For foreign tradespeople planning to move to Canada permanently, the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) under Express Entry is an attractive immigration program. The FSTP’s high intake targets, ease of application, and quick processing times make it attractive to newcomers with trade experience across the world.
However, applying for permanent residence (PR) in Canada is a lengthy, complicated process, and not all applicants qualify for it. In this article, we cover the eligibility requirements and application process for the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) in detail, so you are well-prepared to apply for Canadian PR through Express Entry.
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What is the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP)?
The Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) is one of the three economic immigration streams under Canada’s Express Entry. The program allows skilled tradespeople with at least two years of work experience and at least moderate proficiency in English or French to qualify for permanent residence (PR) and settle in Canada.
All Express Entry programs encourage foreign nationals to apply online and have faster application processing compared to other Canadian immigration programs. Although the government does not set separate targets for the Federal Skilled Trades Program, the combined intake targets for three economic immigration streams—FSTP, Federal Skilled Worker, and Canadian Experience Class— are very high, making these programs attractive to newcomers.
Eligibility criteria for immigration to Canada through FSTP
To be eligible for the Federal Skilled Trades Program, you must meet the minimum requirements stated below:
Skilled work experience requirement for Federal Skilled Trades Program
- You must have at least two years of full-time work experience (3,120 hours or more) in an eligible skilled trade in the last five years. If you’ve been working part-time, you must have worked for an equivalent number of hours in the five years prior to your application. Your work experience can be in any country.
- You must have received payment for your work in the form of wages, salary, or commission. Unpaid work, including volunteer work and internships, does not count toward the minimum qualifying requirement.
- Your work should meet the job requirements (with the exception of a certificate of qualification, if needed) and duties for that skilled occupation, as listed in the National Occupational Classification (NOC) description.
Language ability requirement for Federal Skilled Trades Program
Your language test score is an important qualification criterion for the FSTP program. To qualify:
- You must take an approved language test in English, French, or both. These tests, such as the IELTS or CELPIP for English, and the TEF and TCF Canada for French, assess you on four language abilities: writing, reading, speaking, and listening.
- Your language test scores should meet at least a Comprehensive Language Benchmark (CLB) 5 in speaking and listening and CLB 4 in reading and writing.
- You’ll need to enter your language scores in your Express Entry profile.
- Your language test results must be valid (less than two years old) on the day you apply for permanent residence.
Job offer or certificate of qualification requirement for FSTP
Foreign nationals applying for the Federal Skilled Trades Program must have one of the following:
- A full-time job offer from a Canadian employer that’s valid for at least one year from the time when you become a permanent resident of Canada. Note that in most cases, a Canadian employer that wishes to extend a job offer to a non-resident will need to obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment, and will only do so if they are unable to hire a suitable candidate in Canada.
- A certificate of qualification in your skilled trade from a federal, provincial or territorial regulatory authority that governs trades in Canada. In most cases, you’ll need to pass a certification exam and meet other requirements when you apply for a qualification certificate.
Education requirements for Federal Skilled Trades Program
You don’t require any educational qualifications to be eligible for FSTP. However, you can still receive extra Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points for your educational credentials, which may improve your rank in the Express Entry pool.
If you completed your education outside Canada, you’ll need an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) to prove that your degree, diploma, or certificate is valid and equivalent to a Canadian one.
Eligible occupations for the Federal Skilled Trades Program
Not all skilled tradespeople are eligible for immigration to Canada under the FSTP. The occupational groups that do qualify for the Federal Skilled Trades Program, include:
Before applying for FSTP, check the government’s National Occupational Classification (NOC) to ensure your occupation is eligible. You’ll have to show that your prior experience matches the job duties and responsibilities listed in the occupational description for your NOC.
How to apply for PR through the Federal Skilled Trades Program
The application process for the Federal Skilled Trades Program under Express Entry is fairly simple and detailed instructions are provided for each step by the government. We’ve broken down the process into steps to make it easier to understand:
Get a Canadian trades job offer or certificate of qualification
You must have either a Canadian full-time job offer or a certificate of qualification from a federal or provincial/territorial authority (will depend on which trade you practice). You can find jobs in your field in Canada using job portals like Monster, Indeed, LinkedIn, or Glassdoor, or network with other trades professionals to learn about the industry and available job opportunities.
The eligibility requirements for a certification of qualification may vary depending on your skilled trade and provincial/territorial process. In most cases, skilled tradespeople with foreign experience need to pass a qualifying examination and complete an apprenticeship or Trade Equivalency Assessment in their province to get the certification. For instance, in Ontario, certification can be obtained through Skilled Trades Ontario, and in British Columbia, the trades regulator is Skilled Trades B.C.
Check your eligibility for Express Entry
Before you begin your application, check if you’re eligible for Express Entry using the government’s questionnaire. You’ll need to answer a few questions about your nationality, language skills, age, work experience, education, and more. The tool will then provide information on which Express Entry programs you may be eligible for and generate a personal reference number you can use to pre-fill part of your Express Entry profile later.
Create an IRCC account and Express Entry profile
If you’re found eligible for FSTP, create an account on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website. The next step is to create an Express Entry profile for the Federal Skilled Trades Program, but before you get started, you must take an approved language test and gather documentation, such as your passport, your National Occupational Classification (NOC) codes, and more.
