New Restrictions Introduced to the Federal Skilled Worker Program Effective May 4, 2013

On May 4th, 2013, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration reintroduced the new Federal Skilled Worker Program, after shutting it down on July 1st, 2012. This time around the program includes significant changes that will have a limiting effect on the ability of skilled foreign professionals to obtain permanent residence in Canada.

For a number of years the Federal Skilled Worker category for permanent resident applicants was hampered by the inability of the various visa offices overseas to deliver immigrant visas to applicants in a timely manner. In certain circumstances processing times were in the five to six year range, which raised the question for many applicants, “Why bother?”

Processing times were only one issue. The Federal Government over a period of years had entered into agreements with the various provinces, including British Columbia, to permit those provinces to select their own skilled labour. The British Columbia Nomination Program had become particularly effective in selecting its own skilled labour and processing towards permanent residence in a timely manner. When the Department of Citizenship and Immigration shut down the Federal Skilled Worker Program on July 1st last year, in some way it helped to alleviate the pressure of extended processing times.

The program selected immigrants ostensibly on their ability to succeed economically in Canada. Applicants were assessed against a set of section criteria, also known as a points grid. There were and there remains 100 points available to applicants, with points awarded on language capability in English and/or French, age, education, work experience, arranged employment and adaptability. The pass mark was and remains at 67 points.

Under the new program, prospective applicants who do not have an offer of employment from a Canadian employer that has been certified by Service Canada, commonly known as Arranged Employment, must have one year of continuous work experience in one of 24 eligible occupations. The list of occupations, available on the Citizenship and Immigration Department website, is heavily weighted in favour of the engineering profession and technologists in various aspects of the medical profession.

Even if the applicant is qualified in one of the eligible occupations, there will be a cap of 5000 new applications overall, and within each occupation a cap of 300 applicants per employment category.

While the cap limits the overall number of candidates, the introduction of new requirements will also impair the ability of certain applicants to qualify. The requirement to take a language test in an official language has been around for years, but now there is a minimum language threshold requirement which the candidates must meet in one of the official languages. Furthermore, a skilled professional presenting his foreign educational credentials must have these credentials evaluated by a list of designated organizations to determine that the credential is authentic and equivalent to a completed education credential in Canada.

Another limiting factor is the decision of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration to reduce the points awarded. Formerly, 0 points were awarded for applicants over the age of 53. Now, 0 points will be awarded for applicants over the age of 46.

In our view, these changes have been implemented to improve the level of integration of skilled labour by increasing the quality of language skills required, seeking to ensure that foreign education credentials will translate into equivalent credentials within Canada, and encouraging the admission of younger applicants.

Interestingly, foreign professionals who have an offer of employment from a British Columbia based company that has been in operation for at least one year and has 5 (or the equivalent of 5) full time employees, may be nominated by the British Columbia Government’s Provincial Nomination Program without the need to meet any of the Federal Point requirements. As a result, these policy changes by the Federal government will likely have the effect of offloading applicants for permanent residence onto the Provinces, creating a new backlog.

Boughton Law’s team of Immigration lawyers has the expertise to assist with your permanent residence applications and help you navigate through these new changes. If you have any questions about how the new Federal Skilled Worker Program can affect your application for permanent residency as a foreign professional, please contact any member of our Immigration Practice Group.


Tags: Article; Bruce J. Harwood; Immigration