Competency-Based Assessment: P.Eng. Licensing in Ontario for International Engineers

Competency-Based Assessment: P.Eng. Licensing in Ontario for International Engineers

In Canada, being a Professional Engineer is not solely about possessing technical skills; it is a legally protected and regulated title. The provincial and territorial regulations are critical in protecting the title and maintaining high-quality practicing standards. Canadian laws and regulations guarantee that obtaining this title symbolizes distinction. Being an engineer not only signifies technical competence but also carries severe obligations and the trust that comes with it.

Updated Requirements for P.Eng Licencing: 

For international engineers to gain this prestigious title, understanding and navigating the regulatory path can be quite challenging; however, the evolving regulatory requirements over time have significantly eased up the licensing process, especially for applicants who have been educated and practicing engineering outside Canada. In a series of enhancements, Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO) — the regulatory authority in Ontario — has, as of May 2023, modernized its licensing protocol to align with the Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act (FARPACTA). FARPACTA ensures that foreign professionals have fair, efficient, and transparent access to regulated professions and trades without facing unnecessary barriers. This article briefly summarizes changes enacted and what it would mean for internationally trained engineers to get their professional engineering license in Canada.

Using Competency-Based Assessment (CBA)

CBA is a method of Assessment that focuses on the ability of candidates to perform specific tasks and roles effectively. Unlike traditional forms of work experience submission that relied heavily on submitting open-ended work experience demonstrating focus on applying engineering theory and practice experience, PEO's CBA categorically defines the experience requirement into seven (7) core competencies and thirty-four (34) sub-competencies. Regulators design these competencies carefully to cover the depth and breadth of the spectrum of skills and knowledge engineers go through in their careers within Canada. The seven (7) core competencies include:

  1. Technical Competencies
  2. Communication Competencies
  3. Project and Financial Management
  4. Team Effectiveness
  5. Professional Accountability
  6. Social, Economic, Environmental, and Sustainability
  7. Personal Continuous Professional Development

 No Requirements for Canadian Experience:

As of July 2023, under the new CBA framework, Ontario's regulatory body has taken a significant step to remove the Canadian engineering experience requirement as part of the mandatory licensing process. The legislative changes are a response to the observation by the industry that the absence of Canadian work experience is often identified as a major obstacle for skilled immigrants in Canada, hindering them from obtaining professional certifications and resuming careers in their trained fields. The CBA framework, enacted by PEO, ensures that geographical borders do not confine the path to licensure by shifting the focus from 'where' you gained your Experience to 'how' that Experience has shaped your competencies and 'what' you bring to the engineering landscape in Canada.

The previous legislation mandated all applicants to receive at least 12 months out of 48 months of engineering experience in a Canadian jurisdiction under the supervision of one or more Canadian professional engineers.

To safeguard the public interest in light of the lack of Canadian Experience, the PEO incorporated Canadian Environmental Competencies as part of the new CBA framework. These Environmental Competencies are not additional to the 34 competencies. Still, they are carefully embedded within them to best demonstrate knowledge and Experience of Canadian regulations, codes, standards, quality control, safety awareness, professional accountability, and communication. For instance, an engineer with a rich engineering background in managing water treatment projects in a country with a diverse climate and rigid environmental regulations can bring invaluable insights into sustainable water management in Canada's varied climate conditions. In this scenario, the CBA becomes pivotal in ensuring that such international expertise is thoroughly assessed and aligned with Canadian standards and practices, validating the engineer's adaptability, adherence to safety and quality norms, and proficiency in effective communication and accountability within the Canadian engineering landscape. Thus, this approach not only protects the public interest by ensuring compliance with Canadian engineering standards but also welcomes innovative practices and global expertise into the engineering sector in Canada. The picture below lists all thirty-four (34) competencies within seven (7) categories. The competencies with a green leaf demonstrate environmental competency.

Faster Application Processing Times:

These transformational changes have also brought about a significant improvement in application processing times. A striking feature is the introduction of a 6-month time frame within which PEO now processes applications. This is a breath of fresh air compared to the earlier scenario, where applicants were left in limbo with no defined time frame, often enduring long waits that could stretch beyond a year.

