CES Updates and FAQs Regarding COVID-19

As a part of the widespread social distancing measures happening across Canada due to COVID-19, the entire University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies staff, including our Comparative Education Service (CES) team, is working remotely. 

The nature of credential evaluation service work includes stages that may only be completed in person, including mail intake, physical document authentication, and all pick-up and delivery services.  This is work that cannot happen outside our CES office on the U of T campus.

As we support our clients in these difficult times, we would like to reassure you of our commitment toward quality, care, transparency, and accountability, and our utmost efforts toward minimizing the inconveniences caused.

Q: I have an application for a credential assessment in progress with the Comparative Education Service. What is the impact on assessment times during the COVID-19 office closures?

The Comparative Education Service has temporarily suspended all in-office operations as of March 18, 2020. As a result, we are unable to receive and acknowledge incoming mail, review and verify the authenticity of physical documents for applications in progress, and carry out pick-up and delivery services for ECA Report packages. Although processing times have been put on hold for most applications due to the operational constraints of academic institutions, please know that we will regain full speed as soon as we are able to return to our premises.

For the time being, the team is committed to processing your application with the online documents you submitted, proactively seeking and implementing digital alternatives wherever available, and will issue electronic copies of your ECA report upon completion of the assessment process.  Physical copies will be issued and delivered to you once our in-office operations resume. Please note that the content of these digital copies is identical to that of the hard copies, and may be used in their place for the duration of the restrictions. 

For more detailed information related to the alternative approach we have adopted to facilitate the processing of your application, please continue to read.

Please check your inbox for regular updates about the progress of your file and any evolving impact on our operations.

Q. My physical academic documents were received at your office before March 18, 2020. My online status marks stages 1 and 2 complete. Is my application affected?

Yes. All applications in progress are affected by our inability to access our premises. The Assessment Team that conducts the 3rd step, “Authentication Review,” cannot complete this step without access to the office if your institution sent us hard copies of your academic record.

We can, however, conduct the review of your academic documents if your former academic institution can issue them electronically. For more information, please check: Q. What are the alternative solutions you are adopting to proceed with my application remotely?

Q. My physical academic documents were received at your office after March 18, 2020. Have you received them?

As we have not had any access to our offices since this time, we are unable to confirm whether your academic documents have reached the University of Toronto premises. Once in-office operations are allowed to resume, we will coordinate delivery with UofT Campus Mail Services and courier companies. We will then process incoming mail sequentially and update your file accordingly.

Q. My academic institution is about to send you my official transcripts / I have an institutionally-sealed envelope with my official transcripts in my possession. How should we send it?

 Until our in-office operations resume:

  • We advise you to use only regular postal service, as we do not have the ability to receive packages via courier service providers. The University of Toronto's Campus Mail services will deliver all envelopes sent through regular mail upon our return to the premises.
  • If the sealed institutional envelope is in your possession, you may choose to hold on the package for the time being and send it to us via courier only after our in-office operations are allowed to resume. Do not open the envelope, as the documents will instantly lose their official status if you do.
  • If you have already sent us a package via a courier service, we recommend that you contact them to ensure it will be held at the company’s site beyond their standard storage policy. We are likewise in communication with the major courier service providers to assess their ability to accommodate us based on impacted volumes.

Q. What are the alternative solutions you are adopting to proceed with my application remotely?

CES is implementing alternative, digital measures for the Authentication Review (stage 3) of your application on a case-by-case basis if you submitted it in December, January or early February:

  • Official Electronic Academic Records

Official academic records that are issued electronically and transmitted via established, secure inter-institutional means are accepted for review. If you wish to partake of this digital alternative, even if we have already received physical copies of your transcripts in our offices, you may contact your academic institution to request that they send your academic documents to us directly to ces.transcripts@utoronto.ca.

The electronic transcript must be sent via an institutional email address belonging to the appropriate office/department/unit that is in charge of academic document issuance or verification. 

  • Alternative Verification Resources

In cases when official academic records are inaccessible as a result of our or the issuing institution’s operational limitations, we may employ alternative authentication resources, including, but not limited to, public registries of graduates / credentials or other digital depositories of student records provided by recognized institutional or governmental authorities. We do this proactively, without any action on your part.

