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Applying for Employment Insurance - Common questions

Common questions

Can I qualify for EI if I’m self-employed?

The Canada emergency response benefit provides up to $2,000 every four weeks for up to 16 weeks for those whose work has been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. The benefit is available to self-employed people who would not otherwise be eligible for EI. 

In part, yes. You can't get EI regular benefits. But self-employed workers can get EI special benefits in some cases. To be eligible, you must:

  • be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, and
  • register with the government (by signing an agreement), and
  • operate your own business, or work for a corporation but control more than 40% of the voting shares, and 
  • wait 12 months after registering.

There are six types of EI special benefits available to self-employed workers. The Service Canada website describes them in detail, and has instructions on how to apply. 

Can I get EI if I quit my job?

It depends. If you voluntarily quit your job “without just cause,” you are not eligible for EI regular benefits. What could amount to “just cause” to quit? Some examples include:

  • you experienced sexual or other harassment
  • you experienced discrimination
  • your working conditions were unsafe
  • your employer wasn’t paying you the wages you were legally owed
  • your employer made major changes to your work duties

The EI program outlines circumstances that can amount to "just cause" to quit.

When you apply for EI, you must show that quitting your job was the only reasonable alternative in your case, considering all the circumstances. In other words, you took all the necessary steps to avoid being unemployed. For example, if your boss isn’t paying you on time, you’ll need to show how you tried to fix the problem — such as by talking to your boss or someone else in management. (We offer tips for talking with your employer.)

How long can I collect EI?

You can get regular EI benefits for a period ranging from 14 to 45 weeks. The exact period depends on the unemployment rate in your region, and the number of insurable hours you worked in the qualifying period. See this chart.

Can I leave Canada temporarily and still get EI benefits?

In some circumstances, you can leave Canada and still receive employment insurance benefits.

Your EI benefits won’t be interrupted if you’re outside of Canada for up to seven consecutive days to do one of the following:

  • Attend the funeral of a member of your immediate family or a close relative.
  • Accompany a member of your immediate family to a medical facility, if the treatment isn’t available where they live in Canada.
  • Visit a member of your immediate family who is seriously ill or injured.
  • Attend a job interview.

You can also be outside of Canada for up to 14 days in a row if you’re looking for a job.

While you’re away, the government may compare your EI reports with data from the Canada Border Services Agency. If they find you’ve been misreporting the amount of time you’ve been abroad, you may have to pay a penalty.

Can I live or work outside Canada and still get EI?

Typically, if you work outside of Canada for a Canadian company or the Canadian government, you’re eligible for EI benefits. However, you can’t collect EI benefits if your job is covered by a similar program in the country you’re working in. 

If you live outside Canada, you may be eligible for some types of EI in certain cases. As well, you may be eligible if you live in Canada or the US and regularly cross the Canada/US border between your home and workplace.

See the Service Canada website for more on EI for workers and residents outside of Canada.