Evaluation of the Federal Skilled Worker program

2. Program background and profile of Federal Skilled Worker Program

This chapter provides a brief description of IRPA and the Federal Skilled Worker Program.

2.1 Immigration to Canada

On average, 240,000 immigrants received permanent residence status per year between 2002 and 2008. A permanent resident is someone who has been allowed to enter Canada as an immigrant, but who has not become a Canadian citizen. There are three basic classes of permanent residents: family, protected persons, and economic:

  • Under the Family Class, Canadian citizens or permanent residents can sponsor their spouse, common-law partner, conjugal partner, dependent child (including adopted child) or other eligible relative (such as a parent or grandparent) to become a permanent resident.
  • Protected Persons Class. In accordance with its humanitarian tradition and international obligations, Canada protects many thousands of people each year. A Protected Person is someone who has reason to fear persecution in his or her country of origin due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group or political opinion. Protected persons can also be people in Canada who, if they were removed to their home country, would be subjected to a danger of torture, to a risk to their life or to a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment. Applicants must be deemed to be a Convention Refugee or to be a person in need of protection by the Immigration and Refugee Board or deemed to be a person in need of protection after a Pre-removal Risk Assessment.
  • The Economic Immigrant Class facilitates the entry into Canada of immigrants who are prepared to contribute to Canada’s labour market needs and those who can make a contribution to the economy through investments and the establishment of new businesses. The economic class includes skilled workers, provincial nominees, business immigrants, live-in caregivers, and the Canadian Experience Class, as well as members of their immediate family.

As indicated below, there were approximately 327,000 FSW principal applicants who landed in Canada during the period covered by the evaluation.

Figure 2-1: Numbers of immigrants admitted to Canada from 2002 to 2008 (‘000s)

Numbers of immigrants admitted to Canada  from 2002 to 2008
Total Immigrants 1,684
Economic Class 968
Skilled Workers 779
Principal Applicants - Skilled Workers 327

Source: CIC Facts and Figures, 2008

FSWs (principal applicants, spouses and dependants) accounted for 81% of the total economic class and 46% of the total number of immigrants who arrived in Canada from 2002 to 2008. According to CIC Facts and Figures (2008), 42% of the total FSWs arriving in this time period are principal applicants. About 72% of these principal applicants intended to work in a professional or managerial occupation upon arriving in Canada.

Figure 2-2: FSWS arriving to Canada from 2002 to 2008, by intended occupational skill level

FSWS arriving to Canada from 2002 to 2008,  by intended occupational skill level
Intended occupational skill level  
Skill level 0 - Managerial 8%
Skill level A - Professionals 64%
Skill level B - Skilled and technical 23%
Skill level C - Intermediate and clerical 3%
Skill level not stated 2%

Source: RDM - CIC Facts and Figures, 2008

2.2 Objectives of the IRPA

Section 3 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) lists a series of objectives with respect to foreign nationals. The following objectives are relevant to the Federal Skilled Worker Program:

  • Permit Canada to pursue the maximum social, cultural and economic benefits of immigration;
  • Support the development of a strong and prosperous Canadian economy, in which the benefits of immigration are shared across all regions of Canada;
  • Support, by means of consistent standards and prompt processing, the attainment of immigration goals established by the Government of Canada in consultation with the provinces; and
  • Enrich and strengthen the cultural and social fabric of Canadian society, while respecting the federal, bilingual and multicultural character of Canada.

2.3 Pre-IRPA and IRPA

With the introduction of the IRPA, the selection system for skilled workers was changed to respond to the dynamic labour market associated with today’s knowledge-based, global economy10. Based on an objective and transparent points system, the new Federal Skilled Worker Program is intended to more effectively select immigrants who will succeed economically. The program amendments reflected the need to11:

  • improve the economic success rate of skilled worker immigrants;
  • maintain the quantity of skilled worker immigrants; and
  • improve the transparency of the selection process.

Canada’s previous skilled worker policy, while it had a human capital component, also included points for specific occupations. The skilled worker’s intended occupation in Canada was therefore considered and given weight in the selection process. This approach was altered in favour of a broader lens of selection whereby the selection factors and points allocated better reflect an applicant’s ability to move from job to job as the labour market changes.

