Quebec Experience Program: changes come into effect

Previously announced PEQ reforms come into effect today, affecting international students and temporary foreign workers’ applications.

The new eligibility criteria for the Quebec Experience Program (or PEQ) introduced by the provincial government on July 9 take effect today, July 22.

Launched in 2010, the PEQ is a popular immigration stream that provides a fast-track to permanent residence for temporary foreign workers and international students that have resided in Quebec.

On July 9, Quebec’s immigration minister announced that an increase in the length of work experience required of future applicants before they can apply to the PEQ would be implemented in the coming weeks.

As of today,  temporary foreign workers will be required to have held full-time employment for 24 months in the 36 months preceding the submission of their application to meet the PEQ’s criteria.

The new rules also include a Quebec work experience requirement for international students. Students who obtain a university degree in Quebec or a Quebec diploma of college studies will require 12 months of Quebec work experience in jobs that fall within National Occupational Classification (NOC) codes 0, A, and B.

Students who obtain a Quebec diploma of professional studies (DEP) will be required to have 18 months of Quebec work experience in NOC 0, A, B, and C level jobs. Students working in C level jobs can only be eligible under the new PEQ rules if their work experience is related to their program of study in Quebec.

Work experience acquired during a mandatory internship in a program of study will also be counted, up to a maximum of three months.

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Transitional measures

Temporary foreign worker PEQ applications will be processed under the previous rules provided candidates have a valid work permit or were authorized to work, and were already in Quebec as of July 21, 2020.

Furthermore, international students who will graduate with a diploma issued before January 1, 2021, will also have their applications processed according to the conditions in effect before today’s reforms.

It is, however, unclear how this transitional measure will affect students who complete their studies in the fall semester and who typically receive their diploma after January 1.

Language requirements

In addition to the changes concerning eligibility for the PEQ, this reform includes a number of other changes.

Spouses of the principal applicant will have to demonstrate a level of French equivalent to an “advanced beginner.” This knowledge of French can be demonstrated by proving that one has successfully completed three years of full-time secondary or post-secondary studies or by taking French-language exams.

However, this measure will only take effect on July 22, 2021.

Final transcript attesting to the successful completion of an advanced intermediate level French course in a recognized institution in Quebec will no longer be accepted as proof of a good command of French; only approved test results and transcripts of studies completed in French will be accepted.

Why has Quebec implemented these changes?

The Government of Quebec says it has tightened the eligibility criteria for the PEQ because of its very high popularity. From 2010 to 2019, the proportion of Quebec Selection Certificates issued through the PEQ increased from 5 per cent to 86 per cent, according to Quebec’s Minister of Immigration.

Quebec’s decision, however, continues to be strongly criticized. In recent weeks, nearly 50 student, labour and community groups have mobilized in Quebec to denounce the recent changes to the PEQ and to demand a more inclusive immigration system in the province.

Those groups are calling for a reconsideration of the extension of the required years of experience, the exclusion of low-skilled jobs, the exclusion based on a spouse’s language proficiency and the newly introduced six month processing times.

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