The Government of Quebec has announced sweeping changes to the Quebec Experience Program, a popular immigration program that allows temporary work permit holders and international students in Quebec to transition to Canadian permanent resident status. The Quebec Experience Program is often known by its French acronym, PEQ (Programme de l’expérience québécoise).
In 2019, the vast majority of people approved for immigration to Quebec were approved through the PEQ. The latest changes may therefore effect many thousands of people who plan to apply to the program in the future.
Here are the main changes:
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. Those who hold a valid post-graduation work permit before the entry into force of the new regulations may apply under the foreign worker stream if they meet the conditions (see above).
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.
- Source for all the above information: Government of Quebec (French only)
Latest Quebec immigration reforms: not the first attempt
This is not the first time, or even the second time, that the current Government of Quebec has announced radical changes to the PEQ. Late in 2019, the Coalition Avenir Québec Government completely backtracked on a controversial immigration reform to the program.
Under those stillborn reforms, Quebec 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 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.
The reforms then were widely panned as a fiasco, forcing Minister of Immigration, Francization and Integration, Simon Jolin-Barrette, into retreat mode, and within a week those reforms were scrapped.
Now, Jolin-Barrette’s ambitious, though controversial, outlook on Quebec immigration may finally be in place.
This may be a developing story, please return for further developments.