The “Programme de l’expérience québécoise,” or “Quebec Experience Class” (PEQ), is a new, accelerated immigration program that will allow international students and Temporary Foreign Workers in Quebec to apply to immigrate permanently to Quebec. The PEQ, which will be put into effect before October, 2009, shares some aspects with its federal counterpart, the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), which began accepting applications in September 2008. However, the PEQ process will be even more simplified than the CEC process, and applicants will be able to qualify sooner under the PEQ than the CEC after they first arrive in Canada.
Both immigration programs operate under a “pass-fail” model, which means that if all the requirements for the program are met, the applicant is eligible. However, if any of the requirements for either program are not met, the applicant is not eligible to apply under that program.
Under both the PEQ and the CEC, there are two different streams: one for foreign students, and another for Temporary Foreign Workers.
Under the PEQ, foreign students will be eligible to apply for a Certificat de Sélection du Quebec (Quebec Selection Certificate, a document that allows the holder to immigrate to Quebec, commonly known as a CSQ) if they:
1. Have obtained a degree or diploma from an educational institution recognized by the Quebec Ministry of Education;
2. Have studied in Quebec for at least 1,800 hours (two years); and
3. Show that have successfully completed a level B1 French course at a Quebec educational institution, if their studies were not completed in French.
Temporary Foreign Workers in Quebec will be eligible to apply for a CSQ if they:
1. Have 12 months of Quebec work experience in a skilled, managerial or professional occupation in the 24 months prior to their application:
2. Are employed and show legal status in Quebec at the time of their application; and
3. Show that have successfully completed a level B1 French course at a Quebec educational institution, or provide results of a standardized French proficiency test. Alternatively, they can show that they have satisfied the French language requirements of the professional order governing their occupation in Quebec.
Applying under the PEQ is a more simplified and accelerated process than applying under the CEC. While the Canadian Experience Class is a fast-track application at the federal level, its application process requires the submission of complete documentation to the Canadian Immigration Visa Office for assessment. On the other hand, applicants under the PEQ will be able to apply online and submit minimal documentation to the Quebec Immigration Visa Office.
Because the application process for the PEQ is so simplified, Quebec immigration authorities expect the assessment of applications under the PEQ to be completed relatively rapidly.
However, applying to immigrate to Quebec under any category is a two-step process in which an applicant first obtains a CSQ, and then submits their application to Citizenship and Immigration Canada for federal approval before their Canadian Immigration (Permanent Resident) Visa can be issued. Federal immigration authorities are responsible for processing criminal and medical checks.
All applications from individuals who have obtained a CSQ are processed in their own priority queue at the federal level.
Requirements differ for the Canadian Experience Class.
Students who have successfully completed a program of study of at least two academic years at a Canadian post-secondary educational institution may qualify for the CEC if they have:
1. At least one year of skilled, professional or technical work experience within 24 months of the application date: and
2. Moderate or basic language skills, depending on the skill level of their occupation.
Foreign workers can qualify to immigrate to Canada under the CEC if they:
1. Have at least two years of skilled, professional or technical work experience in Canada within 36 months of the application date; and
2. Have moderate or basic language skills (depending on the skill level of their occupation).
The PEQ offers an advantage to foreign students in Quebec in that they do not need work experience in Quebec to be eligible for the PEQ and can even begin the application process six months before their expected graduation date. However, their applications will only be assessed upon submission of proof that they have graduated.
Temporary foreign workers in Quebec only need one year of eligible work experience to qualify for the PEQ, whereas temporary foreign workers elsewhere in Canada need twice the amount of work experience before they become eligible for the CEC.
Individuals who are eligible to apply to immigrate under the PEQ program are not subject to the Quebec Skilled Worker selection criteria.
It is important to note that an applicant may qualify for the Canadian Experience Class category with work and study experience obtained in Quebec. However, an individual may only apply under the CEC if they intend to reside in a province or territory outside of Quebec. If an individual’s intention is to settle in Quebec, he or she must apply under a Quebec immigration program.