2024-03-15T11:19:15-04:00Feb 4, 2021|

How to get your credentials assessed for moving to Canada

Last updated: April 26, 2022

In February 2022, Canada announced an increase in annual immigration targets and is set to welcome approximately 1.32 million newcomers between 2022 and 2024 through various immigration streams. If you’ve been thinking about moving to Canada as a permanent resident or a student, there has never been a better time! 

As part of your application process, there are some essential documents that you may be required to submit to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). These documents will grant you extra points on your application and boost your chances of immigrating to Canada. Examples of documents include an educational credential assessment (ECA) report, language test results (IELTS, CELPIP, TEF and TCF), work experience letters, etc. Note that the process to get your credentials assessed and recognized takes time and costs money, so be sure to start early and budget for it.

In this article, we will dive into the specifics of obtaining credential assessments, outline which credentials should be assessed, and provide information about the agencies authorized to provide an ECA. 

Advantages of getting your credentials assessed

Having your credentials assessed will help you:

  • Show potential employers what you are qualified for;
  • Understand the types of jobs for you might be qualified for; 
  • See if your credentials are equal to the standards set for Canadian workers; and 
  • Find out if you need more training, education or Canadian work experience. 

Tip: You don’t need an assessment for a Canadian degree, diploma or certificate. An ECA is required only for foreign credentials.

What does educational credential assessment (ECA) mean?

An educational credential assessment (ECA) is used to verify that your foreign degree, diploma, or certificate (or other proof of your credential) is valid and equal to a Canadian one. There are different types of ECAs. You need to get an ECA specifically for immigration purposes.

Your ECA report may help when you’re looking for a job. But, it does not guarantee:

  • A job in your field, or at a certain level, OR 
  • A license to practice in a regulated profession (job).

If you plan to work in a regulated field (such as a doctor, lawyer, engineer, pharmacist, accountant, etc.), you must get your license in the province or territory that you plan to settle in.

Which educational credentials to get assessed?

In most cases, you only need an assessment for your highest level of education, such as a diploma, certificate, foreign degree, or other proof of your educational credential. For instance, if you have a Master’s degree, you only need an assessment for that degree, not your Bachelor’s degree.

To get points for having two or more credentials, you need an assessment for each one. To obtain full points for more than one educational credential, at least one of the credentials must be for three or more years of study. The order in which you complete your credentials does not affect your points.

Regulated occupations, professions and trades

Regulated jobs are controlled by provincial, territorial, and sometimes federal laws. They are governed by a regulatory body or apprenticeship authority. Regulated jobs are also called professions, skilled trades, or apprenticeable trades. Professions include jobs such as doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, architects, and engineers. Trades include jobs such as bakers, carpenters, and electricians. If you want to work in a trade, visit Red Seal for more details about the training, skills and experience you’ll need to meet.

To work in a regulated job and use a regulated title, you must have a licence or certificate or be registered with the regulatory body for your job in the province or territory where you want to work. In Canada, certain professions may be regulated in some provinces and territories but not in others. If you have a licence to work in a specific province or territory, it may not be accepted in others.

Different professions/trades are governed by different regulatory bodies. You should check with the regulatory body or other governing groups for your job to find out if you need to be assessed. They can tell you which credential assessment agency you should use.

You can find out how to contact your regulatory body on the Canadian Job Bank website. You can also check the websites for each individual regulatory body to find out more about fees, licensing requirements, eligibility, and the process to get your credentials recognized.

Non-regulated occupations

Some employers require job applicants to be registered or certified by the relevant professional association. Having your credentials assessed and recognized helps Canadian employers understand what you’re qualified for. A credential assessment agency can assess your educational credentials for a fee. You may include this information in your resume.

Where can you get an ECA for Canada?

You must get your assessment from an organization or a professional body designated by IRCC. Once you choose a designated organization or a professional body, they will tell you how to submit your documents to get your assessment and also provide average processing times and associated costs.

Designated organizations for ECA for immigration to Canada

You must use one of these designated organizations:

If you plan to work for a large employer or in a regulated occupation, you may need to have your assessment done by a specifically designated organization. Check with your employer or the regulatory body for your occupation for more information.

Note: Individuals who’ve been displaced from their country due to adverse circumstances and have limited proof of their academic certifications may still be able to get their ECA through the World Education Services (WES) Gateway program. To qualify, you must:

  • Currently live in Canada
  • Have at least one credible documentation issued by your academic institution
  • Have been educated in Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine, or Venezuela
  • Be referred to WES by a designed Canadian partner organization.

Designated professional bodies for obtaining an ECA in regulated medical professions for immigration to Canada

Occupation NOC Professional Body
Specialist physicians 31100 or 31101 Medical Council of Canada
General practitioner / Family physician 31102 Medical Council of Canada
Pharmacists 31120 Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada

Note: Nurses can obtain their ECA through one of the designated organizations such as CES, WES, etc., mentioned above. If you have a different primary occupation, another designated organization can do your assessment. 

Your ECA report must show that your foreign credential is valid and equal to a completed Canadian secondary school (high school) or post-secondary credential. If it does, you must include the result and reference number in your Express Entry profile.

ECA for a Canadian study permit

Just as for immigration, if you plan to study in Canada, you’ll need to have your educational credentials assessed. Some post-secondary schools can do the assessment. In other cases, you’ll need to go to an assessment agency. Contact the post-secondary school you want to go to in Canada to find out what kind of assessment they need and accept. Then, contact the assessment agency recommended by the school you want to attend if needed.

What happens if your credentials are not recognized in Canada?

If your report shows that your credential isn’t equal to a completed Canadian credential or if the foreign educational institution is not recognized:

  • You won’t meet the education requirement under the Federal Skilled Workers Program, and 
  • You won’t get any points for it. 

How much time does it take to receive an ECA?

The time to get your education assessed is different for each designated organization or professional body. It can take from a few weeks to a few months.

Validity of an ECA report

An ECA report for the purpose of immigration to Canada should not be more than five years old on the date you submit your Express Entry profile or apply for permanent residence. 

How much does an ECA cost?

For most people, the cost is approximately $200 CAD plus the cost to have it delivered. Delivery costs vary, with courier delivery being the most expensive. The fees for an ECA report and the length of time to get one vary and can change without notice.

For family/specialist physicians or a pharmacist, the cost will be higher. You will need to contact the professional body that regulates your occupation to find out how much it will cost.

Depending on your unique situation, the country you’re applying from, and the time required to obtain and organize all essential documents, your ECA process could take a few months. Knowing the process of how to get specific documents can shorten your timeline to submit the application and ultimately move to Canada.