The FSWP introduced with IRPA was based on a human capital model, without consideration of occupation. The Program was intended to maximize the long-term potential of economic immigrants in an increasingly complex labour market and knowledge- based economy, by focussing on key human capital attributes. The key attributes, related to immigrants’ ability to succeed in Canada over the long-term, were identified as language, education, employment and age.

The June 2002 IRPA Regulations created transition provisions for applications submitted prior to January 1, 2002. Under the original transitional provisions, applications submitted prior to January 1, 2002 were to be assessed under the selection criteria of the former Immigration Regulations so long as the application received a decision by March 31, 2003. Any application that had been submitted prior to January 1, 2002, but that did not receive a selection decision by April 1, 2003 would then become subject to the IRPA selection criteria. Due to the perceived inequity of these transition provisions, a number of applicants initiated litigation challenging these provisions12. As a result of some court orders and in response to these court challenges, on December 1, 2003, substantive amendments to the IRPA Regulations took effect, which provided for “dual assessment”, using either the selection criteria of the former Immigration Act (IA) or the IRPA, whichever evaluation would have been more favourable to the applicant. spread processing delays were caused by litigation which prevented the processing of numerous cases and the fact that all applicants who applied prior to June 1, 2002, were now required to be dual-assessed.

2.4 Assessment of skilled worker applications under IRPA

Applications submitted under IRPA FSWP are first assessed to determine whether the applicants meet the minimum requirements for further processing. Pursuant to the minimum requirements in R75(2), the applicant must have at least one year of continuous full-time paid work experience, or the continuous part-time equivalent, in the category of Skill Type 0, or Skill Level A or B, according to the Canadian National Occupational Classification (NOC). The work experience must have occurred within the 10 years preceding the date of application and the applicant must have 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. Applicants without arranged employment must show they have sufficient funds available for settlement in Canada.

Applicants who meet these minimum requirements are then assessed against six selection factors. To be eligible for a permanent resident visa under the FSWP, applicants must meet the “minimum number of points required of a skilled worker” or the “pass mark” set by the Minister. The pass mark was last set on September 18, 2003 at 67 points. If applicants fail to meet the pass mark but the officer believes that the applicant may become economically established in Canada, the officer may recommend a “positive substituted evaluation”. Positive substituted evaluation is rarely used, and negative substituted evaluation is almost never used.

Table 2-1 outlines the selection criteria and the number of points allocated to each criteria.

Table 2-1: Selection factors for IRPA FSWP
Criteria Maximum Value Description
Education 25 Selection points are awarded for the degrees or diplomas and the number of years spent in full-time or full-time equivalent study. The points are awarded based on the standards that exist in the country of study (the Regulations do not provide for comparisons to Canadian educational standards) and are based on the years of study in addition to the degree or diploma.
Language 24 Points are awarded for the ability to listen, speak, read and write in English and/or French based on either language test results, submitted at time of application from an approved organization or institution (IELTS, CELPIP or TEF); or evidence in writing, submitted at the time of application, of the applicant’s proficiency in one or both official languages. Language tests are not mandatory. A maximum of 16 points are awarded for the proficiency in the ‘first’ language identified by the applicant and a maximum of 8 points for the second language.
Experience 21 To be eligible for points, the applicant’s work experience must:
  • Have occurred during the 10 years immediately preceding the date of application submission;
  • Be in occupations listed in the National Occupational Classification (NOC) under Skill Type 0 or Skill Level A and B;
  • Not be in an occupation that has been designated by the Minister as a restricted occupation.
Fifteen points are awarded for at least one 1 year of experience; 17, 19 and 21 points are awarded for at least 2, 3 and 4 and over years of experience respectively.
Age 10 Maximum of 10 points are awarded to an applicant who is at least 21 and less than 50 years of age at the time the application is made. Two points are subtracted for each year the applicant is less than 21 or over the age of 49.
Arranged Employment 10 Points are awarded if the applicant:
  • Has submitted all the necessary documentation including a positive opinion issued by HRSDC.
  • Is able to perform and is likely to accept and carry out the employment. Officers may take into account the applicant’s education and training, background, and prior work experience to determine if the applicant meets this requirement. If they have any concerns about the applicant’s ability or likelihood to accept and carry out the employment, they will communicate these to the applicant and provide him/her the opportunity to respond.
Adaptability 10 Adaptability points are awarded on five dimensions to a maximum of 10 points. The five adaptability factors include spouse’s or common-law partner’s education (3-5 pts), minimum one year full-time authorized work in Canada (5 pts), minimum 2 years full-time authorized post-secondary study in Canada (5 pts), Arranged Employment in Canada (5 pts), and family relations in Canada (5 points)

2.5 Profile of FSWs

In relation to the scope and objectives of the evaluation, the Field Operations Support System (FOSS) analysis on a specific subset of the population of FSWs who arrived between 2000 and 200613. Only principal applicants, who were age 18 and older at the time of landing and were not selected by Quebec, were included in the analysis.

