Recognizing foreign credentials in Canada
For Immigration Purposes: the ECA (Educational Credential Assessment)
There are 5 organizations currently accredited to evaluate a foreign credential and determine its equivalency compared to Canadian standards. These organizations are:
- Comparative Education Service (CES)
- International Credential Assessment Service of Canada (ICAS)
- World Education Services (WES)
- International Qualifications Assessment Service (IQAS)
- International Credential Evaluation Service (ICES)
As a general rule, only the highest level of education should get assessed. In some cases, where an applicant has two credentials at the same level, two assessments might increase the chances to be successful with their application for permanent residence in Canada.
While an international bachelor's degree usually translates to a Canadian bachelor's degree, a Master's to a Master's and a PhD to a PhD, the situation can be trickier with non-academic education like apprenticeships, college diplomas and trades certificates.
An example: The standard for a Canadian highschool diploma is 12 years of school. In other countries, "highschool" can mean anything from 9 to 13 years of school. So let's say an applicant from Germany went to school for 10 years and then completed a 2-year apprenticeship. This amounts to 12 years of education in total, so the ECA would still only count this education as comparable to Canadian highschool. The applicant would lose out on the additional points they could get for their apprenticeship if it was counted as a 1-year or 2-year college diploma. Furthermore, an ECA will typically only assess "academic" education. This means that schooling as part of an apprenticeship may be considered, but usually none of the practical work experience. This is one of the reasons why it's often more helpful in these cases to get a Canadian trades certificate, or register with the provincial association for your occupation, for example for Early Childhood Educators or Chartered Professional Accountants.
Depending on the application program for permanent residence under economic immigration, the ECA translates into a certain amount of points, for example for CRS (see calculator) or the selection factors of the Federal Skilled Worker Program of Express Entry.
However, the ECA itself doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get a license to practice in a regulated occupation. Depending on the job, additional certificates in Canada may be required, like a red seal for regulated trades or extra training as a ski instructor.
As a general rule, if your occupation is:
- regulated, the recognition of your qualifications will be determined by the appropriate regulatory authority of the province or territory;
- non-regulated, recognition is typically at the discretion of the employer.
To work in a regulated profession or trade and to use a reserved title, you must obtain a license to practice or a certificate of qualification.
The ECA for immigration purposes doesn't necessarily meet the requirements for a regulated profession or trade association. You'll have to check with your provincial licensing body what they require.
Generally, the services are pretty similar between the five designated organizations that provide ECAs. However, if you're also looking to get licensed in your province in a regulated profession, like engineering, healthcare, social workers etc., they might request a certain report from a certain institution. Some organizations offer different types of equivalency reports. In addition to the ECA for immigration purposes, there are course-by-course reports that contain all courses of your program, a Canadian semester credit and grade equivalent for each course as well as a Canadian grade point average (GPA). This is typically used for registration with a professional association rather than immigration. If you already ordered your ECA for immigration with that institution, you may be able to get a discount for your second assessment.
Contact us to determine the best pathway to Canada based on your educational background!