For newcomers who are considering moving to Canada permanently, the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program under Express Entry is often the most popular immigration program to explore. The FSW program’s high intake targets, ease of application, and quick processing times are only a few of the factors that make it attractive to prospective newcomers from across the world.
That said, applying for permanent residence (PR) in Canada is a huge decision and your future life depends on its outcome. In this article, we cover the eligibility requirements and application process for the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program in detail, so you can be well-prepared to apply for Canadian PR through Express Entry.
In this article:
What is the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program?
The Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program is one of the three economic immigration streams under Canada’s Express Entry. This program allows foreign nationals with a high level of education, work experience, and skills to qualify for permanent residence and settle in Canada.
All Express Entry programs encourage candidates to apply online and have faster application processing compared to other Canadian immigration programs. Another advantage of the FSW program is its high intake targets. Together, the three economic immigration streams under Express Entry are expected to account for over 82,000 new approved PRs in 2023, and the target will increase to 114,000 by 2025.
The Federal Skilled Worker program is the preferred choice for prospective newcomers since it does not require prior Canadian work experience or a job offer from a Canadian employer. (However, having these can improve your chances of being selected.)
What are the selection factors for the FSW program?
Although applying to the Federal Skilled Worker stream is easy, not everyone qualifies for the program. To be eligible to apply to the FSW program under Express Entry, you must score at least 67 out of 100 on the FSW selection grid.
Before you create your Express Entry profile, you must use the Government of Canada’s tool to check your eligibility. You’ll have to answer a few questions about your nationality, language ability, education, work experience, age, family, and job offer (if applicable). The tool will automatically assess your responses and score them against the FSW selection grid.
The entire process typically takes 15 minutes, and if you’re eligible, you’ll receive a personal reference code that you can use to move your information directly to your Express Entry profile.
Broadly, your eligibility will depend on six key selection factors. The selection factors and the maximum scores you can get in each category are listed below:
You can get up to 25 points for your education. If you completed your education programs outside Canada, you’ll need an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) to prove that your foreign credential is valid and equivalent to a Canadian one.
The points you get will depend on the highest level of education you’ve completed, the number of certifications you have, the length of your study programs, and the type of credential you have (such as a degree, diploma or certificate).
Typically, you get 25 points if you have a doctorate degree (Ph.D.) and 23 points if you have a master’s degree from a university or a professional degree required to practice a licensed occupation in Canada (such as law, medicine, dentistry, optometry, pharmacy, or veterinary medicine).
You can get up to 22 points if you have two or more credentials, and 21 points if you have a bachelor’s degree or a three- or four-year diploma. The lowest score in this category is five points for candidates who’ve completed only a secondary school (high school) education.
You can get up to 28 points in this category. You must have at least a Comprehensive Language Benchmark (CLB) level 7 in all four language skills to qualify for the FSW program.
If you have a CLB level of 9 or higher in each of the four language abilities (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) in the first official language, you can get six points for each ability (24 points). If your score is CLB 7 in all language abilities, you get four points for each (16 points) and if your score is CLB 8 in each ability, you get five points per ability (20 points).
You can get four extra points if you score at least a CLB 5 in all abilities in the second official language test.
|| Tip: If you haven’t taken an approved language test yet, you can enter estimated scores at this stage. However, remember to enter your actual test scores when you create your Express Entry profile. If your actual score is significantly lower than your estimate, it may impact your eligibility for FSW.
You can get up to 15 points for prior work experience in a skilled occupation listed in the National Occupational Classification (NOC) TEER 0, 1, 2, or 3 category. This includes any experience gained within or outside Canada, including full-time or part-time work and self-employment.
If you have more than six years of experience, you’ll qualify for 15 points. Four or five years of prior work experience will get you 13 points. If you have two or three years of experience, you can get 11 points. With only one year of experience, you can get nine points.
|| Note:The calculation is based on full-time experience (30 hours per week), however, part-time work experience (15 hours per week) counts as well. If you worked part-time for 24 months, it will be considered equal to 12 months of full-time work.
You can get up to 12 points for this selection factor. The highest score of 12 is given to applicants between the ages of 18 and 35. Beyond the age of 35, applicants lose one point for every year of age, so applicants aged 47 and above get zero points.
