Rights and Governments

Access to English Schools in Quebec: The Certificate of Eligibility and Other Options


Bill  96 has changed some of Quebec’s language laws. This article is up to date and reflects the current rules.


In Quebec, not everyone has the option to attend school in English. Parents must usually apply for a “certificate of eligibility” or permission by the government for their children to have this right. 

This requirement does not apply to  

  • non-subsidized private English kindergartens or schools,  
  • English adult education centres, CEGEPs, and 
  • universities.  

Having a certificate of eligibility on file can also have other uses than allowing someone to attend English school. 

Read on to learn about who is eligible to study in English, what the application process is like and how having a certificate of eligibility protects other linguistic rights and affects CEGEP admissions. 

Who Can Attend an English School? 

Your child must have a certificate of eligibility or permission to attend English school in order to apply to a public or subsidized private English 

  • kindergarten, 
  • elementary school, or
  • high school.

You can apply for a certificate of eligibility for your child if they have a right under the law to study in English. If they don’t qualify for the certificate, you can also ask for special permission for your child to attend English school in certain circumstances. Finally, temporary permission to study in English for up to 3 years can also be given in some situations.

Type of eligibility

Who qualifies

Certificate of eligibility


  1. Children who did a major part of their studies in English in another province, as well as their siblings. At least one parent must be a Canadian citizen.
  2. Children whose parent did a major part of their elementary schooling in English in Canada. The parent must be a Canadian citizen.
  3. Children whose parent attended a French school in Quebec after August 26, 1977, despite being eligible to attend English school at the time.
  4. Children who, during the previous or current school year, attended English school in New Brunswick, if at least one parent lives in Quebec. Their siblings also qualify.

Special permission


  1. Children with serious learning difficulties (with evaluation by a psychologist required) and their siblings.
  2. Children facing a serious family or humanitarian situation (must have first been refused a certificate).
  3. Indigenous children who live or have lived and went to school in a First Nations community, or on Cree or Naskapi lands and were taught primarily in English or in an Indigenous language during the past school year.

Temporary permission

(Max 3 years, renewable in some cases)

  1. Children whose parent is studying or working in Quebec temporarily.
  2. Children studying or working in Quebec temporarily.
  3. Children whose non-Canadian parent is in Quebec working as a diplomat or employee for a foreign country or an international organization.
  4. Children whose parent is in the Canadian Armed Forces and temporarily assigned to Quebec.

It’s important to note that some schools are non-subsidized at the elementary school level, while being subsidized at the high school level. Your child will need a certificate of eligibility to attend the subsidized high school even if they graduated from the affiliated elementary school. 

How to Apply for a Certificate of Eligibility or for Permission to Attend English School 

Where to Start   

For public schools, parents must apply through the English school board in their area.  

For subsidized private schools, parents must apply directly to the school. 

Some unsubsidized private English schools can help you apply for a certificate of eligibility for your child even if the certificate isn’t required to attend the school. Parents of children who attend unsubsidized private English schools or French schools can also apply for the certificate through the English school board in their area. 

Forms and Other Documents  

The school board or private school will provide the forms. They also help parents fill them out and understand what documents they need to collect. 

The documents needed depend on which category the child fits into. For example, the documents might include a letter from a school outside Quebec showing that a parent did most of their elementary schooling in English elsewhere in Canada. In all cases, a copy of the child’s birth certificate showing the parents’ names must be provided. 

How Long It Takes  

Once the school board or private school has all the documents, it sends the file to Quebec’s ministry of education. 

If the file is complete, the ministry usually gives a written answer to the parents or legal guardians and the school within 10 working days. 

Challenging a Refusal   

If the Quebec Ministry of Education refuses a request to go to an English school, the parents or legal guardians can challenge the decision. 

In most situations, a challenge must be made within 60 days of getting the decision. The challenge must be made to a special court called the Tribunal administratif du Québec. The website of the Tribunal has information on how to file a challenge.  

If a parent or guardian wants to claim a serious family or humanitarian situation as a reason for a child to go to an English school, the challenge must be submitted to a special committee of the Quebec Ministry of Education within 30 days of receiving the refusal. The website of the committee explains the procedure.  

Other Reasons to Apply for the Certificate of Eligibility 

While a certificate of eligibility is usually required to attend English school, it is not required to attend a non-subsidized private school, nor it is required to attend a French school. However, parents should consider applying for the certificate for their child even when it is not required.  

Having such certificate of eligibility on file before the end of high school education can safeguard rights, such as the rights to receive government communications and services in English and to pass on the right to attend English school to one’s children. It may also be of use to students applying to CEGEP programs. 

Fixed cap on CEGEP enrollment 

Although there are no restrictions on who can receive English schooling in a CEGEP, the government recently introduced a cap on the total number of students who can be enrolled to study in English at a given CEGEP.  

This cap on enrollment applies to public and private English CEGEPs, whether they are subsidized by the government or not. It also applies to French institutions that have English-language programs. 

In addition to this CEGEP-wide limit, additional program-specific caps apply to programs taught in English that lead to an Attestation of College Studies. 

Having a certificate of eligibility on file will give your child priority admission when applying to an English-language program at a French CEGEP. This rule is in effect as of the winter 2024 semester. Some English CEGEPs also have priority admission measures in place for those that have a certificate.

English CEGEP or French CEGEP?  The government of Quebec’s website has a list of all public and private CEGEPs in the province, sorted by region and language.