Since 1991, the province of Quebec has had an agreement in place with the Government of Canada, called the Canada-Quebec Accord, which allows Quebec to select its own immigrants. In the June 2009 edition of our newsletter, we reported that the Quebec Immigration Minister had announced changes to Quebec’s immigration programs. Some of these changes have already been put into effect, while others will be implemented in October.

More information has since been released about how the new amendments will facilitate immigration to Quebec.

Quebec’s population is aging at a faster rate than that of the rest of Canada, as well as that of most developed countries. This is combined with the fact that current birth rates in Quebec are not enough to allow the population to grow, or to replace the loss in the workforce resulting from this demographic shift.

The Minister expects that the proposed amendments will help combat these challenges by welcoming a greater number of qualified immigrants to Quebec.

The changes are being implemented in three stages.

First of all, some minor changes to Quebec Immigration were made earlier this month, aimed at facilitating the process for families, students, and people currently facing distressful situations in their home countries.

  • Individuals who have been issued a Certificat de Sélection du Québec (Quebec Selection Certificate, commonly known as a CSQ) can now add a new spouse or child to their application without having to pay additional Quebec government processing fees.
  • Study permits are now valid for 49 months, as opposed to 37 months, in order to accommodate students in programs that require four years to complete.
  • To facilitate the application process for people applying under the category of persons in a particularly distressful situation, Quebec immigration authorities are now waiving interviews for these applicants whenever possible.

The second stage is the new Programme de l’expérience québécoise (Quebec Experience Class), an essential component of the new immigration regulations, which will be rolled out sometime before October. This program will allow foreign students and workers in the province to immigrate to Quebec under a simplified, accelerated process.

People who have studied in Quebec have already been integrated into Quebec society and have educational qualifications that employers in the province will recognize, Quebec’s Immigration Minister said in her announcement of the changes.

Finally, the last stage of the changes will be implemented on October 14, 2009. Modifications to the requirements and processing of Quebec Skilled Worker applications will be made, to ensure that applicants who fulfill the immediate needs of Quebec’s labour market are selected on a priority basis.

The system will favour young workers and families, as well as those who have worked, studied or stayed in Quebec.

The proposed changes are being implemented to attract more immigrants who have the potential to successfully settle in Quebec and participate in its workforce.

Quebec’s Skilled Worker program operates under a “selection grid” of criteria used to determine whether an applicant would be able to successfully settle and work in the province. Points are assigned to applicants and their spouses, if applicable, according to their level and field of education, work experience, age, previous experience in Quebec and language ability.

In order to be eligible to apply for immigration as a Quebec Skilled Worker, a pass mark of 50 points for single applicants and 57 points for applicants with accompanying spouses must be met.

The updated breakdown of the Quebec Skilled Worker selection criteria has not yet been released, but general changes have been announced.

  • Applications where the principal applicant or their spouse has the necessary training for occupations that are highly in demand in Quebec will be processed on a priority basis. The Quebec Immigration Minister recently issued a “List of Preferred Areas of Training” which lists the fields of training that fall under this priority-processing category.
  • Education, age and previous stays in Quebec will be considered differently under the new system. Points allocated for the level of education of the applicant and his or her spouse will take two-year university programs into account. While applicants are currently awarded extra points for having obtained their degree, diploma or certificate in Quebec, no matter what their field of education, the extra weight given to education in Quebec will now be built into the List of Preferred Areas of Training.
  • The number of points allocated for age will now decline less dramatically after the age of 35.
  • Previous work or study in Quebec will earn the applicant additional points, if the applicant does not qualify for the Quebec Experience Class.

The selection grid was last revised in October 2006. Quebec regularly reviews its immigration programs and policies to ensure that individuals who can make a successful transition to Quebec society and its workforce are able to immigrate to the province. The adjustments to the grid that will be made this year are in response to Quebec’s current labour market and demographic needs.