February 11, 2015

Educational Credential Assessments – the need for a verified “credential”

Posted by admin - Bellissimo Law Group PC

Since May 2013, many applicants for permanent residence in Canada have required an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA). Applicants are required to use third-party education assessors who evaluate the applicant’s foreign academic credential(s). The assessor will confirm whether the foreign academic institution is recognised, whether the applicant’s transcripts and credential(s) are authentic, and then determine the Canadian credential equivalent.

For applicants, it is very important to ensure that the ECA verifies the Canadian equivalent of both the years of study and the credential. We have seen ECAs which confirm that the individual has, for example, “three years of undergraduate study”. While overseas this individual has a three-year bachelor’s degree, in Canada this degree may only be equivalent to three years of study (i.e., an incomplete degree). If your ECA looks like this, it is possible to go back to the assessor and request reconsideration or you may try another assessing agency (so long as the agency is approved by CIC).

There are recent examples of applicants submitting ECAs stating the individual has “three years of undergraduate study” to CIC, and being awarded points only for having a high school education. CIC’s view is that the applicant has not completed an academic credential, at the post-secondary level, which is equivalent to a Canadian credential.

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, section 78, which provides for the points assessment on an applicant’s credentials are ambiguous. Our office has argued to the Federal Court that an individual who attended a recognised university, whose credentials and degree have been authenticated, who works in the profession of the degree awarded, and who was confirmed as having the Canadian equivalent of “three years of undergraduate study” has more than a high school diploma. While this education may not be the Canadian equivalent of a three-year bachelor degree, it is still the Canadian equivalent to having a post-secondary education that exceeds high school. We appear before the Court on this issue later this month.

In January 2015 the Federal Court (2015 FC 67) considered similar facts. CIC’s decision was upheld, but Justice Strickland agreed that section 78 of the Regulations was open to interpretation and both CIC and the applicant’s interpretations were reasonable. The Court then certified questions for appeal, meaning that the Federal Court of Appeal may be asked to weigh in on this finding and the interpretation and use of ECAs by CIC under section 78. As of today, an appeal has not been filed to the Federal Court of Appeal. This issue is definitely one that remains unsettled.