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Quebec Universities Raise Issues With Plan to Reform PEQ

Quebec universities have written to provincial Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette requesting some changes to his plan to reform the Quebec Experience Program (PEQ). Although Bureau de cooperation interuniversitaire (BCI) is in support of the Minister’s second effort at PEQ reforms, the group, in a letter dated June 16, has called for current foreign students and those arriving this fall to be treated with the old rules.

The reforms will see graduates needing one or two years of work experience to be eligible for the PEQ. Previously there were no work experience requirements. Temporary foreign workers will also need to have at least three years of experience in the last four to be eligible for PEQ.

Additional changes will see a target processing time of six months, French language requirements for spouses of principal applicants and a narrowing of what is deemed acceptable proof of French knowledge.

The BCI is happier with the selection system based on skills and work experience, instead of the list of qualifying programs presented under Jolin-Barrette’s initial attempt at reforms in the fall, which was ultimately suspended. During the protest about the first reform attempt, Premier Francois Legault promised a grandfather clause for international students already in Quebec. Now the BCI requests the Premier and Jolin-Barrette to honour that promise for the new set of reform.

Without the grandfather clause, international students who come to Quebec believing they could be eligible for the PEQ program will suddenly have their position changed. The problem is of particular concern for those rounding off their studies, who will now need work experience to qualify.

Universities say that without the clause, Quebec’s reputations would be harmed and universities may face difficulties attracting future international students. The BCI has also called for paid internship and part-time work experience in the three years prior to an application is lodged to count towards the required experience. The group would also like to see a specific immigration program opened to target first-rated teachers, along the lines of the programs targeting orderlies and tech professionals recently announced.

Students have been involved in a number of protests against the reforms since they were announced by the Immigration Minister in late May.

Proposed Changes to Quebec Experience Program (PEQ)

1) Increased Work Experience

  • Temporary foreign workers will be required to have thirty-six (36) months of full-time work experience during the forty-eight (48) months leading up to their request for permanent selection. A transitional measure is expected prior to the new regulations come into force.
  • Quebec graduates will require twelve (12) or twenty-four (24) months of full-time work experience to be eligible for the PEQ. Until the regulation comes into force, those with a Post-Graduation Work Permit can apply via the temporary worker category if they meet the requirements to benefit from the transitional measure.

2) Knowledge of French for Spouses

Spouses of principal applicants will have to show or demonstrate a level 4 oral knowledge of French. This measure will only come into force in about a year to come.

3) Proof of French Abilities

A certificate of success of an advanced intermediate level French course offered in Quebec province by a designated educational institution will no longer be accepted as proof of knowledge of French.

4) Processing Time

Target processing times will change from twenty (20) days to six (6) months, given “the massive increase in requests submitted in the PEQ”.

5) Pilot Programs

a) Beneficiary Attendants (Orderlies)

A new stream will target beneficiary attendants (NOC 3413), reserving 550 CSQs per year for individuals in the position. Under the current Quebec immigration system, just 115 of such candidates have been picked since 2013.

b) Artificial Intelligence and ICT

A second new stream will be reserved 550 CSQs for candidates in occupations in the artificial intelligence and information technology sectors “to contribute to the influence and competitiveness of the province of Quebec in these sectors on the international scene”.