Canadian job offer
You can get up to 10 points for a valid Canadian job offer. For your job offer to be considered valid, it must be for continuous, paid, full-time employment for at least one year. In addition, the offer must be for an occupation listed in the NOC TEER category 0, 1, 2, or 3.
You must be qualified for the job you’ve been offered, and if the occupation is regulated, you must be able to get licensed or certified before you begin working in Canada.
Ability to adapt to life in Canada
You can get up to 10 points for this selection factor. You can get points in this category if you meet any of the following criteria:
- Your spouse or partner scored at least a CLB level 5 in all four language abilities in either an English or French language test – 5 points
- You completed a full-time Canadian study program that was at least two years long – 5 points
- Your spouse/partner completed a full-time Canadian study program that was at least two years long – 5 points
- You worked in Canada for at least one year in a TEER 0, 1, 2, or 3 occupation on a valid work permit – 10 points
- Your spouse or partner worked in Canada for at least one year on a valid work permit – 5 points
- You or your partner have a valid Canadian job offer – 5 points
- You or your spouse or common-law partner have a relative aged 18 or more living in Canada as a permanent resident or citizen. This relative can be your parent, grandparent, child, sibling, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew – 5 points
Eligibility criteria for immigration to Canada through the FSW program
In addition to your FSW selection factor score, you must meet certain minimum requirements to qualify for the Federal Skilled Worker program under Express Entry. These requirements include:
Work experience requirement for the Federal Skilled Worker program
To qualify for the FSW program under Express Entry, your work experience must:
- Be in a job in the National Occupational Classification (NOC) TEER 0, 1, 2, or 3 categories.
- Cover all the essential duties and most of the main duties listed for the role in the NOC description.
- Be at least one year long (1,560 hours, calculated at 30 hours per week) and continuous, without any gaps. This can include full-time work at one job, full-time work at more than one job, or an equal amount of part-time work. Any extra hours worked above 30 hours per week don’t count.
- Have been gained within the last 10 years.
- Be paid through wages, salary, or commission. Volunteer or unpaid work cannot count towards your work experience requirement.
Language proficiency requirement for FSW
Your language test score is an important qualification criterion for the FSW 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.
- You must score at least a Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) 7 score across all four language abilities.
- Your language test results must be valid (less than two years old) when you create your Express Entry profile and when you apply for PR.
Education requirements for the FSW program
Education programs completed within and outside Canada are considered for the FSW program. To qualify:
- You must have at least a high school (secondary school) diploma.
- If you studied in Canada, you must have a degree, diploma, or certificate from a Canadian high school or post-secondary institution.
- If you studied outside Canada, you must provide your credentials (degree, diploma, or certificate) as well as an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) from a designated organization to show that your education is equivalent to a Canadian high school or post-secondary credential.
How to apply for Canadian PR through the Federal Skilled Worker program
The application process for the Federal Skilled Worker program under Express Entry is fairly straightforward. We’ve broken down the process into steps to make it easier to understand:
Create an IRCC account and Express Entry profile
First, you must create an account on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website. Once you’ve set up your account, you can use it to create and submit your application, pay processing fees, track your application status, and receive communication regarding your application.
The next step is to create an Express Entry profile. Before you do this, you must check your eligibility for the Federal Skilled Worker program. You’ll also need to appear for an approved language test, get an ECA, and identify your NOC code/s before submitting your Express Entry profile.
You’ll need to fill out some basic information to complete your Express Entry profile, such as your work experience, education, language test scores, age, provinces you’re interested in living in, and more. You can also enter the personal reference number you received when you were first found eligible to pre-fill part of your Express Entry profile.
Submit your profile and enter the Express Entry candidate pool
When your Express Entry profile is complete, you can submit it. Your profile will then enter the Express Entry 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. It is your responsibility to keep your Express Entry profile updated while it is active.
Once you submit your profile, your Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score will be calculated based on the information you provided. All profiles in the Express Entry pool are ranked according to their CRS scores.
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. Candidates whose CRS scores meet the cut-off are invited to apply for Canadian permanent residence (PR).
After submitting your Express Entry profile, be sure to keep track of the Federal Skilled Worker draw results program on the government website. 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 PR application
After receiving an ITA, you have 60 days to either submit a permanent residence application or reject the ITA.
