Applying to College as an Immigrant Student

Multicultural People

An immigrant applicant is someone who was not born in Canada, but now considers Canada their permanent residence. All programs in Ontario's colleges are open to immigrants, and for the most part, the process for applying is the same as that for Canadian-born applicants. However, differences include that immigrant applicants may be asked to provide proof of landing when applying to college and supporting documents related to their academic history during the application process.

Definitions of proof of landing and the types of supporting documents required will vary by college and by program, so you'll need to check with the colleges individually about their criteria.

If you've had prior training that relates to the area of study you're interested in, it may not be necessary for you to start a program from the beginning. Many colleges offer recognition of prior learning, but again, you'll need to contact the colleges directly to see if you are eligible.

The Canadian Association for Prior Learning Assessment (CAPLA) Experience Matters website provides contact details to service providers who may be able to provide you with support in the recognition of your prior learning (RPL). You will find links to employment services, educational institutions and regulatory bodies where you can get help with the assessment and recognition of your knowledge, skills, credentials, and language, not only in Ontario, but for every province and territory in Canada. To learn more about prior learning recognition, read our section on Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) below.

Note: It’s important not to confuse immigrant applicants with international applicants – international applicants are applicants who are not permanent residents of Canada, but are in the country to study using a study permit.

In addition to standard program offerings, Ontario’s colleges offer a range of programs and services designed to support immigrant students who may be looking to improve on specific skills. These programs provide academic and language upgrading, as well as other professional training, to help immigrants gain meaningful employment and professional licensure in Canada.

We've outlined the categories of programs below. Please note that, aside from post-graduate certificates, many of the programs in these categories will require you to apply directly to the college offering them, instead of through ontariocolleges.ca. Contact the colleges directly for instructions on applying to the programs you're interested in.

Bridging Programs for Internationally Trained Immigrants

Programs of varying length that “bridge” the gap between prior training and experience in a specific occupation and the requirements of the Canadian workplace. Bridging programs are offered for regulated as well as non-regulated occupations through colleges, universities and community agencies. To learn more, visit the Bridging Training Programs page on the Ontario Immigration website.

Post-Graduate Certificates

Certificate programs that offer specialized training required for the Canadian workplace. These programs require prior training and experience in the specific field and are often relevant for immigrants who have previous education and work experience from another country. They are usually one year in length. The applications for graduate certificate programs are handled through ontariocolleges.ca.

Continuing Education

Online or in-class courses and programs available in flexible part-time day and evening hours. These courses are designed to enhance training in a wide variety of occupations.

Please note: ontariocolleges.ca does not process applications for continuing education programs and courses. Visit individual college websites for more information on Continuing Education programs and how to apply.

Academic Upgrading

Courses and programs designed to improve communication, computer, sciences and math skills for admissions to post-secondary programs, many of which result in earning a credential. Academic upgrading offerings vary by college, so you'll need to contact each college directly for details.

Please note: Academic upgrading courses that focus on communication skills are different than those for improving your English proficiency. For more information on those courses, see our Language Proficiency and Training area.

Colleges offer a range of services for immigrants to help develop / determine education and career pathways, as well as make referrals to partners in community and professional organizations.

College Information for Immigrants

Many Ontario colleges have web pages devoted to prospective immigrant students to help guide you through the programs and services they offer.

Advising Services

Many Ontario colleges provide advising services for immigrants and other prospective students in areas such as academic and professional pathways; academic upgrading and language training; admissions requirements and processes; and Second Career information and assistance. They also offer referrals to a broad network of community organizations for career advice, foreign credential assessment and recognition, and other supports. For more information on any of these areas, visit the individual college websites.

Employment / Career Services

Ontario colleges have employment services to assist you in finding employment while in your college program or upon graduation. Many also offer employment services to job seekers in the general public, often through Employment Ontario.

If you have academic documents or transcripts from an institution outside of Canada, it may be necessary for you to provide a Credential Assessment Report. This report helps admissions staff at the colleges compare your credentials to similar credentials earned in Ontario. If you need this report, ontariocolleges.ca will provide you with information on how to obtain it when you apply, or you can contact the colleges you’re interested in directly to see if one will be required.

There are two organizations that provide Credential Assessment Reports:

If you already have a Credential Assessment Report issued by one of these organizations, you can contact them directly to have it sent to ontariocolleges.ca. If you don’t, once you complete the report, the organization will forward it to ontariocolleges.ca automatically. Once we receive your report, we will post it to your application and forward it to the colleges you’ve applied to.

Please do not send original academic documents or transcripts to ontariocolleges.ca. These documents will not be returned.

Credential Assessment for Regulated Professions

A regulated profession is one that sets its own standards of practice for workers to legally work in their profession in Ontario. It's common for regulated professions to accept one type of credential assessment report and not the other, or provide their own credential assessment services, depending on their specific standards. If you're applying to a program that will lead to a career in a regulated profession, be sure to research the credential assessment requirements before you order your credential assessment report, to avoid having to redo it.

You can learn more about regulated and unregulated professions on the Ontario Immigration website.