The number of FSWs who have landed each year are presented in Table 2-2. IRPA FSWs started arriving in 2002 but most of them arrived after 2003, and dual assessed FSWs started arriving in 2004. As the number of IRPA FSWs increased, the number of those assessed under pre-IRPA declined. The year 2004 is the best comparison year as there is a balanced share of FSWs arriving under each selection regime.

Table 2-2: FSWs admitted under each selection regime, by landing year
Cohort Pre-IRPA Dual IRPA Total
2000 43,990 0 0 43,990
2001 48,195 0 0 48,195
2002 40,928 0 341 41,269
2003 32,279 3 2,910 35,192
2004 18,400 6,063 11,610 36,073
2005 3,954 19,485 17,153 40,592
2006 1,428 11,703 18,918 32,049
Total 189,174 37,254 50,932 277,360
(%) 68.2 13.4 18.4 100.0

Source: FOSS

In response to changes in regulations and selection factors, the characteristics of FSWs have changed under IRPA and their profile has become more diversified. Women represented a larger part of the IRPA principal applicant flow, as compared to their pre-IRPA counterparts. While 23% of pre-IRPA principal applicants who came to Canada were women, they represented 30% of the IRPA cases. As for the age distribution, it appeared to be similar for both regimes, with the majority of FSWs being between 30 and 39 years old upon landing.

IRPA principal applicants are also more educated and have a better knowledge of the official languages than those admitted under the previous regime. Under pre-IRPA, 26% had either a Master’s degree or a Ph.D., as compared to 46% under IRPA. However, the proportion of cases with university education is slightly lower under IRPA (89% pre-IRPA versus 86% for IRPA). The share of individuals reporting knowing English and/or French was higher for IRPA cases (77% pre-IRPA versus 96% for IRPA). In contrast, 23% of pre-IRPA FSWs self-reported not knowing either French or English upon landing, whereas 4% of IRPA FSWs did not speak either of the official languages.

IRPA FSWs also have a more diversified profile in terms of intended occupation and country of origin. The majority (60%) of pre-IRPA FSWs intended to work in Professional Occupations in Natural and Applied Sciences (NOC 21). The proportion of IRPA FSWs intending to work in these occupations dropped almost by half, and stood at 33%. Overall, 81% of pre-IRPA FSWs were concentrated in five of the NOC major groups, as opposed to 69% of IRPA cases, indicating a diversification in the occupational profile of IRPA FSWs.

Source country distribution also shifted. China accounted for 28% of the FSWs prior to IRPA, and dropped to 16% of the IRPA flow. When excluding China, the same declining trend was noted for Eastern, South-East and South Asia (35% pre-IRPA and 29% IRPA).Overall, FSWs intending to work in NOC 21 occupations and coming from China represented 24% of the total pre-IRPA flow, while they only represent 7% of the IRPA flow.

As to their province of destination, the majority of pre-IRPA and IRPA FSWs were intending to settle in Ontario (71% pre-IRPA and 63% IRPA). The second province of choice was British Columbia (18% pre-IRPA and 21% IRPA) and the third was Alberta (6% pre-IRPA and 10% IRPA).


10 Results-based Management Accountability Framework (RMAF) for the Federal Skilled Worker Program and the Skilled Worker Fast Track Initiative, CIC, November 2004.

11 Canada Gazette “Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations”, Vol. 135, No. 50 — December 15, 2001.

12 This is often referred to as Multiple Mandamus Cases (MMC) within CIC.

13 Even though the evaluation timeframe goes from the introduction of IRPA in 2002 to the introduction of the Ministerial Instruction in 2008, the FOSS analysis looks at the period from 2000 to 2006. The reason for choosing these years is to have the same reference period as what was available in the IMDB and to include some observation years prior to the introduction of IRPA. For more details regarding the FSW profile, refer to the Technical Report.

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