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Watered-down reforms to the Quebec Experience Program (PEQ) have drawn more criticism from stakeholders, including student and business groups.
The governing Coalition Avenir Quebec is being accused of not listening to concerns, while student groups labelled the easing of the reforms ‘insufficient’.
Business groups meanwhile, said the reforms would limit immigration to Quebec for low-skilled workers, who are in-demand in the province.
New Quebec Immigration Minister Nadine Girault announced the softening of previous minister Simon Jolin-Barrette’s reforms on July 9.
Measures announced include:
- The introduction of a transitional clause for international students already in Quebec.
- A softening of new work experience requirements for certain international students.
- A reduction in the proposed experience requirement for temporary workers from three years to two years.
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Transition Clause For International Students
Girault announced a ‘transitional measure’ allowing international students already in Quebec to qualify for the PEQ “under the conditions in effect before the coming into force of the new regulation”. The measure applies to those who have already obtained an eligible qualification or will do so before December 31, 2020.
Critics dismissed the move as a ‘half-measure’ that would impact the lives of thousands of students, calling for it to be extended to cover all students currently in Quebec.
Work Experience Requirement For International Students
The work experience requirement for international students has been changed to allow mandatory internships as part of study programs to count up to a maximum of 3 months of full-time work. For holders of a vocational diploma, the work experience requirement is reduced to 18 months.
Critics called for the international student work experience requirement to be removed completely, calling Girault’s move a ‘weak compromise’.
Work Experience Requirement for Temporary Workers
The work experience requirement for temporary workers will be set at 24 months. The MIFI statement said: “This change will promote the retention of foreign workers in Quebec businesses and reduce the administrative procedures for employers, particularly with regard to the need to renew permits.”
The decision means Quebec is the only province in Canada in which workers requiring two years of experience to qualify for immigration.
Student groups are planning further protests against the reforms, which are due to come into force on July 22.
In announcing the reforms, the Quebec Immigration Ministry (MIFI) sought to clarify why the changes were being made, including emphasizing the increasing popularity of the PEQ, “resulting in the vast majority of skilled workers being selected” through the program.
“This limits the number of invitations that can be made by Arrima,” the statement said, referring to Expression of Interest process for the Quebec Skilled Worker Program.
“A reform was, therefore, necessary to ensure better adequacy with the labour needs of Quebec and to strike a balance with our immigration programs.”
In 2019, 14,748 Quebec Selection Certificates (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.