Is a scholarship considered a wage for Express Entry?

A schorlarship is not considered a wage for Express Entry, according to Justice Petney

Last updated on
December 17, 2023

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The question of whether a scholarship is considered a wage for Canadian work experience under Express Entry has been clarified by Justice Pentney of the Federal Court of Canada. According to his interpretation, a scholarship does not constitute work, as it does not fall under the category of "an activity for which wages are paid or commission is earned," as defined by section 73(2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) and the Ministerial Instructions for Express Entry. It's important to note that Express Entry employs a narrower definition of work in comparison to section 2 of the IRPR.

Why is this important?

This distinction is significant, particularly for individuals like visiting lecturers at universities or colleges who wish to apply for permanent residence. While their activities may be considered work under section 2 of the IRPR, the method of compensation matters. If they receive tuition or a scholarship rather than a wage, their work experience may not qualify as Canadian work experience for Express Entry, as section 73(2) of the IRPR explicitly requires wages or commissions to be paid.

The case at hand

In the case of Wang v Canada (MCI), 2021 FC 980, an applicant's eligibility for permanent residency under the Canadian Experience Class was at stake. The applicant, a visiting lecturer at the University of British Columbia, received a scholarship for her research but did not receive a salary or benefits from the university. Despite her strong academic contributions, her application was initially refused by IRCC, leading to a judicial review.

The crux of the matter revolved around the definition of work and its implications for Canadian Experience Class eligibility. The applicant argued that IRCC should consider the broader definition of work under section 2 of the IRPR, which encompasses activities "in direct competition with the activities of Canadian citizens or permanent residents in the Canadian labour market." However, Justice Pentney and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration maintained that the narrower definition serves the purpose of granting permanent residence based on the individual's ability to become economically established in Canada.

[27] The purpose of the Canadian Experience Class of the Express Entry System is to facilitate the granting of permanent residence for a certain group of individuals, namely, “a class of persons who may become permanent residents on the basis of their ability to become economically established in Canada, [based on] their experience in Canada…” (Regulations subsection 87.1(1)). Applicants under the Canadian Experience Class demonstrate their ability to become economically established in Canada, in part, by providing proof that they have acquired at least one year of full-time work experience in Canada (Regulations paragraph 87.1(2)(a)).

[28] Evidence of at least one year of full-time work is one of the key attributes of members of the class. Work experience that does not meet these requirements would not demonstrate an applicant’s ability to become economically established in Canada. Nor would work experience that was unpaid. This explains why the narrower definition of “work” provided in subsection 73(2) of the Regulations (“an activity for which wages are paid or commission is earned”), applies in reference to the Canadian Experience Class.

[29] I agree with the Respondent that this purpose also points towards a narrower definition of the concept of wages. The program seeks to identify applicants who have received a salary for their work, and who are therefore expected to continue to be able to support themselves after they are approved for permanent residence. Applying a wider definition would not necessarily help determine whether the individual’s work experience would likely translate into future success in the Canadian job market.

In essence, this interpretation underscores the importance of understanding the specific definitions and criteria set forth by immigration authorities when assessing Canadian work experience for Express Entry. It also highlights the complexities involved in such cases and the need for legal guidance to navigate them effectively. For individuals seeking permanent residency, ensuring a thorough understanding of these distinctions is crucial to a successful immigration journey.


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Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is general informational purposes and it is not legal advice. The information not a substitute for professional legal advice, and it may not be appropriate for you. Do not rely exclusively on this blog. Always conduct your own research and due diligence. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, immigration laws and regulations can vary and change over time. It is important to consult with a qualified immigration lawyer if you are unsure how to proceed.

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