Validating international credentials
By Dara Poizner
Posted on January 21, 2021
People educated in another country and who want to work or study in Canada will need to have their international academic credentials assessed by Canadian standards. The Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials (CICIC) is an organization that helps people who want to get an assessment by providing information, resources, and referrals to other organizations. The CICIC does not do credential assessments itself but is a good place to begin the process.
During the international academic credential assessment process, the qualifications you received in your country of origin are compared with the qualifications needed to work or study in Canada. The most common reasons for needing an assessment are:
- Finding employment
- Getting a license to practise in a regulated profession (e.g. medicine, teaching, or law)
- Getting admission to a post-secondary school (university or college)
According to NewYouth.ca (an online community for young immigrants and refugees in Ontario), examples of academic credentials include:
- Secondary (high) school diploma
- College diploma or certificate
- Bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree
- Professional school degree
Getting your credentials validated can be confusing because there is more than one process for validating international credentials in Canada. The process depends on many factors including the reasons for having to validate your credentials (e.g. for a job or education), the area of work or study you are applying for, your country of origin, and the province or territory you plan to work or study in. This article provides basic information on how to validate your credentials.
Credential assessment services
Many organizations in Canada cannot evaluate international credentials themselves, so they use an external service. The Alliance of Credential Evaluation Services of Canada (ACESC) has six member organizations that assess the quality of academic credentials from outside of Canada:
- The Comparative Education Service (University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies)
- International Credential Evaluation Service (British Columbia Institute of Technology)
- International Qualifications Assessment Service (government of Alberta)
- Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et Intégration du Québec (Québec Ministry of Immigration)
- International Credential Assessment Service of Canada
- World Education Services
Their reports compare international credentials with Canadian standards. Professional regulatory authorities, educational institutions, immigration authorities, and employers use them to decide whether internationally educated applicants have credentials that are equivalent to the ones needed to work or study in Canada. To confirm that someone’s qualifications meet their requirements for employment, licensing in a regulated profession, or admission to a school, organizations use a recognition process, discussed below.
What does the recognition process check?
The recognition process checks your academic credentials and professional qualifications. It makes sure that the schools you attended have a record of you, and if relevant, tests your skills and experience as a professional. It also compares your qualifications with the ones that someone in an equivalent job or educational program in Canada would need.
Working in Canada
To continue working in your field after moving to Canada, there are processes you must go through to get certified. Though these processes are different depending on your job, province or territory, and education and work history, there are general steps you can take to begin.
Approving someone to work in a specific profession can take several months. In the time between, many internationally trained professionals work in related jobs or volunteer in their field to gain Canadian work experience.
See the CICIC’s “Work in Canada” guidelines for more detail.
Regulated and non-regulated occupations
The organization recognizing your credentials will depend on whether your occupation is regulated or non-regulated.
Regulated occupations are managed by provincial or territorial (and sometimes federal) law. To work in a regulated occupation (e.g. nurse or engineer) or a skilled trade (e.g. plumber), you need recognition from a regulatory authority in your province or territory. You may need to complete other requirements to practise regulated professions or trades, including exams related to your occupation, proof of English language proficiency, or a Canadian work placement.
Non-regulated occupations do not need a legal license or certification. If you work in a non-regulated occupation, the employer decides whether or not to recognize your credentials. Depending on the job, you may need recognition from a professional association in your province or territory. For example, some employers need their human resources managers to have a Certified Human Resources Professional designation.
Use these resources to find out if your occupation is regulated or not:
- The National Occupation Classification (NOC) is Canada’s system for describing jobs.
- The CICIC has a Directory of Occupational Profiles. You can also find employment resources and information about the labour market.
Decide what organization to approach
Determine which organization is responsible for assessing and recognizing your credentials. Each regulatory authority, professional association, or employer has its own requirements: they are different for every occupation and often different in each province and territory. Contact the specific organization for information on how to become recognized in your profession.
You can use the NOC and CICIC Directory to learn more details about specific jobs in Canada.
Gather the relevant documents
After determining which organization needs to recognize your credentials, find out which documents are needed for the assessment. It is usually easiest to gather these documents while you are still in the country where you received them.
Academic credentials are given by an educational institution and include diplomas, degrees, certificates, transcripts, or course outlines.
Professional qualifications are usually given by an occupation’s professional regulatory association. These documents may include a certificate of competency, professional qualification, or a license to practise.
Check for a mutual recognition agreement
Some regulatory and professional associations in Canada have mutual recognition agreements (MRAs) with organizations (and sometimes countries or regions) outside of Canada. If you have a license, certificate, or registration with one of these organizations (or in one of these countries or regions), this can help get your qualifications recognized in Canada. For example, the medical laboratory technologist occupation is listed as a profession with one or more MRAs.
The Directory of Occupational Profiles can help you find information about MRAs for your occupation.
Apply for financial assistance
There are fees for credential assessment programs. As an internationally trained professional, you may be eligible for financial assistance. The CICIC has a list of micro-loan programs available in each province.
Studying in Canada
While some people who move to Canada want to transfer their existing career skills, others hope to pursue an education. As with those who want to work, you will need your international credentials assessed to study in Canada.
See the CICIC “Study in Canada” guidelines for more detail. You can use the CICIC website to search for educational institutions and find their contact information.
Every educational institution in Canada has its own admission requirements. The school you are applying to will evaluate your previous education as part of the admission process, and each school has the authority to decide whether or not an applicant meets their requirements. Some are general requirements, and some are specific to the program you are applying for.
Requirements may include:
- A certain level of previous education and grades
- Prerequisite courses
- Proof of proficiency in the language of instruction
- Standardized test scores
- A portfolio of work
To learn about program requirements, visit the website or contact the admissions office of the school you are interested in applying to.
Credential assessment and recognition
You will need to provide documents (e.g. degrees, diplomas, transcripts) to verify your previous education. If your academic records are not in the language of instruction (in Canada, this will be either English or French), you may need to have the documents translated.
According to Settlement.Org, an Ontario newcomer information website, elementary and high schools can usually evaluate a student’s previous education themselves if they have their educational documents. However, post-secondary schools (universities and colleges) have their own processes and cannot always do the assessment themselves. In this case, you need to get an external assessment from one of the ACESC members. Make sure to ask the post-secondary school which assessments they will accept.
There are alternative assessment processes for refugees and people in similar situations, when it is not possible to get all the verifiable documents needed for a typical assessment. The processes are often determined on a case-by-case basis. One or a combination of approaches may be used.
Country profile and comparability statement: the country profile is the profile of the education system and institution where an applicant got their original credentials, and the comparability statement offers a comparison between those credentials and the equivalent credentials of the province or territory where they plan to be recognized.
Background paper: an assessment based on the applicant’s description of their studies, courses, grades, and it is confirmed by a sworn affidavits or other evidence.
Some documentation: an assessment based on some documentation (that may be incomplete or unverifiable), a background paper, sworn affidavits, or other evidence. If the applicant has some verifiable documentation, they may use some regular and some alternative procedures to validate their credentials.
Testing of skills and competencies: an assessment based on learning outcomes from interviews, testing, portfolio development, or other methods.
To learn more, research the Assessing the Qualifications of Refugees initiative.
When getting your international credentials validated, it’s very important to know what the specific organization needs so they can recognize the credentials. You can then use the CICIC to find the right contacts and begin your journey towards working or studying in Canada.