Who can get EI benefits?
If you are unemployed and looking for work, you may be able to get regular EI benefits. To decide if you can get benefits, EI staff will look at the number of hours you worked during your "qualifying period".
Your qualifying period is usually the last 52 weeks before the start of your claim.
Sometimes your qualifying period can be longer. For example, if the 52 weeks includes weeks when you could not work because you were sick, injured, pregnant, or in jail, your qualifying period could go back more than 52 weeks.
Sometimes it can be shorter. For example, if you had another EI claim that started in that 52 week period, your qualifying period only goes back to the start of that claim.
Number of hours
EI rules have changed because of COVID-19. As of September 27, 2020, if you're applying for regular EI benefits for the first time, you only need 120 hours of insurable work for your first EI application during COVID-19. If you have to apply a second time during COVID-19, you will need 420 insurable hours.
These changes are expected to last until September 25, 2021.
The total number of hours you worked in your qualifying period is called your «insurable hours». To qualify for Employment Insurance, you need a certain number of insurable hours.
You will usually qualify for EI benefits if you have 700 insurable hours or more in your qualifying period.
You might qualify if you have between 420 and 700 insurable hours (the higher the rate of unemployment in your area, the fewer the hours you will need).
You will not qualify if you have less than 420 insurable hours.
If you have a record of EI "violations"
Usually, a violation is recorded on your EI file if you gave false or misleading information to EI staff. If you have a record of EI violations in the last 5 years, you might need more insurable hours to qualify.