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EI While Attending Law School (Mature Students Only)


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Before I write further, I wanted to preface this by saying that the following will not apply to everyone. You need to have a unique set of circumstances to qualify, and definitely will not qualify if you are KJD. I am also not the government of Canada. Programs and rules constantly change, so please contact the federal government if you have any questions. 

Can you receive EI while attending law school? 
Yes. In a few very limited circumstances. First you need to qualify for EI, and then you need what is called a Section 25 referral to be permitted to be in training, collect EI, and not have to look for work. You can get a Section 25 exemption in three ways. A referral by your Province (in BC WorkBC can do this), a referral by an ISET, or Service Canada can refer you for the long tenured workers program that I am going to discuss. 

Note: I am not going to get into qualifying for EI in what I write up. You can find more information here or contact your local Provincial employment organization or ISET about an authorization to quit (but good luck at getting that. It is highly unlikely you get an authorization to quit to go to law school). 

Qualifying Criteria to get Section 25 Referral for Long-Tenured Workers

  • Must be receiving or eligible to receive EI benefits before starting school 
    • You will need to have applied before starting school. Your file might not be processed before the start date - but don't delay applying
  • You must be a long-tenured worker. A long-tenured worker is someone who has: 
    • Received fewer than 36 weeks of EI regular and/or fishing benefits in the last 5 years
      • So those of you that were on EI for a while during the pandemic won't qualify
    • Paid at least 30% of the maximum EI annual premium in 7 of the last 10 years 
      • So essentially most likely employed full time for at least 7 years 

How to Get the Section 25 Referral 

  • After applying for EI and before school starts you need to contact Service Canada and ask for the referral 
  • Fill out the training course information form and submit it through your myServiceCanada account 

Other things to Know 

  • You need to be considered a full-time student at the designated or certified educational institution 
  • If you have a Section 25 referral on file and you put that you are looking and available for work - your file will get flagged. The dates that you put that you are in training need to match what you put input into your weekly EI reports. Do not lie to them (and that particularly goes for anyone who thinks that they can just say that they are looking and available for work while attending law school without a Section 25 referral)
  • Do your weekly reports correctly even if your EI file has not yet been fully processed. It will get backdated 

Why does the Government Allow This?

Through my employment, I have found out that people who are considered long-tenured workers have a harder time re-entering the workforce and this allows people to re-skill without losing access to living supports. Here is a news release here that mentions a tiny bit. In speaking with Service Canada staff, it seems like they don't discriminate between what programs people decide to participate in as long as they are upskilling and it is at a designated or certified institution. This is different from getting a Section 25 referral through your Province or ISET as they may have some things to say. 

Hopefully this helps some of you. I am going to be in the unique situation that my contract ends late in the summer so I was planning to be on EI. I would of course do the work search (and have evidence of it), but being realistic know that no one is going to call me back and hire me for such a short period of time. I intend to submit the Section 25 referral request for long-tenured workers as soon as I am on EI due to the short period of time between my work ending and the start of school. I don't expect that any of it will be processed before I start school, but I am hopeful that this program (or something like it) will continue. I know that EI is doing a review of the entire system. They have been collecting public feedback, and it was also mentioned in their budget documents. So this program might disappear/change/expand/etc. 

Good luck out there! 

(and don't ask me questions because I probably don't know the answer. Contact the government. There was someone on the discord that mentioned that their partner had benefited from this program and it was quite helpful - so maybe there is some of you around here that can offer additional insight if anyone has questions). 

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