How long will it take to complete the Substantial Equivalency Assessment System (SEAS)?

A: You have one year to complete the SEAS process. It can take you considerably less time to complete the SEAS process if you have your documentation in place before starting SEAS.


What does Substantially Equivalent Mean for the SEAS process?

A: ACOTRO recognizes that no two educational programmes are the same.  Substantially equivalent means that an applicant’s qualifications and competence must be equivalent, but not identical to, in all essential respects those of Canadian-educated occupational therapists.  Internationally-educated occupational therapists (IEOTs) are not required to demonstrate a higher standard than the established standards for Canadian occupational therapy education or practice, and there may be differences in how an individual IEOT applicant demonstrates substantial equivalence to the Canadian standard. SEAS looks at competencies and qualifications to determine if the substantial equivalency requirement has been met.


What is an IEOT?

A: An IEOT, or an internationally-educated occupational therapist, refers to anyone who has completed their occupational therapy education from an institution outside of Canada. That includes Canadians who have been educated outside of Canada. SEAS applies to all IEOTs regardless of where they were born and raised.


How is SEAS different from the former IEOT assessment process?

A: Prior to the SEAS, there were significant differences in the way Canadian regulators assessed IEOT applications. Regulators used different language proficiency standards and a variety of external agencies to assess academic credentials. There was also no Canadian educational benchmark for occupational therapists against which to assess an IEOT’s education and competencies.  Finally, assessments were largely based on a review of documentation and did not examine an IEOT’s competencies.

SEAS, however, offers an objective and consistent approach, using a number of new assessment tools that have been rigorously developed and pilot-tested. It also includes an in-person competency assessment that allows IEOTs to demonstrate what they know and can do.

SEAS has five main components:

  • Academic Credential Assessment  (ACA)
  • Curriculum and Fieldwork -PSCA Review
  • SEAS Language Assessment
  • Jurisprudence Knowledge Assessment Test (JKAT)
  • Competency Assessment Interview


When gaps in competencies or qualifications are identified will applicants be provided with information about where to go to fill those gaps?

A: Where possible, ACOTRO will identify the preparatory and bridging or gap-filling education options that already exist in Canada. Over the next two years, ACOTRO will be working with other educational and regulatory partners to identify and develop a range of on-line gap-filling options specifically aimed at IEOTs. 


I’m a U.S. educated occupational therapist who wishes to practice in Canada. Given that English is already my first language, why am I required to formally demonstrate language proficiency?

A: Effective communication is one of the key essential competencies of practice in occupational therapy and is critical for the delivery of safe and effective, quality care. For these reasons all applicants must provide persuasive, objective evidence of language proficiency in English or French. In addition to standardized language proficiency tests (e.g. TOEFL, IELTS), applicants may also meet the requirement by providing evidence by alternative means.


Are applicants who have completed their education in languages other than English or French allowed to complete SEAS in the language of their choice?

A: No. All components of the assessment will be provided in one of Canada’s two official languages – English or French. As such, ACOTRO accepts documents only in English and French. If an original document being submitted exists in a language other than English or French, the applicant must provide a notarized English translation of the document, with the cost of translation and notarization to be borne by the applicant. ACOTRO will translate and cover all costs associated with the translation of any documents from French into English.


Will SEAS accommodate applicants with special needs, disabilities, or religious considerations?

A: ACOTRO will provide appropriate accommodations, within reason and at no cost to the applicant, during the competency assessment session and Jurisprudence Knowledge Assessment Test to individuals who meet our accommodations policy.

The request for accommodation should be submitted at least 30 days before the confirmed assessment dates. All information will be kept strictly confidential by ACOTRO and used only for the purpose of determining appropriate accommodation.


How do I request an accommodation?

A: If you require special accommodations you must provide ACOTRO with documentation that validates both the presence of a disability and the need for reasonable accommodations at least 30 days before the assessment. You will be notified by email if the accommodations have been approved.

When ACOTRO approves disability accommodations that need to occur during the competency assessment, the peer assessor will receive a notice listing the specific details of the accommodation. The reason for the accommodations and disability is not disclosed to the peer assessor unless you provide prior permission to disclose your personal information. In some situations it may be in your best interest that the assessor is aware of the disability.  For example, if you have a seizure disorder or diabetes. In case of an emergency, it could be helpful if the peer assessor is informed.


I’m an IEOT currently going through the process to be registered to work in Canada. How will SEAS affect me?

A: IEOTs who have applied to be registered prior to the launch of SEAS won’t be impacted by the new process. Rather, you will continue through the original assessment process for the province to which you have applied to work. Any IEOT who applies for registration after the implementation of SEAS will automatically be directed through the new SEAS process.  But please note: Internationally-educated occupational therapists who have applied for registration with a provincial regulatory organization prior to May 1, 2015, and whose applications are currently being processed by the college, will have one year within which to complete their registration process under the current system, and will not be required to be assessed through SEAS.  Any current applicants who don’t complete their registration within the one-year period must apply to ACOTRO to complete the new assessment process. 


How do I gain access to the national exam?

A: If you are deemed substantially equivalent, SEAS staff will send a copy of this report to the regulatory college in the province that you have indicated that you want to register. Please note that SEAS does not communicate eligibility to write the National Occupational Therapy Certification Exam (NOTCE).  The provincial regulatory college will communicate eligibility directly to the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT).  You may then contact the CAOT to establish a testing date.  You must also contact the provincial regulatory organization in the province in which you want to work to better understand its requirements for passing the national exam. 


What if I’ve already received a letter of eligibility to write the national exam from the CAOT?

A: You might not be impacted by the new process. If you have received a letter of eligibility to write the National Occupational Therapy Certification Examination from CAOT, and apply, or have applied, for registration with a provincial regulatory organization prior to May 1, 2015, you will continue through the original assessment process as set out by the provincial regulator, and you will not be required to be assessed through SEAS.    

Please note:  You have one year from the date of your registration application with the provincial regulator to complete your registration process under the current system.  You will still be required to be assessed through the new SEAS process if:

  • You did not complete your registration process with a provincial regulator within the one-year period mentioned above
  • You do not apply for registration with a provincial regulator before May 1, 2015.

Applicants who fall into the category above – that is, those who do not apply for registration with a provincial regulator before May 1, 2015, or complete their registration process within the one-year time frame specified – are urged to apply as soon as possible to ACOTRO to complete the substantial equivalency assessment.  Only after they have met the substantial equivalency requirement will they be directed to apply to the provincial regulator of their choice to continue the registration qualification process, which includes writing the national exam. The SEAS process will help determine readiness to write the national exam.


Who can I speak with about SEAS?

A: If you require more information about SEAS, please visit the ACOTRO website - www.acotro-acore.org or email at seas.associate@acotro.org. You can call the ACOTRO SEAS office and speak wit the Credentialing Officer at: 1.844.700.5800, or in Toronto at: 416.681.1000.


[1] The exception will be IEOT applicants wishing to register in Quebec, who will be required to complete that province's assessment process.