  • Inter-Institutional Verification Procedures

In cases when neither physical academic records nor electronic alternatives are available, we may contact an authorized official of the issuing institution or competent government authority in the source country directly to verify your student records.

For all applications with academic documents received February 15-onward, we will likewise consider alternative procedures in the next phase – that is, if it remains pertinent to do so, depending on the context and extension of the restrictions in place. If we are allowed to return to the office in the upcoming weeks, we might not need to adopt alternative measures for your application once we can resume sequential processing for physical academic documents.

Q. Can you expedite the processing of my application?

We are attempting digital alternatives whenever available for applications submitted in December, January and early February as these files would have all been finalized at this time. In order to maintain equitable access and our unwavering commitment to quality, client care, transparency and accountability, we continue to process applications in the order in which they were received. 

If your academic institution provides electronic issuance and/or verification of academic records, we may be able to finalize the work on your file without further delays. Please reach out to us.

Q. My institution is temporarily closed and cannot send electronic transcripts. What can I do?

Please rest assured that there is no obligation, nor expectation for you to explore these alternative options. Many institutions face closure or other restrictions to their activities. Your application will not be canceled, closed or face further delays due to the temporary inability to obtain official transcripts, or electronic copies of the official transcripts that were already issued in hard copy.

Once we regain access to our offices, we will review the physical documents sent to us by your institution(s) and continue to process all applications sequentially.

Q. Can you assess my file based on my own scanned documents only? Can you make exceptions during this time?

No. CES ECA reports give immigration authorities, employers, educational institutions and regulatory bodies confidence in three elements: the recognition status of your program and institution, the authenticity of your particular documents, and the comparability of these credentials in the Canadian context. We strive to accommodate and remove barriers whenever possible, but we cannot compromise the integrity of the process by waiving the official document requirement. This quality assurance is the very foundation on which you have placed your trust in the Comparative Education Service.

Q. Have the processing times been affected due to the operational restrictions? 

Yes. Regrettably, processing times have been paused for the past 10 weeks due to the limitations on stages 2 and 3 of your application. Thanks to the alternative measures, we have been able to proceed and finalize close to 2,000 applications. That being said, the majority of files are on hold due to our inability to access and authenticate physical documents in our offices and the operational constraints of the issuing academic institutions.

Q. How long will it take to receive my report? When will your in-office operations resume?

We are unable to provide an estimate at this time. As outlined in question 8, please disregard the past 10 weeks from the expected processing time frames, unless alternative digital options are available for your application. Please rest assured that we will regain full speed as soon as we are able to return to our premises. We will keep you informed of our progress and share every update provided by the Government of Ontario and the University of Toronto in the weeks ahead as we obtain more clarity about the gradual reopening of our offices.

Q. Will IRCC, academic institutions, professional bodies, and employers accept the electronic ECA Report, even if it is “unofficial”?

Yes. Official CES ECA reports are printed on security paper; they will be issued and sent to you once our in-office operations are allowed to resume. In the interim, you may submit your electronic ECA report as part of your immigration, employment, and academic applications. IRCC welcomes our e-reports for the entire duration of the office closures.

We also communicate promptly and proactively with institutional recipients about these interim measures. If the employer / regulatory body / academic institution to which you are submitting your ECA report requires a confirmation of its validity, please ask them to e-mail us at ces@learn.utoronto.ca.

Q: I need to submit an application to CES, is it still possible to do so?

Absolutely. We continue to welcome, process and conduct communications on all applications and supporting documents submitted online. Please note, however, that physical documents arriving to our offices after March 13, 2020 will not be processed until our on-site operations resume, and that delays are to be expected as a result.

Q: I am having trouble obtaining academic records or transcripts from my academic institution. Will my application be suspended or canceled?

We fully acknowledge that people may have challenges obtaining their official academic records. We assure you that no applications will be suspended or canceled due to delays you may experience while trying to get your documents to support your CES application.

Q: Has IRCC issued any information that I should know about?

Depending on your situation, you may wish to consult the IRCC website directly.

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