To overcome the challenges of having internationally-obtained qualifications recognized in Canada, a new government office has been established to provide support services to newcomers as they navigate the credential recognition process.

The Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, recently created the Foreign Credential Referral Office (FCRO), designed to facilitate the integration of immigrants into the Canadian work force. The FCRO was born out of consultations between key stakeholders and provincial and territorial governments. Assessment and regulatory bodies, post-secondary institutions, employers, immigrant serving organizations, as well as Canadian newcomers attended these consultations.

In the initial phase of the FCRO, offices have been established in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Halifax. By the fall of 2007, 320 such offices will be in operation across Canada. The agency also has a presence overseas to serve individuals as they prepare for immigration to Canada. Offices have been opened in China, India and the Philippines, with further international expansion in the plans if these first three offices are successful.

In addition to the in-person services provided at the offices, individuals can also seek advice over the phone (1-888-854-1805). Online services have been expanded with the new www.credentials.gc.ca, which builds on the Going to Canada Immigration Portal (http://www.cic.gc.ca/). The new website will help individuals identify occupations in Canada for which they may be qualified. It also points individuals towards the appropriate universities, colleges and regulatory bodies to have their credentials assessed, and provides advice for completing the process quickly and successfully. Additionally, the FCRO website outlines labour market information in each province.

The 2007 federal budget allocated $32.3 million to fund the FCRO for the first five years of operation. It has also allocated an additional $5 million to the existing Foreign Credential Recognition (FCR) Program, run by Human Resources and Social Development Canada (ESDC).

Under the new FCRO, the Canadian federal government will continue to work directly with the provincial governments to assist them in meeting provincial labour force needs. Additionally, the Foreign Credential Recognition Office will attempt to educate Canadian employers about the process and benefits of hiring foreign-trained workers.