This new 6-month timeline begins once all application documents are completed and submitted. It's a straightforward, well-defined time frame that brings certainty and transparency to the process. Applicants can now plan better, knowing there's a defined end to the waiting period. It alleviates the anxiety associated with indefinite waiting times and aids in better career planning for internationally trained engineers. They can now have a clearer vision of when to expect their licensing outcomes, allowing them to make informed decisions regarding their employment and settlement plans in Ontario.

Revocation of Engineers in Training (EIT) Program:

The PEO also revoked the EIT Program to align with streamlined application processing times. The newly instituted 6-month application processing time has significantly altered the landscape, making the EIT program less relevant. Previously, the EIT program served as a placeholder for applicant engineers, offering them a structured pathway as they awaited the outcome of their licensure applications. However, with the assurance of a 6-month turnaround time, once all application documents are completed, the necessity for an interim EIT status diminished.

The old scenario posed challenges both for employers and engineers. Employers often found themselves in a quandary with EIT title holders on their teams. The lack of a definite timeframe for licensure left employers unsure of the professional growth trajectory of these individuals within their organizations. Conversely, engineers holding the EITs often found themselves in professional limbo, with no clear roadmap towards obtaining their licenses. For example, a major issue that often can be seen is the misalignment between the engineering discipline of an EIT title holder and their actual work discipline. Many held EIT titles in one field while working in another, creating hurdles in meeting licensure requirements. This scenario hindered progress toward licensure and caused workforce misalignment.

Revoking the EIT program resolved these issues. Now, applicant engineers align better with discipline-specific licensure requirements from the start. The 6-month processing time facilitates a quick transition from application to licensure, removing the prolonged interim EIT status.  

Access to the Canadian Job Market:

The engineering labor market in Canada has been grappling with a shortage of skilled professionals like never before – a challenge intensified by the aging workforce experiencing retirements. Yet many highly competent international engineers faced long waits to fulfill licensure requirements. During this waiting period, financial pressures often compelled them to seek employment in fields unrelated to their engineering expertise, representing a loss of valuable skills to the Canadian engineering labor market.

The CBA implementation and swift 6-month processing time collectively are expected to benefit both employers and employee engineers significantly. For employers, this means easier and faster access to a broader talent pool, aiding in filling crucial positions promptly. Internationally trained engineers, on the other hand, gain quicker entry into the Canadian engineering job market, mitigating financial pressures from their underpaid odd jobs. It's worth mentioning that before these adjustments, all applicants were mandated to be supervised by a Canadian P.Eng for a minimum of 12 months. Given the pre-COVID engineering landscape, where remote working was not the norm, this stipulation frequently posed challenges for international engineers residing abroad, hindering their opportunities to engage with Canadian engineering entities. However, the advent of remote working post-COVID, coupled with these regulatory shifts, has created a conducive environment for international engineers outside Canada to collaborate with Canadian companies and pursue their licensure, all without the necessity of physical presence in Canada.

Potential Immigration Benefits

The updated licensing protocol by PEO also opens up enhanced immigration prospects for internationally trained engineers. By allowing remote work experience and removing the Canadian work experience necessity, engineers outside Canada can now gain their engineering license, increasing their chances of receiving formal employment offers from Canadian employers. A formal employment offer is pivotal in the immigration process. As per Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), a valid job offer, especially in a skilled trade occupation, can garner additional Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points, improving the likelihood of being invited to apply for permanent residence.


In short, the actions by Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO) mark a pivotal step towards embracing global engineering talent. By simplifying the licensing process and introducing a rapid 6-month processing time, PEO has removed substantial hurdles for internationally trained engineers. These changes fill the skill gap in the Canadian labor market and propel Canada onto a global stage, showcasing it as a welcoming and inclusive hub for engineering expertise. The ripple effects of these reforms extend beyond the engineering realm, enhancing Canada's global competitiveness and setting a remarkable precedent for other regulated professions. Through these transformative measures, Canada is unlocking opportunities for international engineers and fortifying its engineering landscape for a vibrant and innovative future.

About the Author


M. Usman Khalid, P.Eng, M.Eng. CAMA

Usman is the Licensed Professional Engineer, P.Eng. in the Province of Ontario, with over 12 years of engineering experience in various sectors such as Power and Energy Utilities and Municipalities, Railway and Transport, and Lean Manufacturing.

He attained his Electrical and Computer Engineering degree from the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, specializing in Sustainable Energy. He is currently a member in good standing with Professional Engineer Ontario (PEO), Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada (PEMAC), and Standard's Council of Canada (SCC)

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