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If you immigrate to Canada, will you be able to work in the same job you have been doing before moving to Canada?

It can be challenging for certain newcomers to Canada to get the qualifications they need to work in the same position they worked in before immigrating. Many workers in healthcare face these hurdles, as do some professionals in non-healthcare fields such as accounting, law, and engineering, among others. Difficulties and delays in securing the correct credentials to practice your profession in Canada can result in financial and emotional strain. Therefore, it’s best to begin the process as early as possible so that you can start working in your chosen profession in Canada.

The best thing you can do is to inform yourself about the requirements for working in your occupation in Canada. Take note that Canadian occupations are regulated at the provincial/territorial level. This means that if your occupation is regulated, you need to apply to the proper provincial/territorial authority for licensing or certification. You can only do this once you know which province you’d like to live in, as the requirements will be different from province to province.


What are regulated occupations in Canada?

When it comes to the regulation of work in Canada, there are three types of occupations:

  1. Non-regulated occupations: For these, you do not require any license or certification, so you can begin working as soon as you arrive in Canada. Tech and IT occupations are one example of non-regulated occupations in Canada.
  2. Regulated occupations: For these, you will need to obtain the proper licence or certification to work in your occupation. The license or certification will be issued by the provincial regulatory authority responsible for your occupation. Most legal and healthcare occupations are regulated in Canada, as are many engineering and financial services jobs.
  3. Skilled trades: Tradespeople also require licensing or certification to practice in their trade in Canada. Again, this licensing or certification is regulated by provincial authorities. Many trades in Canada are also regulated through the Red Seal program — find out more.

Foreign credential vs foreign qualifications: What’s the difference?

During this process, you might read about foreign credentials on one page and foreign qualifications on another page. So, what’s the difference?

Technically, foreign credentials refer to educational programs completed outside Canada, while foreign qualifications refers to the combination of educational credentials, work experience, and other competencies. Some Canadian provinces use the following formula:

  • Qualifications = Credentials + Competencies + Experience

That said, oftentimes certain organizations and industries will use the two terms interchangeably, so be prepared for some confusion.

As a newcomer to Canada working in a regulated occupation, you will likely have to go through a three-step process. First, you will have to get your foreign credentials recognized. Second, you will have to have your foreign qualifications recognized (the first step is actually a part of the second step). Third, you will have to obtain the proper license or certification to practice your profession in Canada.


How does the foreign qualifications recognition process work?

The foreign qualifications recognition process depends on your occupation and the province where you intend to work. For occupational requirements for each province/territory, please refer to the directory below.

There are a few things you can expect as a part of your foreign qualifications recognition process.

Educational Credentials Assessment: It is likely that you will have to provide proof that your foreign education is equivalent to the same type of credential in Canada. For this, you will require an Educational Credentials Assessment (ECA). An ECA is also commonly required for immigration applications, so you may already have this document.

Verification of work experience: Regulatory authorities may ask for proof of your previous work experience. Many professional licenses in Canada require licensees to have previous work experience in the industry.

Language tests: Certain occupations in certain provinces may require you to demonstrate proficiency in either English or French in order to practice.

Competency tests/exams: In some occupations, an official test or examination is required to work in a province/territory. For example, registered nurses in Canada must pass an exam called the NCLEX-RN exam.

Directory: Regulated Occupations by Province

To find information about the foreign qualifications recognition process for your occupation, start by selecting the province where you intend to live in Canada. Below is a directory with information about regulated occupations for each of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories.

Alberta – Foreign Qualifications Recognition: Comprehensive resource about foreign qualifications recognition in Alberta, including a list of regulated occupations (organized by industry) and corresponding regulatory authority.

British Columbia – Foreign Credentials Recognition: Basic resource providing information about foreign credentials recognition. For information about occupation-specific requirements, including regulation and licensing, please refer to the WorkBC Career Profiles.

Manitoba – Regulated Occupations and Trades: Resource compiled by Immigrate Manitoba describing the foreign qualifications recognition process for newcomers. Includes fact sheets and links to regulatory authorities for regulated occupations.

New Brunswick – Foreign Qualifications Recognition and Regulated Occupations: Resource for foreign qualifications recognition in New Brunswick, including a list of regulated occupations and the corresponding provincial regulatory authorities.

Newfoundland and Labrador – Foreign Qualifications Recognition: Newfoundland offers a webpage with basic information about foreign qualifications recognition, along with links to some of the more prominent regulated professions in the province.

Northwest Territories – No public resource: One of Canada’s sparsely populated northern territories, the Northwest Territories does not offer a resource regarding foreign qualifications recognition or regulated occupations. However, you can consult this tool by the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials if you are interested in working in the Northwest Territories.

Nova Scotia – International Qualifications Recognition: Guidelines regarding international qualifications recognition in Nova Scotia, with links to all the provincial regulatory authorities for all regulated occupations.

Nunavut – Regulated Occupations: Nunavut is a northern territory with a small population and little immigration. However, you can use this resource to find information about regulated occupations in Nunavut.

Ontario – Work in Your Profession or Trade: Information and resources about foreign qualification recognition in Ontario, including a list of all regulated occupations and the corresponding provincial regulatory authority.

Prince Edward Island – Foreign Qualifications Recognition: Resource for newcomers seeking foreign qualifications recognition in PEI. For a list of regulated occupations and provincial regulatory authorities, please refer to this document.

Quebec – Regulated occupations and immigration: Resource for newcomers interested in working in Quebec. Includes links to all regulated occupations in Quebec along with their corresponding provincial regulatory authority.

Saskatchewan – Regulated Occupations and Licensing Requirements: Resources for international workers in Saskatchewan, including information about occupation titles, licensing, and links to the provincial regulatory bodies for all regulated occupations.

Yukon – Foreign Qualifications Recognition: Resources regarding foreign credential and qualification recognition. Includes a list of regulated occupations, but for information about regulatory authorities and licensing, please refer here.

If it will take an extended period of time to obtain your license or certification to work in Canada, you may want to consider working in a non-regulated occupation in your field while you go through the regulatory process. This way you can become familiar with the industry in Canada, build a network, and prepare yourself to launch full-fledged into your career once you obtain the proper certification or license.

Licensing and certification is only one part of the process of building a great career in Canada. You also have to get a job offer! For more information about finding a job in Canada, including how to properly format your resume for Canadian employers, consult our employment section.


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