An essential service

Different countries enforce different standards when it comes to validating the experience and education of foreign individuals, and Canada is no exception. This is why there are organizations dedicated to just this, to proving the equivalency between international credentials and those required by a newcomer’s choice of Canadian school or employer. Lending legitimacy to someone’s education and work skills is just as much a basic right as work and education themselves.

When there are no barriers to contacting institutions, the process is closer to a formality. The organization carrying out the assessment simply calls or emails to carry out their due diligence. When war or persecution are in play, the process is more like detective work, reconstructing paper trails through research, interviews, and other means. Assessment organizations must then work around the fact that some schools and businesses are inaccessible or no longer standing.

Various assessments are available depending on a client’s needs.  If you completed your training outside of Canada, but intend to settle within the country, you need what is called an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA). An ECA is a report that grants eligibility to the Federal Skilled Workers Program—Express Entry—and allows you to earn points for international education.

For an introductory article on evaluating foreign work skills and education, see Welcome Ontario’s post in English and in Arabic. It’s especially useful to set reasonable expectations about possible licensing requirements and to understand how the assessment process is supposed to work.

Service providers

These organizations provide credential evaluation for individuals with international degrees, with the first three serving the GTA.

Each of them is approved by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to assess degrees and diplomas issued outside of Canada. They’re also members of the Alliance of Credential Evaluation Services of Canada, which was created to comply with UNESCO conventions for recognizing qualifications. As such, their practices adhere to the Pan-Canadian Quality Assurance Framework for the Assessment of International Academic Credentials, a guide designed for students to develop their full potential in Canada.

World Education Services

WES is a non-profit, founded in 1974, that has helped over one million individuals further their careers through document verification. WES’ services are recognized by over 2500 organizations in North America’s public and private sectors, demonstrating the strength and breadth of their reputation.

An evaluation can take anywhere from one week to just over one month and is valid for five years. It includes descriptions of your credentials, notes on their authenticity, and a comparison with Canadian equivalents. Education can be validated document by document for jobs and new university students, or course by course, which fits the requirements of regulatory bodies and graduate studies programs. Either of these can be applied to an ECA for the purposes of immigration.

The WES Gateway Program was created in 2016 specifically for those displaced by politics, war, and natural disasters. Even though participants lack access to standard verifiable documents, WES can provide them with an assessment for possible acceptance by employers and educational institutions.

Applicants are encouraged to use WES’ free tools to form a better idea of their personal situation. The Degree Equivalency Tool tells you how your degree compares to one issued in Canada. The Required Documents Tool renders a list of documents, by country of origin, that you will need for a complete assessment.

International Credential Assessment Service of Canada

Guelph-based ICAS has been assessing international credentials since 1993, helping further the goals of over 10000 applicants per year. They boast a database with hundreds of thousands of documents, allowing them to validate professional and educational achievements in almost every country in the world.

Individuals can use the General Assessment Report to apply for jobs or admissions to Ontario colleges. It states the level of education completed, how it compares to Canadian qualifications, and takes 6-8 weeks to complete. This category has comprehensive options for secondary and post-secondary education, respectively, extending turnaround times to up to 30 weeks.

Immigrants can use the Canadian Immigration Assessment Package for employment or continued training in Canada. Valid for five years, they take approximately 25 weeks to complete, and include multiple copies of the ECA for record-keeping and to submit to the IRCC. As they accumulate skills, applicants may also add qualifications to existing evaluations.

Please read ICAS’ Frequently Asked Questions for more information on cost, eligibility, and document requirements.

University of Toronto Comparative Education Service

CES began in 1967 and remains the only university-based credential assessment organization in Canada. Its application process is both easy to navigate and understand. Those interested can choose from six services similar to those already described.

Translation

Depending on home country and service provider, credentials may need to be translated before being evaluated. For information on what translators do, how they are specialized, and where to hire one in Ontario, please read Settlement.org’s post on the subject.

Assessment vs. Recognition

It is important to clarify the difference between skills or degrees that have been assessed and those that have been recognized. An assessment, put together by one of the organizations above, is an opinion on the authenticity of your documents, backed up by staff with extensive training in the global education system. The conclusions drawn by an assessment are no guarantee that prospective schools or employers will accept your requests. On the other hand, documents are only recognized as authentic once schools or employers determine that your assessment satisfies their standards.

Assessment challenges

Newcomers face a growing number of barriers to having their credentials recognized. Among them are trauma, confusion about proper procedures—Helping Newcomers Work’s reason for being—and a lack of basic support in the areas of language and finance. A 2017 report from the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials (CICIC) expands on how to return dignity to these talented individuals bringing their skills to Canada.

With challenges in mind, it is up to refugees and other newcomers to contact Canadian employers and/or educational institutions to verify that an assessment organization’s services satisfy their internal rules. It is through their collaborative efforts with providers like WES, ICAS, and CES that we grow ever closer to a globalized, mobilized credential system, one where every worker and student can cross borders and widen their sense of ownership of the world.

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Photo by Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.