Careers: Bringing a Canadian Licence Within Reach

by Efim Cheinis

There are many programs and services created by the Government of Canada to help internationally educated professionals find employment – but newcomers who practice regulated occupations need the most assistance.

An official point of view is that regulated occupations represent only 20 percent of all Canadian occupations. So, only 1 of 5 newcomers will need a license.

In reality, the number should be higher because the biggest immigration class in Canada is "Skilled Workers and Professionals" (approximately 60-70 percent of all immigrants). According to immigration rules, these people have to be: skill type 0 (managerial occupations), skill level A (professional occupations), or skill level B (technical occupations and skilled trades). The Canadian National Occupational Classification list (www.cic.gc.ca/english/work/noc.asp) says that most of those occupations are regulated! So, we can expect that upwards of 60 percent of newcomers are in regulated occupations.

I discussed this assertion with Mr.Yves E. Beaudin, the National Coordinator for the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials, and he did not disagree with my point of view. So, I think that regulated occupations are the number one barrier for newcomers.

What does ‘regulated occupation’ mean?

Any occupation that requires a license, certificate or other form of registration in a professional association or a regulatory body is a regulated occupation. The full list of regulated occupations in Canada is available at www.workdestinations.org/home.jsp?lang=en.

What is the purpose of licensing and does it work to anyone’s advantage? It is considered to be an advantage for all – consumers, employers, and workers – because the license protects the health and safety of consumers, eases the employer’s obligation to carefully check the applicant’s qualifications, and it allows employees to expect higher salaries.

Receiving a license is not easy, because it is necessary to collect a lot of documents proving that your international education and experience correspond to the Canadian requirements. Also in some cases you have to pass English (or French) language and professional examinations.

It is often necessary to get additional training, requiring you to spend considerable time and money. This can prevent you from starting work in a regulated occupation right after arrival. You probably know someone among your relatives, friends or acquaintances who applied for the license and were refused. Sometimes English language knowledge was not sufficient, or educational documents did not match the requirements of the profession in Canada. Sometimes the work experience did not suffice, or the applicant did not pass the license examinations.

What if You Don’t Succeed in Getting Your License?

While many persistent newcomers eventually get licenses, less self-assured people often give up and search for alternative careers. Some, having become disappointed in Canada, go back home.

The "licensing barrier" causes many complaints among immigrants. Many feel that the system of licensing basically protects corporate interests. And some suspect that the regulations protect Canadian-born professionals, whose salaries would fall if a door to the licensed trades were open for new immigrants.

The Government of Ontario was the first in Canada to respond to these complaints, through their well-known Bill 124 "Fair Access to Regulated Professions". Organizations, such as TRIEC (Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council) and OCASI (Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants), which work with immigrants, actively supported Bill 124.

But regulatory bodies were less enthusiastic. They consider intervention of the Government in their activity undesirable and even dangerous in the sense that it can lower professional standards for specialists.

To enforce their mandate, the provincial government established the office of the Fairness Commissioner, which is responsible for ensuring that registration practices are transparent, objective, impartial and fair. In March 2007, Ms. Jean Augustine (the first African Canadian woman elected to the Parliament of Canada) was appointed as Ontario’s first Fairness Commissioner.

The provincial government opened the "Global Experience Ontario" resource centre in Toronto to help internationally educated professionals in regulated occupations find out how to become qualified for professional practice in Ontario (www.ontarioimmigration.ca/english/geo.asp). Their website collects all the necessary and helpful information on licensing rules for thirteen basic regulated occupations in such areas as architecture, engineering, accounting, law, education and social help.

If you practice a regulated occupation, you can call the centre by phone (416) 327-9694 (in Toronto) or 1-866-670-4094 (from other cities), or send an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . If you want to go in person, the address is 285 Victoria Street, Victoria Building, 7th Floor, Toronto (open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m.)

Trained experts will tell you free of charge, in English or French, everything you should know to get a license.

But if you live far from the Global Experience Ontario Centre, or you are not a Toronto resident, there is another option – a new project of Citizenship and Immigration Canada that started in 2007, the "Foreign Credentials Referral Office" or FCRO. You may visit one of the 320 Service Canada centres across the country, which are now offering in-person credentials referral services for internationally trained professional. There is more information on the website www.credentials.gc.ca/index.asp.

More information about Foreign Credentials Referral Office can be found in issue 16 of Canadian Newcomer Magazine (2007 Settlement Guide).

The Governments of Canada and Ontario took the first steps. Now it is your turn. Add your hard work, persistence, energy and positive attitude, and your dreams about success in Canada can come true!

CNM