Document Translation

Some colleges may request that you have your academic documents and transcripts translated. You can contact the colleges directly to help you find a document translating service, or for your convenience, we've included the contact information for one organization. Please contact them directly for pricing.

Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario (ATIO)
1 Nicholas Street, Suite 1202
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 7B7
Telephone: 1 800.234.5030 or 1.613.241.2846
Website: atio.on.ca
Email: info@atio.on.ca

WES requires that you have your academic documents and transcripts translated it they are not in English or French.

ICAS requires that you have an accurate word-for-word translation of your documents that are not originally in English or French.

English Language Proficiency

Regardless of your status (immigrant, international or domestic student), if you have previously studied at an institution where the language of instruction was not English, you will need to provide proof of English Language Proficiency.

English Language Testing

You can have your English language skills evaluated through any of the organizations below; however, some colleges may require one specific test and / or a college language assessment. Minimum scores on these tests will also vary by college, so be sure to contact the colleges you’re interested in directly for their requirements.

  • Test of English As a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
    Website: ets.org/toefl
    Telephone: 1.877.863.3546
    Use Institution Code 0211 when taking the TOEFL test
  • International English Language Testing Service (IELTS)
    Website: ielts.org or ieltscanada.ca
  • Michigan English Language Assessment Battery (MELAB)
    Website: cambridgemichigan.org/test-takers/tests/melab
    Telephone: 1.866.696.3522
  • Canadian Academic English Language Assessment (CAEL)
    Website: cael.ca
    Telephone: 1.855.520.2235

English Language Training

If you’re interested in improving your language skills before you take these tests, many colleges offer English as a Second Language and Workplace Communications programs and courses that focus on subject areas such as language test preparation (IELTS, TOEFL and CELBAN); English for Academic Purposes (EAP); Enhanced Language Training (ELT); Occupation-Specific Language Training (OSLT) and Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC). Many of these are offered in traditional classroom and / or online format, often for no fee to eligible internationally trained individuals. For more information, vist the individual college websites.

French Language Proficiency

If you’re applying for programs taught in French, you may need to complete a test to determine your French language skills. Contact the colleges you're interested in directly, for full requirements details.

Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) is a process that gives you the opportunity to obtain academic credit for one or more courses in a certificate, diploma or degree. You will need to demonstrate that you have acquired the necessary skills and knowledge through life experiences. This may include work, training, independent study, volunteering, travel, hobbies and family experiences.

PLAR is done on a course by course basis. If a course covers material you already know, you can ask for an assessment of your knowledge. This is called a “challenge.” For example, if you have done a lot of computer work, you might challenge a computer course. To assess your learning, you may be:

  • tested with written or oral exams, interviews, or case studies
  • assessed through a portfolio of your work that shows your skills.

Your learning will be evaluated as it would in a classroom environment and your assessment will be graded. This grade will appear on your transcript (PLAR does not result in an exemption), and will count towards your Grade Point Average (GPA).

A fee is usually attached to a PLAR application.

Contact individual colleges directly to learn more about PLAR policies.

Immigrant applicants who are citizens, permanent residents or protected persons are eligible for the same financial aid programs as Canadian-born applicants, including OSAP.

OBPAP

In addition to standard financial aid programs, internationally trained individuals may be eligible for up to $5,000 in bursary under The Ontario Bridging Participant Assistance Program (OBPAP). The OBPAP covers direct education costs (tuition, books and equipment) for students attending non-OSAP approved, current or former Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration (MCI) funded bridge training programs offered by Ontario colleges of applied arts and technology, publicly-assisted universities and the Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences (Michener Institute).

For more information, visit the OBPAP page on the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities website.

RBC Skilled Immigrant Loan

The Skilled Immigrant Loan program offered by RBC provides funding to help newcomers to Canada achieve certifications or licensing in their field. The loan can be used towards your tuition, books and living expenses.

To learn more about the program and view a list of qualifying skilled trades, read the RBC Skilled Immigrant Loan Program flyer. Visit RBC’s Immigrating to Canada page to find information about other financial services to support immigrants.

Immigrant Access Fund (IAF)

The Immigrant Access Fund (IAF) provides loans to new immigrants to help you get the training and licensing needed to continue working in your occupation in Canada. These loans are available to both skilled workers and professionals and may be used for tuition, books and course materials, living expenses, and other education related expenses.

For more information, visit the Immigrant Access Fund website.

WIL's Summary of Foreign Credential Loan Programs Across Canada

Amongst other services and support for immigrants, WIL provides a list of organizations that offer loans to assist internationally trained immigrants in establishing or enhancing their careers in Canada. The loans can typically be used toward academic programs and courses, book and course materials, living allowances and other expenses related to career training.

To learn more about WIL's support for immigrants, visit their Immigrants and Newcomers page or see their complete list of Foreign Credential Recognition Loan Programs Across Canada for more information on Foreign Credential Loans.

Continuing Education Bursaries

Many colleges also offer bursaries for students enrolling in Continuing Education programs. If you're interested in one of these programs, contact the colleges directly for more information.