General program

The high cost of education and licensing in Canada is a major obstacle for newcomer professionals seeking to return to work in their field. Lacking income, collateral or credit history in Canada, it is difficult, if not impossible, for them to access mainstream credit to pay for new credentials.

Immigrant Access Fund Canada (IAF) can loan up to $10,000 to cover licensing or training expenses for newcomer tradespeople, skilled workers and professionals. IAF’s vision is that skilled immigrants are able to contribute their expertise to Canada’s economic and social success, which is not always possible if they are stuck in unemployment or low paying “survival” jobs.

Since 2005, IAF has provided about $18 million in loans to 2,700 immigrants in different occupations across Canada. Anyone born and educated outside of Canada meeting the requirements may be eligible for an IAF loan. Canadian credit history is not required, and an IAF loan has helped many newcomers to build a positive credit rating.

Loans for refugees

Since 2016, IAF has also been offering a loan specifically for refugee newcomers, in addition to its standard loan for immigrants generally. Whereas interest is charged on a standard loan made to a non-refugee immigrant, a refugee loan bears no interest. Both are repayable over a maximum of four years. Those not eligible for a refugee loan may still be able to access the standard loan program.

To be eligible for an IAF refugee loan, the applicant must:

  • Have attained convention refugee/protected person status 3 years or less from the time of making an IAF application (regardless of current status);
  • Have trained/worked in another country in the field you wish to return to;
  • Lack access to comparable financial resources;
  • Be living in a province or territory other than Quebec; and
  • Not have an undischarged bankruptcy.

IAF standard and refugee loans are character-based. Loans are approved on the strength of the applicant’s character and strength of their career development or learning plan. No collateral or credit history in Canada are required.

Permitted uses

Loans may be used for:

  • Short-term (two years or less) training.
  • Exam fees with a professional governing association.
  • Travel expenses to write an exam.
  • Qualification assessments.
  • Professional association fees.
  • Books and course materials.
  • English or French language courses specific to employment.
  • Living allowance during study time.
  • Other related expenses.

Loan repayment

Borrowers under IAF loans have up to four years to pay back the principal. Generally, payments will be a set of minimum payments while completing a licensing/learning plan (to a maximum of two years). Minimum payments will then increase once employment is found or two years after the loan was received.

Borrowers will be registered with Equifax to begin building their credit history in Canada.

For more information on Immigrant Access Fund in the Greater Toronto Area, or to arrange an IAF information session, visit the IAF website.

Applications can be completed entirely online and typically take one to three weeks to be approved.