Getting back into your professional field in Canada may require a loan

Understand the types of loans available from different institutions

In the Dominican Republic, Eric was trained in graphic design and he built a successful career as an entrepreneur and designer for 15 years. He was looking for new challenges and opportunities for himself and his young family, and Canada beckoned.

Eric talked to people he knew living in Canada to see if it was a good fit, and he, his wife and son arrived in Ontario in 2018, ready to start a new life. “I did my homework, trying to come prepared,” says Eric, who wanted to focus his job search on user experience (UX) design career opportunities.

It’s not a regulated profession in Canada, so he didn’t face licensing barriers. But as a newcomer facing some English language challenges and lack of familiarity in English UX terminology, he felt unprepared. His first job interview confirmed this. So, he decided to go back to school and take a 10-week intensive course in UX and product design. To ensure his savings lasted until he found work in Canada, he decided to apply for a loan to help cover the tuition.

Types of loans for skilled immigrants

There are a variety of ways to access loans in Canada to cover training, licensing and other related costs, from student loans to affordable career loans to traditional banks with loans or lines of credit.

Student loans

The Government of Canada along with each province offers grants and loans to students, including permanent residents, looking for help to pay for post-secondary education.

How much you can receive either in a grant (money you don’t have to repay) or a loan (money you will have to repay) depends on many factors, including your family income, if you have dependants, the cost of tuition and your living expenses. You can check out how much you might be eligible for by completing the online federal Student Financial Assistance estimator here.

There are many variables that go into determining if you’re eligible for student loans, including what academic institution you want to study at. In other words, to be eligible for a government student grant or loan, you have to be attending school at an institution approved by the government or on its list of certified institutions.

In Eric’s case, the industry-specific UX program he wanted to attend wasn’t on the list.

Affordable career loans

Eric turned to Windmill Microlending, a registered not-for-profit whose mission is to help skilled immigrants and refugees access low-interest, affordable career loans, up to $15,000, to help them achieve career success in Canada. The microloans can be used to subsidize tuition for post-secondary training of two years or less, as well as licensing fees, qualifying examination fees, credentials assessments, French or English language training, relocation and living expenses, and other costs that may arise as you work toward starting a new career or re-entering your professional field in Canada.

“I researched different ways to get funding, including the Ontario Student Assistance Program, but none of the schools I wanted to apply to accepted it,” says Eric. “When I contacted someone from OSAP, they suggested I go to Windmill Microlending. I researched a little bit about the organization and applied for the loan.”

He used the loan to pay for the UX training and, a month after graduating, received a job offer in UX design.

“My experience with the Windmill team was really nice. I didn’t have to spend a lot of time in the process. They evaluated my case, and I got the loan really fast,” adds Eric.

Read more about Eric’s journey here.

“We strive to ensure that the skills immigrants bring to Canada are fully utilized and not wasted,” says Claudia Hepburn, chief executive officer of Windmill Microlending. “We assist newcomers like Eric with low-interest loans that give them the opportunity to pay for all the costs that come along with establishing their careers in Canada. Our refugee loan program is also unique in that refugees pay no interest at all.”

Traditional lending

For skilled immigrants who may need a little more money to help pay for an educational program longer than two years, for example, you may want to try a more traditional route like applying for a line of credit or personal loan from a financial institution like a bank or credit union. The amount you can borrow, the credit limit, the interest rate and term of repayment will vary based on the institution and your situation.

Traditionally, these types of loans have been challenging for newcomers to access. Financial institutions typically want to see a regular income, assets like a car or home, and a credit history. (Come back to the Financial Planning page to read our article on credit history here!)

But, depending on how long you’ve been in Canada, you probably don’t have any of these things yet. Some banks recognize the barriers that newcomers and students face in accessing funding for school and have customized some banking and lending options for them.

Other financing options

Other options include applying for a credit card, but you’ll likely be faced with a low credit limit (the total amount you can charge to the card) until you have a strong credit history in Canada. Credit cards also have higher interest rates than loans.

Finally, there are also some fast, short-term lending options known as payday loans. These are easy to get, but they are risky as they have extremely high interest rates and fees, often leading to unwelcome debt.

What’s the right type of loan for you? Read more of our articles listed in the checklist below to help you choose the right loan and educational program on your road to success in Canada.

The Skilled Immigrant Career Success Guide,  a roadmap to help internationally educated immigrants achieve their full career potential in Canada, is sponsored by Windmill Microlending. To learn how a Windmill affordable career loan can help move your career in Canada forward, visit


Before you get a loan, there are many things to consider along the way to career success in Canada.

Are you thinking about going back to school for a Canadian credential? Learn the big picture questions you need to ask yourself in our article to be published here.

Do you also need to brush up on your soft skills before entering the labour market? See our article on communication and other soft skills here.

Have you had time to build up your credit history in Canada? Check out our article here to help you understand why credit scores are important.

Want to know more about affordable career loans from Windmill? Read our article on how to apply or see if you’re eligible for a low-interest affordable career loan from Windmill Microlending here.

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