ARCHIVED – Backgrounder - Proposed Changes to the Federal Skilled Worker Program

The federal skilled worker selection system established in 2002 looks at the worker’s overall capacity to adapt to Canada’s labour market. It measures each candidate’s score on a grid worth up to 100 points. The grid takes into consideration the candidates’ official language ability, their education, their work experience, their age, whether they have a job already arranged in Canada (arranged employment) and their overall adaptability (which awards points for things like previous work or study in Canada, the spouse’s education and relatives in Canada).

A recent evaluation of the Federal Skilled Worker Program showed that, overall, skilled workers selected according to these criteria are faring well in Canada, but it also shows there is room for improvement. Based on recommendations from the evaluation, academic research and best practices in other immigrant-receiving countries, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is proposing changes to the selection system. These changes don’t alter the selection criteria established in 2002. Instead, the proposals below would affect the number of points assigned to the criteria and the way they are assessed.

Requiring a minimum level of language proficiency

A 2005 Statistics Canada study found that employment rates for immigrants increased with their ability to speak an official language. It also found that language proficiency had the biggest impact on their ability to find work in either a high-skilled profession or their intended field.

However, the current selection system only awards a maximum of 16 points (out of a total of 100) for high proficiency in the first official language. It is also possible for an applicant to be selected with little to no language proficiency if he or she scores well on other criteria.

CIC will consult on increasing the maximum points awarded for proficiency in the first official language from 16 to 20, and on establishing minimum language requirements, depending on the immigrant’s occupational skill level. For example, managers or professionals would have a different requirement from tradespeople.

Placing greater emphasis on younger workers

Immigrants who arrive between the ages of 20 and 30 have been found to have the greatest economic impact on the receiving country. Younger immigrants have higher rates of employment and earnings than older immigrants. By contrast, immigrants aged 45 or older experience unemployment rates almost double those aged 25–34 years.

The selection system currently awards the maximum of 10 points to applicants up to age 49. Approximately 27% of federal skilled workers who arrived between 2000 and 2006 were over the age of 40. CIC will consult on the proposed changes to award a maximum of 12 points until age 35, with diminishing points awarded until age 49. No age points would be awarded after age 50.

Making the program more accessible to skilled tradespeople

Canada is facing current and predicted shortages of workers in certain skilled trades. Immigrants can help meet this need. However, skilled tradespeople currently make up less than 3% of all federal skilled worker applicants.

Education points are awarded based on the credential (such as a post-secondary diploma) and the number of associated years of education. The latter is intended to help ensure the quality of the credential. However, it does not take into account country-to-country variations in school systems. Skilled tradespeople who have a credential in their trade, but not the required years of education, are therefore disadvantaged and lose points.

The proposal is to reduce the number of years of education required to claim points for a trade or other non-university credential. This change would help improve access for skilled tradespeople, technicians and apprentices who have valid post-secondary qualifications but not the required number of years of study.

Redirecting points from work experience to other factors

The overall value of work experience points in the grid represents too large a share when compared to the overall value afforded to work experience by our competitor countries. Currently, with as little as four years of foreign work experience, an applicant has already earned 21 of the points required to meet the pass mark of 67.

CIC is proposing to reduce the total number of points that could be awarded for work experience from 21 to 15. The proposed change would also increase the years of experience required to achieve full points under this criterion. This change would better reflect the relative value Canadian employers place on foreign work experience, and ensure that applicants have more experience to earn full points. It would also allow points to be redirected to the criteria that better contribute to an immigrant’s successful establishment, such as language proficiency.

Reducing the potential for fraudulent job offers

Arranged employment has several advantages for immigration purposes. It offers applicants an immediate 15 points on the grid, and waives the requirement to have a certain amount of money set aside to prove that the immigrant is able to be self-sufficient in Canada. All of these advantages have made this part of the Federal Skilled Worker Program susceptible to exploitation by people attempting to immigrate with a fraudulent job offer.

The evaluation of the Federal Skilled Worker Program showed that people who immigrate with a valid job offer are doing very well in Canada, earning 79% more three years after arriving than people without arranged employment. Therefore, the program is important and should be used to help employers offering legitimate work. But a more rigorous up-front assessment of the employer and job offer is needed to curb the potential for fraud.

The proposed changes would establish clearer criteria for assessing the genuineness of a job offer, and could require employers to sign a document attesting to their intention to hire the immigrant. They could also include restrictions for employers who don’t comply with this intention.

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