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Reforming the reform, take 2: The Programme de l’expérience québécoise is once again the subject of controversy



Canada Publication June 15, 2020

After his attempt to reform the Programme de l’expérience québécoise (PEQ – Quebec experience program) last November failed, the Minister of Immigration, Francization and Integration had to withdraw a large portion of his new regulation and agree to hold public consultations for the purposes of presenting a new draft of the reform.

Last May 28, the minister tabled a draft reform of the PEQ. This draft regulation does not have a fixed coming-into-force date yet, but it could be enacted as early as June 28, 2020. The regulation provides for the following changes to the PEQ:

For workers: three years of experience in Quebec instead of one 

  • Under the program’s latest version, temporary foreign workers must now have at least 36 months of full-time work experience in Quebec in the 48 months preceding their selection application.
  • Workers in intermediate positions that generally require a high school diploma or on-the-job training (for ex., orderlies, butchers, waiters) and manual labourers who generally require on-the-job training (for ex., maintenance personnel, fruit pickers) will no longer be eligible to participate in the PEQ.

For students: one year of work experience mandatory 

  • Those holding university degrees from Quebec must now have cumulated 12 months of full-time work experience in Quebec in the 24 months preceding their application. 
  • Those holding high school and college diplomas from Quebec must now have cumulated 24 months of full-time work experience in Quebec in the 36 months preceding their application. 

Processing time

  • Under the new PEQ, it will now take 6 months instead of 20 business days to process an application for a Quebec selection certificate.

Spouses’ knowledge of French

  • The spouses of temporary foreign workers in Quebec must demonstrate a level 4 knowledge of spoken French.

Grandfather clause

The draft regulation provides that work permit holders already working in Quebec may file their application under the former PEQ rules. However, foreign students in Quebec who are currently in the program cannot benefit from the former rules and must therefore acquire the requisite work experience before they can file their Quebec selection certificate application.

Thinking strategically

The proposed amendments are once again attacking a program that enjoyed an excellent reputation for its speed, efficiency and results in terms of integrating into Quebec. 

Increasing the work experience required of workers from 12 to 36 months in Quebec is both disconcerting and inexplicable. No other Canadian province requires more than 12 months of experience before foreign workers can apply to be selected for permanent residence. As for increasing the processing time from 20 days to 6 months, nothing explains this additional delay. 

Based on our observations, increasing the minimum Quebec work experience requirement from one to three years and slowing down the processing time will create major issues when it comes to retaining qualified candidates who work and study in Quebec.

What can you do to avoid the unwelcome consequences of this draft regulation? Speak with your foreign workers. Evaluate their eligibility for the PEQ right now. If they are eligible, encourage them to file an application immediately. If not, develop an action plan so that they can file their application as soon as possible. Studying French earlier than anticipated, gathering all of the elements needed to fill out the application, obtaining letters of employment confirmation, certified copies and official document translations are all examples of actions that can be considered. 

For those foreign workers who arrive after this new reform comes into force, establish a long-term action plan as soon as they set foot in Quebec. Bear in mind that work permits will need to be renewed and discuss the options with your workers at least six months before any permit expires. 

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