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Immigrant worker licensing requirements

Ontario introduces law to ease immigrant worker licensing requirements

On October 25, Ontario introduced the “Working for Workers Act”. The Act will, among other things, ease immigrant worker licensing requirements.  The change applies to certain non-health regulated professions such as engineers, architects, plumbers, electricians, accountants, hairstylists, teachers and early childhood educators.

The Act’s proposals can mean big changes for immigrants who are trying to work in regulated occupations in Ontario. It will be the first of its kind in Canada. It would help internationally-trained immigrants get work in their field of expertise.

Currently, to get professional registration and licensing. newcomers to Canada need Canadian work experience. This is the number one barrier Canadian immigrants face in getting a job that matches their qualification.

The Act will also remove requirement for new immigrants to complete another language test for the purposes of professional licensing, after already submitting one for immigration.

According to the Ontario government news release, these changes would help address labour shortages in the province. See Ontario Helping Newcomers Start Their Careers.

The changes would also ensure that the licensing process is done in a timely manner. Currently, licensing times in some professions can take up to 18 months or more. Qualified workers cannot take up employment during the wait period.

Proposed changes to ease immigrant worker licensing requirements

 According to the news release, the legislation would, if passed:

  • Eliminate Canadian work experience requirements for professional registration and licensing unless an exemption is granted based on a demonstrated public health and safety risk. These requirements may create situations where workers are unable to obtain Canadian work experience because they don’t have it. This is often cited as the number one barrier Canadian immigrants face in obtaining a job that matches their level of qualification.
  • Reduce burdensome duplication for official language proficiency testing, so people would not have to complete multiple tests for purposes of immigration and professional licencing.
  • Allow applicants to register faster in their regulated professions when there are emergencies (such as a pandemic) that create an urgent need for certain professions or trades.
  • Ensure the licensing process is completed in a timely manner to help internationally-trained immigrants start working in careers that match their skillset.

Quick Facts

  • In 2016, only one-quarter of internationally trained immigrants in Ontario were employed in the regulated professions for which they trained or studied.
  • This summer, roughly 300,000 jobs were going unfilled across the province, costing billions in lost productivity.
  • Currently, internationally-trained immigrants face multiple barriers to getting licensed in their field including unfair requirements for Canadian work experience, unnecessary, repetitive and costly language testing, and unreasonable processing times.
  • At present, licensing time in some regulated professions takes up to 18 months or more, while workers wait in limbo, wasting valuable time when they could be contributing to the economy.
  • The proposed changes, if passed, would apply to non-health regulated professions and compulsory trades such as professional engineers, architects, plumbers, electricians, accountants, hairstylists, teachers and early childhood educators. However, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development will work with the Ministry of Health to assess if these proposed changes can also be made for health professions in the future.


“We need to make it as easy as possible for newcomers to Ontario to find jobs, settle into their communities and build a life here. Streamlining the credentialing process for skilled immigrants is a great step in supporting that journey.”

– Tonie Chaltas
CEO, Achēv

“We are pleased that the Government of Ontario intends to propose meaningful reforms to the Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act. If passed, these reforms will address Canadian experience requirements, remove barriers for internationally-trained professionals and allow immigrants and refugees to better express their dignity through work, for themselves and their families. We look forward to continue working with -the Government of Ontario to help immigrants and refugees.”

– Debbie Douglas
Executive Director, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants

“We applaud this bold, impactful, and meaningful initiative that will contribute to the Ontario economy and remove barriers that hinder newcomers’ abilities to maximize their talents and potential.”

– Elise Herzig
Executive Director, JIAS Toronto

“Newcomers to Ontario are an important part of our economy and represent a diversity of skilled trades and professional vocations essential to Ontario’s success. The Muslim Association of Canada (MAC) appreciates the initiative of the Government of Ontario that will make it easier for newcomers to match their foreign qualifications and skills to available jobs in Ontario, allowing newcomers to enact their agency and contribute to our vibrant economy in a meaningful way. MAC also appreciates the extensive community consultations that the government engaged in to include diverse perspectives.”

– Sharaf Sharafeldin
Executive Director, Muslim Association of Canada

“The difficulties faced by immigrants when starting their careers is a well-known issue that has lasted way too long. Helping Newcomers and internationally trained immigrants jump start their careers to practice their profession is exactly what this legislation aims to do.”

– Sheref Sabawy
MPP for Mississauga – Erin Mills