Special Report: Government Overhauls Economic Immigration

CIC News
Published: August 28, 2012

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), earlier this month, announced major changes to Canadian immigration that will amount to an overhaul of the system currently governing economic-based immigration to Canada. The modifications are scheduled to take effect on January 1st, 2013 and will result in the selection of a different profile of Federal Skilled Workers as well as a distinct program that targets skilled tradespersons. For good measure, it will also be easier for people in Canada on work permits to gain permanent residence.

These changes are integral to the implementation of what CIC is calling a “faster, more flexible” immigration system. It is hoped that the changes will help to better target immigrants who are best prepared to make a smooth transition to living and working in Canada. In this edition of CIC News, we will examine the three Canadian immigration programs that are affected by the changes.

Table of Contents

 Background to the Announcement

A key aspect of Canadian immigration policy is ensuring that Canada is able to address its labour market needs. This is done in part by welcoming immigrants who will help strengthen the country’s economy. However, CIC acknowledges that “the current economic immigration selection criteria do not adequately respond to Canada’s evolving labour market needs”.

CIC has targeted several reasons why it believes the current economic immigration system is falling short in addressing labour market needs.  It is hoped that the proposed changes to the FSWC will successfully address the perceived shortcomings of some immigration programs, as well as create an overall system that accommodates the needs of both Canadian employers and prospective immigrants.

Reforms to the Federal Skilled Worker Points System

The current FSWC program operates on a 100-point system. Successful applicants must score 67 or more points, which are allocated for a number of factors such as education, work experience, language ability, age, and ‘adaptability’. CIC plans to update the ways in which points will be allocated to future applicants. In this way, it is expected that successful FSWC applicants who come to Canada will be better prepared to find employment and successfully settle into their new home.

Proposed updates to the FSWC program are as follows:

Pass Mark - The pass mark will remain at 67 points.

Minimum Language Proficiency – CIC statistics indicate that proficiency in one of Canada’s official languages is a key to securing a good job. Therefore, points allocated for language ability (in either English or French) will be raised from 16 to 24. Points for ability in the second official language will be reduced from 8 to 4, as little evidence has been found that this helps immigrants.

A language threshold, in order to be eligible to apply, will also be instituted. It is anticipated that this threshold will be set at the Canadian Language Benchmark 7, which is equivalent to “adequate intermediate proficiency”. See Reference: Revised Language Standards at the end of this article.

Emphasis on Younger Workers – Canada needs younger workers who will contribute to the labour market for years to come. Therefore, up to 12 points will be awarded to individuals aged 18-35. Previously, the same points were awarded between the ages of 21-49. Points will diminish until the age of 46. However, there is no age limit for applying to the FSWC program.

Amending Work Experience Points – Because it is not highly valued by Canadian employers, the maximum number of points awarded for foreign work experience will be decreased from 21 to 15 points. In order to achieve maximum points, applicants must have 6 full years of experience, as opposed to 4.

Credential Assessment - Designated non-government organizations will be contracted by the government to authenticate educational credentials and determine their equivalency in Canada. Individuals who hold credentials that are not recognized in Canada will not be eligible to apply to the FSWC program.

If an applicant claims work in a regulated occupation, CIC may designate a professional body in Canada to conduct an assessment of the applicant's credentials.

Arranged Employment –The current process of securing Arranged Employment Offers will be disposed of. In its place, Canadian employers, whose workers are applying through the FSWC program, will have to secure a Labour Market Opinion (LMO). The LMO process is already used to help secure temporary work permits for foreign workers. FSWC applicants, whose prospective employment includes a positive or neutral LMO, will receive up to 15 points.

Changing Adaptability Requirements – A principal applicant to the FSWC who has Canadian work experience will be awarded a maximum of 10 points. 5 points will be awarded for study in Canada. Spousal adaptability will now be assessed on the basis of language skills, as opposed to education.

In order to receive points for relatives in Canada, the relative will have to meet a minimum age threshold of 18 years.

Impact of FSWC Reforms

It is important to note that changes to the FSWC program will not affect other immigration programs. The Quebec Skilled Worker, Family Class Sponsorship, and other programs will remain unaffected and continue to operate in their current states.

Speaking on this issue, Attorney David Cohen said “the government has been hinting at these changes for a long time now. Time will tell how effective they are in addressing Canada’s economic needs. I am looking forward to helping prospective immigrants navigate these changes and prepare strong applications that will put them in a position to maximize their work and settlement prospects once they arrive in Canada.”

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has stated that "the new Skilled Worker program will be limited to applicants in NOCs O, A, and B, but won't be limited to particular occupations."

While the Minister has said that there won't be a limitation on particular occupations, it is expected that there will be an overall cap or limit to the number of applications that will be accepted for assessment by CIC.

Further clarifications to how the program will be implemented are forthcoming. CIC News will alert readers to future changes as they become clear. In the meantime, hopeful immigrants can rest assured that Canadian immigration remains open, and that the Government of Canada looks forward to welcoming high numbers of qualified applicants each year.

