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Quebec: new measures to strengthen Francophone immigration

Équipe Immétis - 06/20/2023

For the past few weeks, the decline of the French language in Quebec has been regularly making headlines. Among the hot topics : the importance of mastering the language of Molière for immigrants.

In order to address this issue, the Government of Quebec has just unveiled several significant measures, all aimed at preserving the French language within the Belle Province through immigration. Let's take a closer look.

Regular Skilled Worker Program (RSWP)

Among the major announced changes is the implementation of a new permanent immigration program: Regular Skilled Worker Program (RSWP). This program will replace the current Quebec Selected Skilled Workers (QSSW).

This new pathway, which will be divided into 4 streams, is expected to facilitate a better selection of workers in line with the province's labor market needs.

The first stream will target workers with specialized skills or a highly qualified profile. The second stream will be dedicated to intermediate or manual skills. The third stream will cater to regulated professions. The fourth and final stream will be reserved for exceptional talents.

A particularity of the third stream is that candidates will need to demonstrate that they have initiated the process with the professional regulatory body governing their profession in order to be invited to apply under this stream. Additionally, they must have obtained a partial or complete equivalency recognition of their diploma.

Currently, such proof is not required for candidates practicing a regulated profession.

In the new program, the points-based system will no longer be used for applicant selection. However, the selection process will still operate through invitations.

French proficiency: a requirement for Multiple Programs

For several years, French proficiency has indeed been an eligibility criterion for several immigration programs in Quebec. It should be noted that the province of Quebec enjoys the highest level of autonomy in selecting its immigrants among all Canadian provinces. Therefore, welcoming French-speaking immigrants has long been a priority for Quebec.

While French proficiency is not necessarily a current requirement for temporary immigration to Quebec (work or study permits), it is often required when applying for permanent residency.

Currently, under the Québec Experience Program (PEQ), the primary pathway to permanent residency in Quebec, principal applicants must demonstrate a minimum level 7 of oral French proficiency. Their spouses, on the other hand, must demonstrate at least level 4 proficiency in the same skill. These requirements apply to both the stream for workers and the stream for students.

When not required, French proficiency often grants additional points. This is currently the case under the Quebec Selected Skilled Workers (QSSW), the other main pathway to permanent residency.

The announced changes will further reinforce these existing criteria of French language proficiency for immigration to Quebec.

A standard extended to all Immigration Programs

The first announced measure is the requirement of oral French language proficiency, which will now be extended to all economic immigration programs. This requirement will apply to all adult applicants. However, it should be noted that this requirement will only apply to applications for permanent immigration and not temporary immigration.

By demanding French language proficiency as an eligibility criterion, the Quebec government aims to ensure that immigrants who settle in the province are able to communicate effectively in French, fully participate in social and economic life, and integrate harmoniously into Francophone society.

Regular Skilled Worker Program (RSWP)

French proficiency, which currently grants additional points under QSSW without being a requirement, will now become mandatory under RSWP. This new program aims to place more emphasis on French language proficiency as a determining criterion in the selection process for qualified workers.

However, French language requirements will be adjusted based on the qualification level of the profession. For the first three streams of RSWP, candidates will need to demonstrate the following French language proficiency:

  • For adult candidates working in a NOC skill level 0, 1, or 2 profession: level 7 oral and level 5 written proficiency.
  • For adult candidates working in a NOC skill level 3, 4, or 5 profession: level 5 oral proficiency.

Under these same streams, spouses will need to demonstrate a minimum level 4 oral French proficiency.

The only exception to these new requirements is the fourth stream, exceptional talents, for which no French language proficiency is specified.

Québec Experience Program (PEQ), Quebec Graduates Stream

The current version of the Quebec Graduates stream does not specifically provide provisions regarding French language studies. In its future version, students will be required to have completed an eligible French-language program of study under PEQ. Alternatively, they must demonstrate at least three years of full-time secondary or post-secondary studies in French. These studies may have been completed outside Quebec.

In addition, a minimum level 5 proficiency in written French will be required.

Investors, Entrepreneurs, and Self-Employed Workers Programs

For these three programs, which have been suspended for several months, the announced changes will be significant. Principal applicants will now be required to demonstrate a minimum level 7 oral French language proficiency.

Non-French-speaking entrepreneurs or investors will no longer have the opportunity to apply for these programs to obtain permanent residency.

Investors will also be required to provide evidence of a temporary stay in Quebec for at least 12 months prior to obtaining the CSQ (Quebec Selection Certificate).

Family Reunification

The requirement of French language proficiency will also be extended to some extent to sponsorship applications. From now on, sponsors (in the context of these applications) will be required to submit an integration plan that includes French language learning for sponsored immigrants.

Other Changes

Among the other announced measures, two important changes concern the Québec Experience Program (PEQ). Firstly, in the Quebec Graduates stream, the requirement to complete 12 or 18 months of work experience after the program of study will be removed. Similarly, applicants will no longer be required to be employed at the time of application. A Quebec graduate will be able to apply for permanent residency upon successfully completing their program of study.

Regarding the Workers stream, the requirement of 24 months of work experience remains. However, jobs classified as NOC skill level 3 will now be eligible for the program. This will make it easier for many professions that do not require college-level diplomas to obtain permanent residency in Quebec.

The proposed regulations also confirm that jobs held by foreign nationals on their own account or on behalf of a company they control will no longer be considered as work experience under immigration programs for skilled workers (PEQ, RSWP, and various pilot programs).

The same rule applies to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (LMIA/CAQ): foreign nationals who come to Quebec temporarily must not be employed by a company they control.

Finally, regarding immigration thresholds, the Government proposes to increase these thresholds to reach 60,000 admissions annually by 2027, in addition to Quebec graduates. However, an alternative scenario suggests maintaining the threshold at 50,000 annual admissions.

Please note that the effective date of these measures is still unknown. All the changes will be published in the official Gazette of Quebec as of June 7 and will be open for comments for 45 days.

The use of masculine forms in the text is for the purpose of brevity. This article covers recent news subject to change at any time. The last update was made on May 26, 2023.

This article contains general information regarding immigration, is intended to provide a general understanding of the terms and does not constitute legal advice. For complete legal advice, contact our professionals.

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