In your Express Entry profile, you’ll need to fill out some basic information such as your work experience, education, language test scores, age, provinces you’re interested in living in, and more.
Submit your profile and enter the Express Entry candidate pool
When you submit your completed Express Entry profile, it will enter the candidate pool where it will remain active for up to one year or until you receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for PR, whichever is earlier. You must keep your Express Entry profile updated while it is active and make sure all your information is accurate.
After you submit your Express Entry profile, the system automatically calculates your Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score based on the information you provided and assigns a rank to your profile.
Wait for an Invitation to Apply (ITA)
The Government of Canada conducts periodic draws (usually every two weeks) to determine the minimum CRS score cut-off for Express Entry programs. Candidates whose CRS scores meet the cut-off are invited to apply for Canadian permanent residence (PR).
In March 2023, two Express Entry draws were held and FSTP candidates with CRS scores of 490 and 484 and above were invited to apply for PR. Once you submit your Express Entry profile, keep track of the Federal Skilled Trades Program draw results on the government website as the cut-off scores change with every draw. If your score meets the latest cut-off, you’ll receive an ITA in your IRCC profile along with email communication about the invitation.
Submit your permanent residence (PR) application
After receiving an ITA, you have 60 days to submit a permanent residence application or reject the ITA.
You’ll need to provide several documents along with your PR application, such as your language test results, ECA, Canadian job offer or certificate of qualification, and employment letters from past employers. You may also need to provide additional documentation, including proof of settlement funds to cover your living expenses in Canada for a few months and police certificates to verify that you don’t have a criminal background.
Before submitting your PR application, you’ll have to pay the application fee, including the processing fee, right to permanent residence fee, and biometrics fee.
Get your Confirmation of Permanent Residence (CoPR)
After the IRCC receives your application, they will review your documents and make sure the application is complete. You’ll receive an acknowledgement or instructions on submitting additional documentation. You may be asked to appear for a medical test at an authorized healthcare centre before your application is approved.
Once your application is approved, you’ll receive a Confirmation of Permanent Residence (CoPR) along with instructions on the next steps. You may be asked to submit your biometrics (unless you’ve already submitted your biometrics for a Canadian visa in the last 10 years). If you require a visa to travel to Canada, you’ll have to submit your passport to get your immigrant visa stamp.
Do you need proof of settlement funds while immigrating to Canada through FSTP?
Most Federal Skilled Trades Program applicants have to show proof of settlement funds while submitting their application for PR. However, you do not require proof of funds if you have either of the following:
- A full-time Canadian job offer valid for at least one year from the time you receive permanent residence
- A valid existing Canadian work permit that allows you to legally work in Canada.
The minimum required settlement fund amounts are revised each year, so be sure to check the government’s website and plan accordingly. For 2023, the minimum settlement funds requirement is $13,757 for individual applicants and $17,127 for two family members applying together. For each additional family member, you’ll require between $3,500 and $4,000 extra.
The cost of living in Canada can be quite high and varies significantly from city to city. Depending on where you plan to live, the minimum required settlement funds may not be enough to cover your living expenses during your first six months in Canada. Use Arrive’s cost of living in Canada calculator to estimate your monthly expenses in your future city.
Do you need a Canadian job offer to apply for FSTP?
You must have either Canadian employment or proof of employability to qualify for FSTP. Most applicants require a job offer from a Canadian employer to qualify for PR through the Federal Skilled Trades Program. To be eligible, your job offer must be full-time (30 hours per week or more), paid, and for at least one year.
The only exception is for applicants who have a certificate of qualification in an eligible skilled trade from a provincial or federal regulator in Canada. A certificate of qualification proves that you’ve passed the certification exam, met other eligibility requirements, and are authorized to practice your skilled trade in Canada.
What is the processing time for PR applications under FSTP?
Typically, it takes up to six months for PR applications submitted through the Federal Skilled Trades Program to be processed. This includes the time it takes to submit your biometrics but not the time before you submit your permanent residence application.
However, application processing time can vary depending on the country you’re applying from, whether your documents are complete and easy to verify, and the IRCC’s application backlog. Check the government’s website for up-to-date information on FSTP processing times.
What is the application fee for the Federal Skilled Trades Program?
The application fee for FSTP is $1,365 per adult, which includes an $850 processing fee and a $515 right of permanent residence fee. Applicants with children also need to pay a $230 processing fee for each dependent child.
In addition, you must pay a biometric fee of $85, if you’re applying as an individual or $170 if your application includes two or more family members.
Can I live anywhere in Canada if I qualify for PR through FSTP?
As a permanent resident of Canada, you have the right to mobility, which means that you can move to and live in almost any province or territory in Canada. However, if you’ve qualified for PR through the Federal Skilled Trades Program, you must plan to live anywhere except Quebec. The province of Quebec selects its own PR candidates through the Quebec Selected Worker (QSW) program.
As a skilled tradesperson, applying through the FSTP program is just one of the options available for you to immigrate to Canada. Many provinces also nominate skilled tradespeople through their Provincial Nominee Programs, and if your occupation is not on the FSTP list, those could be a great pathway to PR. In addition, you can explore the QSW program and other immigration programs for foreign nationals.