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Federal Skilled Worker Program: Beyond the Eligible Occupation List

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After almost a year of waiting, the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) will reopen to applicants on May 4th, 2013. In preparation for this date, the Canadian government has announced the full list of criteria for the program. These criteria include an application intake cap of 5,000 in addition to a list of 24 eligible occupations.

Under the FSWP, only applicants who have skills and experience in one of the 24 eligible occupations will be accepted for review. The 24 occupations are explained in the National Occupation Classification (NOC) system. This year, the eligible occupations include (but are not limited to) engineers, computer programmers and interactive media developers, and financial/investment analysts.

It is important for potential applicants to know that, for immigration purposes, the occupation names associated with NOC codes do not tell the whole story. In this article, CIC News goes beyond the basic titles of the 24 occupations to explain in full how an individual may meet NOC criteria for the FSWP.

Eligibility Under an NOC

One requirement for applying under FSWP is to have at least one year of full-time, continuous paid work experience in the past ten years in one of the 24 eligible occupations. The Canadian government officially considers an individual to have worked in a profession if they meet the following two points:

  • Performed the actions described in the lead statement for the occupation, as set out in the occupational description of the NOC; and
  • Performed a substantial number of the main duties, including all of the essential duties, of the occupation as set out in the occupational description of the NOC.

NOCs are created with the intent to capture distinct job descriptions and duties. However, in many fields different jobs may have similar responsibilities, and significant overlap can occur.

Oftentimes, a worker may fill a number of similar, but distinct, occupational roles during the course of their professional career. Though their experience may not directly align with an eligible NOC, it may have enough overlap to nonetheless be considered eligible under that NOC. Alternately, an individual may currently work in a non-eligible profession, but have at least one year of previous experience in an eligible NOC within the past ten years. These individuals may still be eligible for application to the FSWP.

Example: NOC 2174 Computer Programmers and Interactive Media Developers

One of the 24 eligible occupations for this year’s FSWP is NOC 2174: Computer Programmers and Interactive Media Developers. At first glance, some information technology professionals may believe that they do not fall under this category. However, a closer inspection shows flexibility in the NOC.

The lead statement for this occupation is as follows:

Computer programmers write, modify, integrate and test computer code for microcomputer and mainframe software applications, data processing applications, operating systems-level software and communications software. Interactive media developers write, modify, integrate and test computer code for Internet applications, computer-based training software, computer games, film, video and other interactive media. They are employed in computer software development firms, information technology consulting firms, and in information technology units throughout the private and public sectors.

A number of information technology professionals who do not strictly identify as computer programmers may nonetheless carry out duties very similar to the above job description. Many NOCs go so far as to list closely related professions that may be considered as eligible. For NOC 2174, the following related professions are listed:

  • Computer network technicians
  • Database analysts and data administrators
  • E-business managers
  • Graphic designers and illustrators
  • Information systems analysts and consultants
  • Information systems testing technicians
  • Software engineers and designers
  • Web designers and developers

Of course, all individuals applying to the FSWP must be prepared to demonstrate how and why their work experience falls under the auspices of a specific NOC.

What this Means for Applicants

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has promised that individuals whose applications are accepted for review in the FSWP this year will benefit from fast processing times and greater preparedness once they land in Canada.

“The FSWP has been overhauled so that those who receive visas through the program are highly likely to succeed in Canada,” said Attorney David Cohen. “For this reason, I encourage all potentially eligible applicants to speak with a professional to determine their next steps.”

For applicants who do not fall under the 24 eligible occupations, or who are otherwise ineligible for the FSWP, Attorney Cohen reminds them that Canada has over 60 paths to Permanent Residency.

“Canadian immigration policy is constantly changing,” he said. “When one door closes, another door opens. That is why my law firm comprehensively reviews our client’s files for eligibility for every possible immigration option.”

Despite the wide range of open immigration programs, the FSWP remains the most popular path to Canadian immigration. However, regardless of the path applicants choose to obtain Canadian Permanent Residency, they can rest assured that they will arrive in a country that will welcome them with open arms.

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