Lenders of particular interest to newcomers
Two non-profit organizations offer loans to newcomers for training and certification on favourable terms: Windmill Microlending (formerly Immigrant Access Fund – IAF) and Access Community Capital Fund. Windmill Microlending specifically targets internationally-trained professionals and tradespeople seeking to practice in Canada, with an interest-free loan program for refugees. Its loans cover certification expenses, as well as Canadian training and its related costs. The loans offered by Access Community Capital Fund are intended for all Canadian citizens, permanent residents and convention refugees in the GTA and Hamilton area, who are facing financial barriers.
Windmill Microlending can loan up to $10,000 to cover licensing or training expenses for newcomer tradespeople, skilled workers and professionals. Windmill Microlending’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, Windmill Microlending has provided about $21 million in loans to over 4,000 immigrants in different occupations across Canada. Anyone born and educated outside of Canada meeting the requirements may be eligible for a Windmill Microlending loan. Canadian credit history is not required, and a Windmill Microlending loan has helped many newcomers to build a positive credit rating.
For media coverage of Windmill Microlending, see: Loan program makes dreams possible for newcomers aiming to upgrade their skills (Toronto Star, Oct 24/18.)
Loans for refugee newcomers – Windmill Microlending
Windmill Microlending also offers 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 a Windmill Microlending 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.
Windmill Microlending 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 – Windmill Microlending
A Windmill Microlending loan 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 – Windmill Microlending
Borrowers under Windmill Microlending 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.
Applications can be completed entirely online and typically take one to three weeks to be approved.
Access Community Capital Fund
ACCESS Community Capital Fund is another organization offering loans in the GTA of up to $15,000 for training, even in the absence of a strong credit history. Newcomers/immigrants with credentials obtained outside Canada are eligible for up to $15,000 for small business and professional development.
- Affordable and low-interest rate (Prime + 1.90%)
- Up to four (4) years to repay
- Loans are disbursed, administered and repaid through Alterna Savings & Credit Union
- Repayment starts 30 days after getting the loan. Structured to make payments affordable, e.g. interest only payments while completing licensing or training and during period of looking for employment
The loan can be used to cover career-related expenses:
- Licensing and certification costs
- Courses and exams
- Qualification and credential assessments
- Professional accreditation, association and membership fees
- Bridge training
- Books and other course materials
- Living and travel allowances associated with certification or training
Eligibility Criteria – Access Community Capital Fund:
To apply for a loan, a successful applicant:
- Canadian citizens, Permanent Residents and Convention Refugees
- Residents of Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton
- 18 years or older and can legally work in Canada
- Individuals in financial need (e.g. with low-income, limited/poor credit)
- Up-to-date with their Canadian taxes (Canada Revenue Agency)
- Not undergoing bankruptcy or consumer proposal
All types of professions are eligible
- Teachers (K-12);
- Audiologists and speech language pathologists;
- Architects, engineers, carpenters; welders; electricians (industrial and construction); heavy duty equipment technicians; heavy equipment operators; dentists; engineering technicians;
- Licensed practical nurses; dentists, dental hygienists, medical radiation technologists; physicians; medical laboratory technologists; occupational therapists; pharmacists; physiotherapists; registered nurses, midwives, psychologists
- Financial auditors and accountants, including chartered accountants, certified general accountants and certified management accountants;
- and more.
Applications are assessed using a character-based model which:
- Does not only use your credit history and score as the deciding factor
- Takes into account your financial need
- Considers the viability of your career development plan
- Includes an interview with, and decision by, our loan review team
Process may take up to 2 weeks from submission of a complete application to decision.