How to immigrate through Canada’s Federal Skilled Worker Program

Shelby Thevenot
Published: April 26, 2022

Between its launch in 1967 and the start of the pandemic, the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) was the main immigration pathway for skilled workers to come to Canada. Following a temporary pause that has been in place since December 2020, Express Entry invitation rounds for FSWP candidates are set to resume in July. Also, the processing standard for new applicants is expected to return to six months.

The FSWP is an attractive immigration pathway, as candidates can become eligible with no Canadian experience and no job offer.

As a program managed by the Express Entry system, people who are eligible for the FSWP get a score on the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). Roughly every two weeks, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) holds Express Entry draws inviting the highest scoring candidates to apply for Canadian immigration.

The following is a step-by-step guide on how you can apply for Canadian immigration through the FSWP:

Get a Free Express Entry Assessment

Step 1: Meet the FSWP's eligibility criteria

In order to be eligible to apply under the Federal Skilled Worker Program, potential candidates must meet the minimum requirements for work, language ability, and education. You also need to score at least 67 under the program's 100-point grid.

The minimum requirements are:

  • One year of continuous full-time or equivalent paid work experience in the past 10 years in a skilled occupation classified under the National Occupational Classification (NOC) skill level 0, A or B;
  • Validated language ability equivalent to Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) 7 in English or French across all abilities (reading, writing, listening, and speaking); and
  • Canadian educational credential (certificate, diploma, or degree) or foreign credential and Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) report.
  • FSWP applicants must get at least 67 points on IRCC's six immigration selection factors. The table below shows the maximum number of points candidates can get for each category.

FSWP grid

EducationUp to 25
Language SkillsUp to 28
Work ExperienceUp to 15
AgeUp to 12
Arranged employmentUp to 10
AdaptabilityUp to 10

Once you are eligible, you can enter the Express Entry pool.

Step 2: Submit your Express Entry profile to the IRCC website

When you go on the government website, create an IRCC secure account and follow the instructions. The online tool will prompt you to create an Express Entry profile, enter your personal reference code if you have one, and enter your personal details.

You have 60 days to complete and submit your Express Entry profile, otherwise, you will have to start again.

Once you’ve filled out your profile, you can submit it and IRCC will figure out which Express Entry program you are eligible for.

If you are eligible for the FSWP, IRCC will place you in the Express Entry pool with others who are also eligible. You will get a score based on factors like work experience, education, age, and official language ability.

Step 3: Check for an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence

Completing an online Express Entry profile does not guarantee you will be invited to apply for permanent residence. You need to have a score that is high enough to meet the minimum threshold in a given Express Entry draw.

While you are in the pool, get ready for IRCC to send you an ITA. If you receive one, you’ll have 60 days to submit a complete application. IRCC holds Express Entry draws approximately every two weeks.

Step 4: If you receive an ITA, apply for immigration

If you get an ITA, IRCC will send you a message telling you which program you have been invited for and what to do next. The system automatically invites candidates to apply under one of the Express Entry-managed programs in the following order: Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), Canadian Experience Class (CEC), FSWP, and then Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP).

IRCC will ask for proof of the information you submitted in your Express Entry profile. Immigration officers will assess whether the information you provided in your application is different from your profile. If they find false information, or important details left out they may refuse your application, find you inadmissible, or bar you from applying for immigration for five years.

IRCC recommends checking the criteria for the program you have been invited to apply for to ensure you are still eligible. If your personal situation changes, you may have to re-calculate your score before applying. If your recalculated score is less than the minimum CRS cut-off for your round of invitations, IRCC recommends declining the invitation.

Declining an invitation means you will be put back into the Express Entry pool of candidates and you may be considered for future rounds of invitations if you are still eligible. It does not affect whether you are invited to apply later. There is no guarantee you will be invited to apply again, however, you may be able to improve your chance by updating your Express Entry profile or getting a higher CRS score.

If you do not respond to your ITA in 60 days, IRCC will take your profile out of the pool. To be considered for future draws, you will have to fill out a new Express Entry profile.

Other ways to immigrate

The PNP is another significant immigration program. Canada aims to admit more than 80,000 PNP candidates as permanent residents every year over the next three years, according to the 2022-2024 Immigration Levels Plan. Also, IRCC is still holding Express Entry draws every two weeks for PNP candidates.

If you are in the Express Entry pool already, you may be invited to apply for a provincial nomination. Then if you get the nomination, it will mean you get 600 points added to your score and you will be able to apply for immigration as a PNP candidate.


The FSWP has been a prominent way to attract immigrants to Canada since 1967. Although the FSWP has been disrupted by the pandemic, surveys by World Education Services suggest that interest in immigration to Canada is still strong.

Canada's borders have been reopened and IRCC has reduced its Express Entry backlog. This means the FSWP will once again become an important way to attract more skilled immigrants to Canada when Express Entry draws resume this July.

Get a Free Express Entry Assessment

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