Today’s expanding digital age has had a significant impact on eye-health issues. This effect may be more evident in developed countries where technology and digital media had become the norm. That is why becoming an optometrist can be a good career choice in this current age.
Many countries are short on these specialists, including Canada. It is projected that this country will need around 19,700 optometrists from the period between 2019 to 2028. Hence, Canada is opening its doors to internationally-educated optometrists (IEO).
If you’re an optometrist working outside of Canada and are considering taking advantage of this opportunity, we’re here to help you out. We’ve summarized the steps that you need to know to start working in this beautiful country, particularly in the province of Ontario.
Get to Know the Accrediting Bodies Involved in the Process
As with any successful plan, information gathering is a must. Hence, you will need to visit both websites of the credential assessing body and the provincial regulators. Some important information that applicants must note is how much time, money, and documents they will need to complete the process. Knowing these will help you assess your readiness to start your application.
The Federation of Optometric Regulatory Authorities of Canada, or FORAC, is an organization in charge of assessing the professional and educational credentials of IEOs planning to work in Canada. They are also responsible for coordinating with other bodies involved in optometry practices to maintain the profession’s competence and standards in Canada. FORAC will handle the first leg of the application.
After successfully passing FORAC’s assessment, the second part of your application will mostly be involving the provincial regulator. For the province of Ontario, that is the College of Optometrists of Ontario or COO. The process involved with COO leans more towards completing your registration to be able to practice in Ontario.
Note that both organizations have their own set of exams, fees, and requirements.
Preparing the Documents Needed by FORAC
Before initiating your application with FORAC, it is encouraged that applicants review the optometry course description standards published by the University of Waterloo. This will serve as a guide for IEOs to know whether their credentials are at par or similar to Canadian academic criteria and help to determine whether you are eligible to apply.
After confirming that your educational credentials make you eligible to apply, you will also need to have your university education evaluated by World Education Services (WES). WES will perform authentication services by confirming the language, subject, and level of your education as well as the credibility of the educational institution where you completed the program.
FORAC requires IEOs to purchase International Credential Advantage Package from WES. This will allow FORAC to secure your documents directly from WES. Note that you will need to arrange a duplicate copy of the report sent by WES to FORAC.
For IEOs who took an optometry program that was not conducted in English, they must also complete and pass an English Proficiency Test. These can be taken from IELTS, Academic, or CanTest, all with their respective passing marks. The result of the exam needs to be submitted to the FORAC credentialing office during your application.
Submitting an Application to FORAC
It is highly recommended to fill out the downloaded application forms 2, 5, and 23 from the FORAC website and submit them to FORAC at the time you are having your educational credentials verified by WES.
FORAC will not consider your application as active until they receive these eight prerequisites:
- Application for Academic Credential Assessment – Form 5
- Release of Information Authorization – Form 2
- Credential Assessment Fee Payment Form – Form 23
- Document Access Fee Form – Form 24
- A Completed Credential Assessment Evaluation Report from WES
- Official copies of the course description for all optometry related courses taken by the applicant
- Official Documentations on Additional Optometry-related training or educations
- Authentic, true, and dependable translations for non-English Documents
The Canadian Optometric Evaluation Committee (COEC), a committee under FORAC, will then review the active application. Once the COEC approves your application, you will be eligible to take the Graduated Optometrist Evaluating Examination (IGOEE). Otherwise, they can file for an appeal to have their application re-evaluated.
Related article: What is an Internationally Educated Health Professional?
Taking the Internationally Graduated Optometrist Evaluating Examination
The IGOEE is an examination which will be administered by the Touchstone Institute of Canada. Passing the exam is also an important prerequisite to proceed with your application.
Depending on how an applicant scores in the examination, they may either be allowed to take the succeeding exam or be referred by FORAC to undergo a bridging program at the University of Waterloo.
Challenging the Canadian Assessment in Competence in Optometry Examination (OEBC Exam)
While IGOEE focuses on optometrists’ benchmark knowledge using international standards, the Optometry Examining Board of Canada, or OEBC, covers an applicant’s understanding of the safe and effective practice.
Practicing optometrists from across Canada contributes to the examination’s standards and contents to ensure the competence and understanding of foreign optometrists before they start practicing their profession in the country.
Once an applicant has successfully passed the OEBC, they are now ready to contact the regulators for the province they wish to practice to begin their registration.
Applying for Registration with the College of Optometrists of Ontario
After having your application approved by FORAC, you will need to initiate your registration with the COO as they are the provincial regulators for the Ontario region.
There are four general requirements issued by the COO for optometrists applying for registration. The first is meeting the academic requirements. In the case of IEOs, this is already fulfilled by completing the FORAC application.
The second is downloading and submitting a completed application form available on their website. Supporting documents and application fees need to be submitted along with the form as well. Note that they have different application forms for IEOs, depending on whether they apply for a general or academic certificate of registration. Remember to choose accordingly.
If you have a reason to contact the COO proactively, you can use any of their contact information below:
- Email – email@example.com
- Telephone – 416-962 -4071 or 1-888-825-2554
- Fax – 416-962-4073
- Mailing Address – 65 St. Clair Avenue East, Suite 900, Toronto, ON, M4T 2Y3
Completing the Entry-to-Practice and Jurisprudence Examination
Successfully passing an entry-to-practice exam from a COO accredited testing body is another prerequisite for registration. COO currently only acknowledges the following exams:
- Canadian Assessment of Competence in Optometry (CACO)
- Optometry Examining Board of Canada (OEBC) written exam and OSCE
- All three segments of the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) Exam
Note that the entry-to-practice exam can be taken while waiting for confirmation of the application you’ve submitted to the COO. On the other hand, an applicant will only be allowed to take the Jurisprudence exam upon the completion of both the Entry-to-Practice exam and the mandatory Jurisprudence seminar.
The Jurisprudence exam covers the knowledge of laws involved in practicing optometry in Canada. Eligible applicants will be notified about the dates for the upcoming exam.
Upon completing the review of your application and the Jurisprudence exam, you will be contacted by the COO for the completion of your registration.
Completing the Registration
The COO will provide you with instructions on how to register as a member in their database. This process includes paying a membership fee and submitting administrative documents. Optometrists practicing in Ontario will also be required to have active professional liability insurance.
Congratulations! You are now a registered optometrist in Ontario and are free to practice your profession in this region.
1. Health Force Ontario
2. Canadian Association of Optometrists
3. College of Optometrists of Ontario
4. Federation of Optometric Regulatory Authorities of Canada
5. World Education Services
6. Job Bank
7. University of Waterloo