Lenders of particular interest to newcomers
Three organizations, within the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), offer loans to newcomers for training and certification on favourable terms: Windmill Microlending, Access Community Capital Fund and The Centre for Education & Training.
Windmill Microlending specifically targets internationally-trained professionals and tradespeople seeking to practice in Canada, including an interest-free loan program for refugee newcomers. Its loans cover certification expenses, as well as Canadian training and its related costs. Applicants may live anywhere in Canada and not just in the GTHA.
The loans offered by Access Community Capital Fund are intended for all Canadian citizens, permanent residents and convention refugees in the GTHA, who are facing financial barriers.
Loans from The Centre for Education & Training are made under the Government of Canada Foreign Credential Recognition Loans Program and are also available to Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and convention refugees in the GTHA who have international credentials.
For a list of organizations outside of the GTHA that offer loans to newcomers under the Foreign Credential Recognition Loans Program, see this list of approved organizations.
The loans from each of these organizations are not available to international students, live-in caregivers, refugee claimants, or temporary foreign workers.
Windmill Microlending can loan up to $15,000 to cover education, licensing or training expenses for skilled newcomers seeking professional success. (Its average loan is $7,000.) 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 $35 million in loans to 4,500 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.
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 the application (regardless of current status);
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.
In February, 2019, Lifeline Syria and Windmill Microlending announced a $400,000 initiative to help at least 40 Syrian newcomers and refugees upgrade their credentials and restart their careers in Canada. Lifeline Syria pledged $100,000 from the Lifeline Syria Fund and issued a challenge to the philanthropic community to multiply its gift.
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
Newcomers without established credit or haven’t filed taxes yet in Canada are eligible to apply. Loans will help establish or build credit through Equifax and TransUnion.
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.
The Centre for Education & Training
As an internationally trained individual, newcomers to Canada can apply for a low interest financial loan of up to $15,000 and free one-on-one career counselling to get their careers started in Canada. The Foreign Credential Recognition Loans Program is funded by the Government of Canada and is offered through The Centre for Education & Training (TCET) within the GTA.
TCET’s career and training counsellors will support a newcomer in submitting a loan application to Meridian Credit Union, its financial partner.
The Foreign Credential Recognition Loans Program will provide a newcomer with one-on-one support to re-enter the labour market in Canada.
Amounts available, uses, and repayment terms:
A newcomer can borrow $1,500 – $15,000 to cover:
- Qualification assessment fees;
- Association and exam fees;
- Short-term bridge training;
- Books and course materials;
- Travel expenses; and
- Living expenses.
Repayment terms are from 1 year to 4 years.
TCET also offers career & training counselling with:
- Developing a Career Action plan;
- Job search tools and strategies;
- Resume building, interview prep, networking and social media presence enhancement;
- Finding interim employment; and
- Finding a related job in your targeted profession.
Eligibility Criteria – TCET:
Permanent Residents, Canadian Citizens and Convention Refugees living in Peel Region, Toronto, Halton Region or Hamilton are eligible to apply for the Foreign Credential Recognition Loans Program. No credit history is required. Applicants must have obtained education and related work experience outside Canada. They must be seeking to have their credentials recognized in Canada. or be undertaking training for an alternative career, or both.
Applicants must have the following minimum level of English proficiency: CLB 6.
TCET has offices in Brampton, Mississauga, Oakville, Don Mills, downtown Toronto, and Richmond Hill.