Adopt recommended best practices and guidelines

There are 13 recommended best practices and guidelines that are consistent with the Lisbon Recognition Convention (LRC) in the context of international best practices and can be used by organizations to put in place an alternative qualification-assessment procedure without access to verifiable documentation.

You can consult the practical worksheet developed to support organizations that are thinking of developing new policies or refining existing ones. It is a companion to the 13 recommended best practices and guidelines.

Distinctions have been made, where necessary, between assessment services (e.g., members of the Alliance of Credential Evaluation Services of Canada) that produce assessment reports for recognition bodiesand recognition bodies (e.g., postsecondary educational institutions, professional regulatory authorities, and employers) responsible for recognition.

1 – Governance

Assessment services and recognition bodies should develop policies and procedures that govern their alternative assessment process. These policies should:
  • include information on eligibility, procedures for both staff and applicants, potential outcomes, and appeal procedures; and
  • identify organizational responsibilities for:
    • approving candidates for an alternative assessment;
    • managing the alternative assessment process;
    • approving individual cases; and
    • evaluating, reviewing, and modifying policies and procedures.

Organizations should also put in place favourable conditions to implement these policies and procedures through the allocation of internal resources.

2 – Building awareness

Refugees and those in refugee-like situations may face some challenges common to all newcomers as well as others that may be specific to their experiences and the situations that forced them to flee. Some have witnessed a profound failure of humanity and of institutions and authorities to treat them fairly. Organizations should provide appropriate training to their staff to build understanding and the cultural competence necessary to develop and carry out appropriate policies and procedures.

3 – Eligibility

All applicants who do not have access to verifiable documentation of their qualifications—for legitimate reasons beyond their control—should have access to an alternative assessment of their qualifications. There may be many reasons why an individual cannot access verifiable documentation, including refugee status, institutional closures, and environmental disasters. Organizations should document their rationale for using an alternative approach in each case.

4 – Minimum documentation requirements

Many refugees and those in refugee-like situations may have access to some evidence of their partial studies and/or qualifications. As such, many organizations that adopt an alternative process require at least one document in addition to a sworn affidavit by the applicant. This could, for example, be in the form of:
  • a student-issued or copied transcript or degree certificate;
  • public lists of graduates or other evidence of enrolment or completion;
  • evidence of admittance to state examinations;
  • statements of professional standing;
  • a licence to practise in another jurisdiction.

For recognition bodies, particularly postsecondary educational institutions and professional regulatory authorities, it is recommended that policies identify who or what body (e.g., registrar, council, board committee, appeal committee) has the discretion to waive this requirement in extenuating circumstances.

5 – Translation requirements

Where organizations have the capacity to accept and review documents in the original language, requirements for official or certified translations may be waived.

6 – Use of background papers and sworn affidavits

Background papers/affidavits should include, at a minimum, the information needed to conduct an assessment and/or recognize the relevant qualification or partial studies. This could include:
  • name, location, and date of birth;
  • reasons why the applicant cannot use the “regular” process;
  • description of attempts made to obtain documents;
  • name and dates of the institution/program attended;
  • name of the academic credential granted and the date granted;
  • titles, grades, course hours (credits), or other information normally included on a transcript;
  • other information required (e.g., statement of professional standing, particularly when a specific academic credential is required to enter the profession in the issuing country).
A background paper and affidavits developed by the applicant are necessary in most cases and can be strengthened by affidavits from:
  • fellow students who completed the program at the same time;
  • instructors or professors who taught the applicant;
  • former employers; and
  • other individuals who are not family members.

7 – Use of competency-based assessments

Wherever possible, in the absence of documentation that meets standard document requirements, recognition bodies should endeavour to give eligible applicants access to competency-based assessments. These could include:
  • in general, competency-based interviews with subject-matter experts to inform recognition decisions;
  • for a regulated profession or trade, existing competency-based assessments, such as paper-based or practice-based competency exams required of all new applicants for licensure, or a competency assessment conducted following an internship or other practicum-based job placement;
  • for an educational institution, the ability to challenge final exams or the assessment of a portfolio;
  • in an employment context, an employer may design an assignment or other test to determine whether applicants possess relevant competencies.

8 – Use of prior learning assessment and recognition (PLAR)

Wherever possible, in the absence of documentation that meets standard requirements, recognition bodies should:
  • endeavour to use a broad range of assessment approaches to recognize the applicant's prior learning;
  • assess what an applicant knows and can do and whether he or she has the competencies required for:
    • admission to an educational institution;
    • entry into practice in a regulated occupation; or
    • employment in a non-regulated occupation.

As such, the assessment of formal qualifications is one part of a broader PLAR process, and some of the PLAR processes can also be useful in assessing an applicant's successful completion or partial completion of a formal academic program.

9 – Sharing documentation

To facilitate an applicant's pursuit of work or study opportunities, and only with the consent of the applicant, assessment services and recognition bodies should, where possible, share documents that have informed their assessments.

Such documents may include, but are not limited to:
  • transcripts;
  • degree certificates;
  • lists of graduates;
  • student identification;
  • correspondence with an issuing institution;
  • statements of professional standing;
  • a licence to practise in another jurisdiction;
  • affidavits and background papers; and
  • translations of any of the above.

10 – Contacting institutions

In some cases, while an applicant may not be able to obtain documentation from an institution, an organization in Canada may be able to do so. However, given the potential for harm to an applicant seeking refuge in Canada or to their family members who may have been left behind, it is imperative that organizations in Canada always have the express written consent of the applicant before any contact is made with issuing institutions in the country (or countries) an applicant has fled.

11 – Transparency and public communications

Assessment services and recognition bodies should provide information on the availability of an alternative assessment process. They should also provide, at a minimum, information on how to initiate the process (e.g., completion of an initial intake application to determine eligibility, or contact information for the person responsible for managing the process).

For recognition bodies, where resources permit, it is recommended to meet with prospective applicants by phone, videoconference, or in person, to:
  • describe the process; and
  • determine which documents the applicant may be able to provide.

12 – Transparency in the assessment report

Assessment services that provide a report for other recognition bodies should state in that report the basis on which the assessment was conducted (e.g., identify which documents and/or affidavits were presented).

13 – Fees

Where possible, application fees for the alternative qualification-assessment procedure should be waived or reduced for displaced persons, refugees, and those in a refugee-like situation if there is evidence that fees present a financial barrier. These may also be related to the procedure, such as translation requirements.

Get more information about the Assessing the Qualifications of Refugees initiative, including different approaches, as well as additional primary and secondary sources.


An international academic credential assessment is the process by which academic credentials from one country are compared to those of another country. In Canada, it typically involves two steps: the authentication of a foreign credential and its comparability to similar credentials issued in a particular province or territory. Such assessment is most often performed for the purposes of employment, for obtaining a licence to practise in a regulated occupation, or for admission to a postsecondary educational institution.


International qualification recognition is the process by which an organization—typically a postsecondary educational institution, a professional regulatory authority, or an employer—recognizes that an individual's academic credentials as well as other required documents meet their respective requirements for admission, licensure, or employment.

When members of the Alliance of Credential Evaluation Services of Canada (ACESC) issue an academic credential assessment report, it is a non-binding expert opinion. Postsecondary educational institutions, professional regulatory authorities, or employers may conduct their own assessments, or they may choose to use an assessment report to inform their recognition decision.