For your PR application, you’ll need to provide supporting documents for the information you entered in your Express Entry profile, such as your language test results, ECA, and employment letters from past employers.
You must also 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. It can take time to obtain letters from your financial institution and local police department, so be sure to start the process as early as possible.
You must also pay the application fee, including the processing fee, right to permanent residence fee, and biometrics fee, before submitting your PR application.
Get your Confirmation of Permanent Residence (CoPR)
Once the IRCC receives your application, they will review the documents you’ve submitted and make sure the application is complete. You will 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 required 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.
|| Note: An immigrant visa only allows you to travel to Canada once, and it expires on the one-year anniversary of your medical test. Some newcomers prefer to do a soft landing a few months or years before moving to Canada permanently. If you intend to do a soft landing in Canada, you’ll need your PR card or a PRTD to return to Canada.
Do I need proof of settlement funds for PR under the FSW program?
Most Federal Skilled Worker program applicants have to show proof of settlement funds while submitting their application for PR. The only exception is for applicants who have a full-time Canadian job offer that’s valid for at least one year.
The minimum required settlement fund amounts are revised each year. For 2023, the minimum settlement funds requirement is $13,757 for individual applicants and $17,127 for two family members applying together. You’ll likely require between $3,500 and $4,000 more for each extra family member. Before your move, check the government’s latest proof of settlement funds requirement and plan accordingly.
Regardless of your situation, you should have access to sufficient funds to cover your living expenses in Canada, either through Canadian employment or your savings. 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 expenses for your first six months in Canada. Use Arrive’s cost of living in Canada calculator to estimate your monthly expenses in your future city.
Is a Canadian job offer required for the Federal Skilled Worker program?
You don’t need a job offer from a Canadian employer to qualify for the FSW program of Express Entry.
However, having a Canadian job offer can give you an advantage when applying for the FSW program in two ways. First, it can impact your eligibility to apply for the FSW program, since previously arranged employment is worth 15 points in the FSW selection factors grid.
Second, since applicants are selected from the FSW Express Entry pool based on their Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score, a Canadian job offer can also increase your chances of receiving an invitation to apply once you’re in the Express Entry pool. You can get between 50 to 200 CRS points for a Canadian offer of employment, which can improve your odds of getting permanent residence in Canada.
What occupations are eligible for immigration to Canada through the FSW program?
If you’re in a job that’s listed as a TEER 0, 1, 2, or 3 occupation in Canada’s National Occupational Classification (NOC), you may be eligible to apply for the Federal Skilled Worker program.
TEER stands for Training, Education, Experience, and Responsibilities, and all occupations in Canada are classified based on these four factors, with TEER 0 jobs requiring the highest degree of skill and education.
- TEER 0 includes management jobs.
- TEER 1 includes jobs that require a university education or experience and subject matter expertise in a TEER 2 role.
- TEER 2 includes jobs that require at least a two to three year college education or a two to five year apprenticeship.
- TEER 3 includes jobs that require a college education or apprenticeship of less than two years or over six months of training.
Occupations that fall under TEER 4 or 5 are not eligible for the FSW program.
What is the processing time for PR applications under the FSW program?
In February 2023, IRCC estimates showed that most PR applications under the Federal Skilled Worker program were being processed in 31 months or less, including the time it takes to submit your biometrics. This does not account for the time before you submit your permanent residence application (that is, while your Express Entry profile was in the candidate pool or when you received your invitation to apply).
The processing time for permanent residence applications under the Federal Skilled Worker program can vary, so be sure to check the government’s website for up-to-date processing times.
What is the application fee for the Federal Skilled Worker program?
The application fee for the FSW program is $1,365 per adult. This includes an $850 processing fee and a $515 right of permanent residence fee. If you’re applying as a family, you’ll also need to pay an additional $230 for each dependent child.
In addition, you’ll have to pay a biometric fee of $85 if you’re applying as an individual or $170 if you’re applying as a family (two or more people together).
Each year, thousands of newcomers apply for and receive Canadian permanent residence under the Federal Skilled Worker program, making it the most popular Express Entry stream. Having been selected for their education, experience, and skills, newcomers who move to Canada under the FSW program generally adapt well to the Canadian job market and lifestyle and establish successful lives in Canada.