Governments Agree to Faster Recognition of Foreign Credentials

Commentary, Education, Frontier Centre

Foreign-trained architects, nurses and engineers are among new immigrants who will get first crack at having their credentials recognized within one year under a new federal-provincial accord being announced Monday.

Canwest News Service has learned the agreement will be implemented in two stages, and that by the end of 2012 a total of 15 occupations will have access to a fast-track system of foreign-credential recognition.

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney are expected to lay out details of the agreement at a news conference in Toronto.

The Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Credentials, as it has been named, is designed to tackle the long-standing problem of foreign-trained professionals having to struggle — sometimes for years — to have their credentials recognized in Canada. Many are forced to take jobs in fields unrelated to their expertise even at times when Canada has been plagued, for example, by shortages of nurses. Many end up abandoning the effort out of frustration.

Under the two-stage plan, the agreement will be implemented for eight occupations by December of next year. Aside from nurses, architects and engineers, the first group will include financial auditors and accountants, medical laboratory technologists, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists.

This means foreign-trained workers who submit an application after that date to be licensed or registered in those fields should be advised within one year whether their credentials will be recognized.

The second stage, to be implemented by the end of 2012, will include physicians, dentists, engineering technicians, licensed practical nurses, medical radiation technologists and teachers for kindergarten through Grade 12.

The agreement commits federal, provincial and territorial governments to working toward better pre-arrival services and better and speedier assessment of newcomers’ credentials in relation to standards established by Canadian professional and trade bodies.

The federal budget earlier this year earmarked $50-million over the next two years to make the process of assessing and recognizing foreign credentials more efficient. The work involves pressing many of the 440 professional licensing and regulatory bodies across the country to participate in streamlining their systems for foreign-credential recognition.

The House of Commons immigration committee released a report last week calling on the federal government to step up efforts to improve recognition of newcomers’ education, skills and training as a way of alleviating the poverty, unemployment and underemployment that, it said, too many are forced to endure.

Among other things, the all-party committee called on the federal government to consider providing such financial incentives as tax credits and wage subsidies to employers who provide short-term “work-experience” opportunities to newcomers in their areas of expertise.

The committee said witnesses who appeared at its hearings reported that many immigrants cannot afford to enrol in training or pay for licensing exams.

“Further, foregone income from taking time off work poses an additional barrier to participating in training or unpaid work placements for some immigrants,” the report said.