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Quebec universities have written to Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette requesting changes to his plan to reform the Quebec Experience Program (PEQ).
Although Bureau de cooperation interuniversitaire (BCI) is happier with Jolin-Barrette’s second effort at PEQ reform, the group, in a letter dated June 16, has called for current international students and those arriving this fall to be subject to the old rules.
The reforms will see graduates require one or two years of work experience to qualify for the PEQ. Previously there was no work experience requirement. Temporary foreign workers will also require three years of experience in the last four to qualify.
Further changes will see a target processing time of six months, French requirements for spouses of principal applicants and a narrowing of what is considered acceptable proof of French knowledge.
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The BCI is in favour of a selection system based on skills and experience, instead of the list of qualifying programs presented under Jolin-Barrette’s first attempt at reforms in the fall, which were ultimately suspended.
During the uproar about the first reform attempt, Premier Francois Legault promised a grandfather clause for students already in Quebec. Now the BCI wants Legault and Jolin-Barrette to honour that promise for the new set of reforms.
Without the grandfather clause, students who came to Quebec believing they could qualify for the PEQ will suddenly have their position changed. The problem is of particular concern for those deeper into their studies, who will now require work experience to qualify.
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Universities say that without the clause, Quebec’s reputation would be harmed and universities may have problems attracting future international students.
The BCI has also called for paid internships and part-time work experience in the three years before an application is submitted to count towards the required experience.
The group would also like to see a specific immigration stream opened to target high-calibre teachers, along the lines of the programs targeting orderlies and technology professionals recently announced.
Students have been involved in a number of protests against the reforms since they were announced by Jolin-Barrette in late May.
PEQ Numbers Increasing
Figures show the number of CSQs issued through the PEQ has risen dramatically since 2010.
In 2019, 14,748 CSQs were issued through the program, compared to the 2010 total of 1,895. In 2019, the number of foreign workers to receive CSQs rose to 9,881 from 5,566 in 2018, an increase of 78 percent.
Proposed Changes to Quebec Experience Program
1) Increased Work Experience
- Temporary workers will be required to have 36 months of full-time work experience during the 48 months preceding their request for permanent selection. A transitional measure is expected before the new regulations come into force.
- Quebec graduates will require 12 or 24 months of full-time work experience to qualify for the PEQ. Until the regulation comes into force, those with a Post-Graduation Work Permit can apply through the temporary worker category if they meet the conditions to benefit from the transitional measure.
2) Knowledge of French for Spouses
Spouses of principal applicants will have to demonstrate a level 4 oral knowledge of French. This measure will only come into force in a year.
3) Proof of French Ability
A certificate of success of an advanced intermediate level French course offered in Quebec by an educational institution will no longer be admissible as proof of knowledge of French.
4) Processing Time
Target processing times will increase from 20 days to 6 months, given “the significant increase in requests submitted in the PEQ”.
5) Pilot Programs
a) Beneficiary Attendants (Orderlies)
A new pilot program will target beneficiary attendants (NOC 3413), reserving 550 CSQs per year for candidates in the position. Under the current Quebec immigration system, just 115 such candidates have been selected since 2013.
b) Artificial Intelligence and Information Technology
A second new pilot program will reserve 550 CSQs for candidates in occupations in the artificial intelligence and information technology industries “to contribute to the influence and competitiveness of Quebec in these sectors on the international scene”.