To learn if you are qualified for the revised FSWC program, or one of over 60 Canadian immigration programs, please fill out a free online assessment.


Introduction of Federal Skilled Trades Class

In order to better facilitate the entry of skilled tradespersons to Canada, CIC has created the Federal Skilled Trades Class (FSTC) of immigration. This will be open to tradespersons with skills in the following areas:

  • Industrial, Electrical, and Construction Trades; Maintenance and Equipment Operation Trades; Supervisors and Technical Occupations in Natural Resources; Agriculture and Related Production’ Processing, Manufacturing and Utilities Supervisors and Central Control Operators’ Chefs and Cooks; Bakers and Butchers

All of these trades are considered “skilled”, and fall into the “B” level of work, as defined by Canada’s National Occupation Classification (NOC).

The FSTC is not a points-based immigration program. Rather, it operates on a pass/fail system.

Applicants to this new immigration program will have to meet the following 4 requirements:

  1. Must receive either:
    • A qualifying offer of employment in Canada. Offers must be for at least 1 year in duration; OR
    • A Certificate of Qualification from a provincial or territorial authority.
  2. Minimum language proficiency of at least Canadian Level Benchmark 5 (“initial intermediate”).
  3. 24 months of work experience in their skilled trade during the last 5 years.
  4. Professional qualifications that prove their ability to perform their job.

It is important to note that only individuals who meet all of the above requirements are eligible to apply to this immigration class. However, a skilled tradesperson who does not fulfill the requirements of the FSTC may be eligible to apply to the FSWC or another Canadian immigration program.

Further details regarding where and how an application to the FSTC have not yet been outlined by CIC, but it is anticipated that they will be made clear before it’s anticipated start date of January 1st, 2013.

Impact of FSTC Implementation

It is expected that the creation of the FSTC will allow Canada to focus its immigration system in such a way that it can target much-needed skilled workers while maintaining its historically high levels of immigration across the board.

The implementation of this new program has the potential to transform the face of Canadian immigration. Speaking on this issue, Attorney David Cohen said “this new program could not have come soon enough. If all goes according to the government’s plan, the Federal Skilled Trades program will be a big step towards addressing Canada’s labour needs and bringing in thousands of future permanent residents.”

To find out if you are eligible for the FSTC, or one of over 60 Canadian immigration programs, please fill out a free online assessment.


Revisions Made to Canadian Experience Class

The Canadian Experience Class (CEC) is designed for international workers and students already in Canada who would like to apply for Canadian Permanent Residency. It is intended to streamline the Permanent Residency process for these individuals, who are already familiar with Canada and the Canadian work environment.

CEC is intended for individuals who are living (or planning to settle) outside of the Province of Quebec. Students or temporary foreign workers living in Quebec may apply for Permanent Residency through a similar program called the Quebec Experience Class.

The CEC will undergo two major modifications. They are:

Reducing Work Requirement – The Canadian work component of the program will be reduced from 24 to 12 months within the last 36.

Language Requirement - A minimum language threshold will be established at Canadian Language Benchmark 5 (“initial intermediate”). Applicants who do not meet this requirement will not be able to apply to the CEC.

Impact of CEC Revisions

According to CIC, the decision to reduce the work requirement will “allow faster transition for those who have already proven their employability in Canada’s labour market”. It will also result in more flexibility for young people who work in Canada on exchange programs (which are often a year in duration) and wish to pursue Permanent Residency after their program finishes.

The minimum language threshold has been created to ensure that successful applicants will have the language skills needed to succeed in the Canadian workforce. Overall, CEC continues to be a straightforward and accessible path for foreign workers and students who have already spent time in Canada.

To find out if you are qualified for the CEC, or one of over 60 Canadian immigration programs, please fill out a free online assessment.



The Government of Canada devised these changes through meetings with key immigration stakeholders as well as the Canadian general public. Their ultimate goal is not to decrease immigration to Canada, but rather to focus immigration in such a way that both Canada and immigrants are able to benefit from the changes.

The Canadian government has one of the highest levels of immigration in the Western world. These high levels are expected to continue. The changes will only affect the above-specified programs, and other immigration programs such as the Quebec Skilled Worker program, Family Class Sponsorship, and Business Immigration programs will remain unaffected.

Further clarifications to how the program will be implemented are forthcoming. CIC News will alert readers to future changes as they become clear. In the meantime, hopeful immigrants can rest assured that Canadian immigration remains open, and that the Government of Canada looks forward to welcoming high numbers of qualified applicants each year.

Reference: Revised Language Standards

CIC has determined that it will be using the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) system as a reference for the allocation of points in the Federal Skilled Worker, Federal Skilled Trades, and Canadian Experience classes. In order to prove language proficiency, applicants must submit test scores that demonstrate their abilities. For the English language, the only test accepted by the government for purposes of immigration is the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam.

For the reference of potential and future applicants, the chart below shows CLB benchmarks and their equivalent IELTS scores.

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