If you’re considering applying for a Canadian visa, you may be wondering how your educational credentials in your home country compare to those in Canada – and the immigration authorities (IRCC) will want to know too.
Fortunately, several agencies that IRCC has approved to provide assessments on foreign educational credentials. You can get a report from one of these agencies to provide to the IRCC or when applying to a Canadian institution.
While this report won’t tell you whether or not you’re likely to be granted a visa, you can use the information on it to estimate how many points you’ll get in the Express Entry system. The more points you have, the more likely you are to receive an invitation to apply for residency.
What is ICAS?
ICAS, or the International Credential Assessment Service of Canada, is one of five agencies that have been approved to provide an ECA (Educational Credential Assessment) that will be accepted by the IRCC. When you request your report from ICAS, you’ll receive a Canadian Immigration Assessment Package summarizing your educational credentials.
You can use this report for your own purposes — for example, to see which programs you’re eligible for based on your current level of education — or to submit as part of your application. The report is valid for five years, and can be upgraded or renewed for an additional fee.
ICAS can assess your educational background at all levels, from secondary school to college and post-graduate degrees to technical training. While most applicants for permanent residency through the Express Entry system must submit an ECA, it’s especially useful for people who have studied in multiple countries with very different educational systems. You may not be required to submit an ECA if your most recent studies were in Canada.
No matter where you studied, you’ll be able to see how your credentials fit in to the Canadian educational system, and how they impact the points you’ll receive when applying through the Federal Skilled Worker or Federal Skilled Trades programs. According to IRCC, “Points will be awarded based on the completed Canadian educational credential or the value of the foreign educational credential in Canadian standards.”
There is no minimum education required for the Federal Skilled Trades program or the Canadian Experience Class, but applicants for the Federal Skilled Worker program must have a Canadian high school diploma or college degree, or an equivalent from another country.
Since the ECA does not asses your language abilities, you’ll also need to submit your TEF or IELTS results to prove your proficiency in French or in English.
For some professions, you may also need to meet the licencing requirements in the province where you plan to work. If you’re applying as a physician or pharmacist, you’ll need to get a report from the Medical Council of Canada or the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada, instead of an ECA, depending on the licencing requirements in your field.
You may also need to get an ICAS report if you’re applying to a college or university in Ontario, even if you aren’t applying for permanent residency.
The documents you’ll need to submit vary from country to country, so be sure to take a look at the drop-down list on the ICAS website to find out what’s required for your location. Don’t send original documents, since they won’t be sent back to you. The assessment won’t begin until ICAS has received all of the documents, so wait until you have everything you need before beginning the application process.
For many countries, you won’t need to submit documents relating to your secondary school or high school education if you’ve completed a college degree. For example, if you were educated in the U.S., you’ll need to submit a photocopy of your college diploma and transcript, and have your institution send a paper or electronic copy of your transcript as well.
In India, you’ll need to submit a copy of your diploma or degree and copies of the mark sheets from each year of your postsecondary education. You’ll also need to have your university send copies of the material to ICAS by submitting an Official Records Request Form. They must be sent by your university or technical education board, not your college.
There are some circumstances when you’ll need to submit additional paperwork:
- If the material is in a language other than French or English, you’ll have to include a translation along with the documents
- If your name has changed since you’ve received your educational credentials, you’ll have to submit proof of an official name change
- If you have a Ph.D., you’ll have to include a portion of your thesis or dissertation
ICAS doesn’t accept documents submitted online or by email, so although you can begin the application process online, you’ll have to send your documents by mail or courier.
How to Apply for ICAS in Canada
First, start by looking up the required documents for the country in which you studied. Begin collecting all of the documents so you have them ready when you submit your application.
Second, fill out the application form online and pay the $200 application fee. You’ll receive an email with an ICAS file number and a Document Submission Form. Print this form and mail it, along with the required documents, to the ICAS office, which is located in Guelph, Ontario.
Send an Official Records Request Form to the relevant institution for each qualification, asking them to send official copies of the documents to the ICAS office. You’ll need to send a separate request for each qualification, even if you obtained them from the same institution.
Once you’ve received your report, you can upload it to your Express Entry profile. IRCC will use the report to assign points to your visa application, but the report itself won’t include an assessment of your eligibility or provide an estimate of how many points you’ll receive.
Waiting for ICAS Results
The current processing time for an ECA is 25 weeks from the date the materials are received. Be sure to send your application as early as possible to avoid delays. Remember, the report is valid for 5 years, so you can start this verification process before you create your Express Entry profile. You can always have additional credentials added to your report later.
Applications are processed in the order they are received, and there is no way to place a rush order. You can check the ICAS website for the most recent estimate of processing times. If the wait time is too long for you, consider trying another assessment service instead.
While waiting for your report, you’ll be able to check on the status of your assessment using your ICAS file number. Log in to the online system using your file number and date of birth, and you’ll be able to see when your documents have been received and whether they have been processed. It may take several days for mailed documents to appear in the system.
Once your report is completed, you’ll get two official copies in the mail — one to keep for your records and one to send to the IRCC. You’ll also be sent an electronic copy, and the IRCC will be granted secure online access to your report for up to 10 years.
If you need to add qualification to your report — for example, if you’ve completed another degree before your visa application is processed — you can upgrade your assessment for a $135 fee. You can also renew your report for another 5 years for a $100 fee. You can also appeal your report if you don’t believe the assessment is accurate.
Be sure to keep a copy of the report for your records. In addition to including it with your visa application, you may also need it when applying for some jobs, courses, or licenses.
How We Can Help
Figuring out whether you meet the educational requirements for a Canadian visa can be tricky, especially if you’ve studied in multiple countries and aren’t sure how your studies compare to the Canadian educational system. Are your credentials equivalent to a Canadian high school diploma or a college degree? How many points will they earn you in Express Entry?
While there’s no way to avoid getting an Educational Credential Assessment, we can help you figure out when to apply and ensure you have all the documents you need.
Because it takes so long to receive an ECA, this is a process that you want to begin early. If you’re having trouble navigating the online application process, need help requesting or translating documents, or just want some advice on where to begin, we can help. Reach out to our team today and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible to answer your questions.
As long as you submit all of the required documents, your ECA will be processed smoothly, and you’ll be well on your way to submitting your application for a Canadian visa.