Foreign credential recognition a must to get into Canada’s regulated professions

Manish Paul and Md Asiuzzaman
Published : 25 July 2022, 09:47 PM
Updated : 25 July 2022, 09:47 PM

Skilled professionals from Bangladesh who want to emigrate to Canada often ask, “Can I work in my profession?” Most of the time, the queries come from professionals who have amassed a wealth of skills and experiences in their respective professions and intend to come and work in Canada and, in some cases, seek to immigrate with their families.

Educational credential assessment is a measure to verify that a person’s foreign degree, diploma or certificate is valid and equal to a Canadian one. Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulation states that a foreign national is a skilled worker if they have submitted, amongst other things, their ‘foreign diploma, certificate or credential and the equivalency assessment, which assessment must be less than five years old on the date on which their application is made.’ So this assessment of educational credentials serves immigration purposes purely.

Apart from immigration needs, there are other evaluation processes in place. For instance, a student may want to have credits transferred from Bangladesh to Canada in part or whole to get admitted to a higher level of education. In that case, a prior learning assessment and recognition may be an excellent starting point.

Most universities and colleges in Canada have this process to evaluate the education before giving admission to a student from overseas. In general, employers and immigration authorities require a Basic Evaluation which does not include a list of individual subjects studied. But a comprehensive evaluation is warranted if any institution wants courses, grades and credits details.

However, recognition of foreign credentials is required for regulated occupations,which is different. In this case, the assessment is arduous. The certifications earned abroad must be relevant to that occupation, and the government’s professional body must issue the equivalency assessment.

In this instance, the equivalency of the educational credential is the first step required to practise that occupation if, ultimately, the foreign credential goes through recognition processes by the professional regulator that regulates the profession in its entirety of assessing the skills and competency of the person.

The work towards integrating the immigrants into their respective occupations has started, but much more remains to be done to benefit a significant mass of qualified professionals. Bringing in immigration law and policy changes could make it happen.

Developed countries face tremendous challenges in addressing skill shortages in all sectors of the economy. Therefore, Canada needs to step up with a timely and efficient foreign credential recognition system if it wants to attract the best and brightest from portable pools of talents worldwide.

The ageing population is yet another challenge Canada’s labour market faces. Achieving Canada’s economic potential requires that immigrants can harness their full potential with their skills and experience within the Canadian labour market.

A robust and efficient foreign credential recognition is the way to invigorate the sluggish state of the knowledge economy by addressing the gaps in the skilled workforce.

Foreign credential recognition is ‘verifying that the knowledge, skills, work experience and education obtained in another country is comparable to the standards established for Canadian professionals and tradespersons.’

The process poses an obstacle faced primarily by new immigrants who encounter issues regarding recognizing their academic credentials, occupational certifications and work experiences. In addition, the process is costly and therefore causes additional challenges and barriers for the newcomers.

However, certification or licence is not mandatory for all occupations as Canada classified them as regulated and unregulated professions. For instance, certification or licencing is not compulsory to work as a computer system analyst or programmer. In that case, the employer reserves the right to determine whether the job seeker has the appropriate qualifications, training or experience.

But, credential recognition is mandatory for various regulated occupations such as engineers, doctors, lawyers, architects, dentists and accounting professionals.

CIC has designated both multipurpose assessment organisations and professional bodies to assess foreign credentials. The designated organisations are:

• World Education Services (WES),

• International Credential Assessment Service of Canada (ICAS),

• Comparative Education Service (CES), University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies

• International Qualifications Assessment Service (IQAS)

• International Credential Evaluation Service.

The system’s flexibility in accommodating the immigrants’ education from their country of origin remains complex. In addition, regulatory authorities, which operate within provincial jurisdiction, may have neither sufficient financial backup nor logistical resources to address the complexities posed by the assessment and recognition of foreign qualifications.

Although the federal government has undertaken significant steps in funding the system to streamline and bring in efficiency, the system is yet to be substantially responsive to immigrants’ needs.

Challenges remain in responding to applicants from more diverse education systems and occupational standards worldwide. The immediate difficulty immigrants often face before emigrating is obtaining reliable information on regulatory requirements, registration processes and workplace expectations. Thus, they risk losing valuable time navigating the system after arriving in the country.

The system does not allow immigrants to demonstrate their skills and competencies. As a result, immigrants fail to secure occupational work better suited to their education, training and experience due to a lack of access to information and the necessary support. Thus, they frequently settle into positions below their capabilities.

The government in Canada has established a framework to address the nationwide challenges immigrants face. Apart from the federal government, there are provincial/territorial and municipal governments, and all these three government orders have agreed to eliminate inter-provincial barriers to facilitate labour mobility.

Although the agreement encourages the adoption of occupational standards based on common interprovincial standards as practicable, a provincial or territorial authority could still impose additional certification requirements and lengthen the process for foreign qualification recognition.

The framework is not a law and thus has no legal binding on any parties. However, it is based on commitment amongst the parties to improve qualification assessment and recognition practices, with a priority placed on regulated occupations.

The Pan Canadian Framework, as it is dubbed, has scopes to put the immigrants’ foreign qualifications to use within the Canadian labour market. Still, a lot more work remains to get the framework fully implemented.

Going back to the question often asked – ‘can I work in my occupation,’ skilled professionals from Bangladesh should always know the processes before they move to Canada.

The advanced planning and preparation will save valuable time and resources for themselves while navigating the system after landing in the country. Many people trained in Bangladesh qualify for eventual recognition in similar professions in Canada. Higher occupational institutes in Dhaka and elsewhere have a robust English education system that prepares students for a career pathway in regulated occupations, as the curriculum being taught is at par with developed nations.

Moreover, Bangladeshi professionals working across all sectors in Canada are a testament to the notion of successful integration of all future immigrants, given the research of their career path before emigrating and the effort towards the same after their arrival.

[Manish Paul is a licenced Immigration Consultant; Md Asiuzzaman is a student success and career educator.]

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher