to wait at least five years to obtain permanent residence in Canada: three years accumulating work experience, six months waiting for approval on a CSQ from the Government of Quebec, and 18 months or longer waiting for approval on permanent resident status from the Government of Canada.
As a point of comparison, a similar worker in Canada outside the province of Quebec may expect to transition to permanent status in as little as 18 months in total: 12 months of work experience on a temporary work permit, followed by around six months waiting on approval through the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program, which is the federal version of the PEQ.