ARCHIVED – Backgrounder — Overview of the New Federal Skilled Worker Program

The Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) selects immigrants based on their ability to succeed economically in Canada. It measures applicants using a selection grid worth up to 100 points. The current pass mark is 67. Each applicant is awarded points for official language ability, age, education, work experience, employment already arranged in Canada, and adaptability (such as previous work experience or education acquired in Canada).

Following a thorough review of relevant research, an extensive program evaluation, stakeholder and public consultations, research and study of best practices in other immigrant receiving countries, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is introducing a suite of improvements to the FSWP.

What has changed and why:

LANGUAGE: Requiring a minimum level of language proficiency (28 points max.)
Canadian and international research has consistently shown that language proficiency is the single most important factor in gaining better rates of employment, appropriate employment and higher earnings.

In light of this, CIC is establishing minimum language requirements and is significantly increasing the maximum points awarded for the applicant’s proficiency in English or French. Language ability is now the most important factor on the grid, representing a total of up to 28 points in recognition of its critical importance in ensuring successful outcomes.

AGE: More emphasis on younger workers (12 points max.)
Studies show that younger immigrants integrate more rapidly into the labour market and spend a greater number of years contributing to Canada’s economy. The revised selection grid benefits younger immigrants by awarding a maximum of 12 points up to age 35, with diminishing points awarded from 35 to age 46. There will be no points given after age 46; however, workers aged 47 or older will continue to be eligible for the Program.

EDUCATION: New Educational Credential Assessment (25 points max.)
Previously, points were awarded based on the applicant’s educational credentials in their home country and the years of education required to obtain the credential. This did not take into account its comparative value when assessed against Canadian educational credentials.

The new regulations require a mandatory assessment of foreign educational credentials to determine their equivalency to a completed educational credential in Canada. This also helps to screen out fraudulent credentials, as CIC will not accept those that are not equivalent to a completed Canadian educational credential. In summary, education points will be awarded based on the value of the educational credentials in Canada.

The Minister of CIC will designate credential assessment organizations and regulatory bodies to conduct the assessments as part of the immigration selection process. These agencies will be announced in early 2013.

WORK EXPERIENCE: Redirecting points to other factors (15 points max.)
Foreign work experience is a weak predictor of success in the Canadian labour market. As a result, CIC is reducing the total number of points for work experience from 21 to 15, and increasing the years of experience required to get full points. These changes better reflect the relative value that Canadian employers place on foreign work experience, and allow extra points to be redirected to the language and age factors, which are better indicators of success in the Canadian labour market.

ARRANGED EMPLOYMENT: Streamlining the process and reducing the potential for fraudulent job offers (10 points max.)
The FSWP evaluation showed that people who immigrate with a valid job offer do very well in Canada, earning 79% more in the first three years after arrival than people without arranged employment. However, a more rigorous up-front assessment of the employer and job offer is needed to curb the potential for fraud.

This will be achieved by requiring employers to get a Labour Market Opinion (LMO), issued by Human Resources Development Canada. This will verify that there is a need in the Canadian labour market for this type of worker and that the employer has tried to hire a Canadian or permanent resident first. A benefit for employers is that once they have established this labour market need, they can use the LMO to bring the worker in quickly on a work permit while the worker’s application to immigrate permanently is being processed.

ADAPTABILITY: Changes to reflect factors that help promote integration (10 points max.)
CIC is proposing changes to the adaptability criteria to emphasize factors that are shown to have a positive impact on an immigrant and their family’s integration. As employers have shown a preference for workers with Canadian study and work experience, points for previous work experience in Canada will be increased for the principal applicant. Points for previous study in Canada will remain the same.

Feedback from the consultations strongly recommended replacing the points factor for a spouse’s education with points for a spouse’s language proficiency to improve the likelihood of a family’s successful integration. The points for previous spousal study and/or work in Canada, and having relatives in Canada will remain unchanged. Applicants will have more opportunities overall to earn adaptability points, although the total points will remain the same.

Overall, the new and revised FSWP will enable CIC to select younger skilled workers, proficient in English or French, who can integrate more rapidly and successfully into the Canadian labour market and be active members of the work force for a longer period of time. These changes will also assist the government in meeting the goals stated in Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2012 by building a fast and flexible immigration system whose primary focus is meeting Canada’s economic and labour market needs.


  • A 2005 Statistics Canada study found that employment rates of immigrants increased with their ability to speak English and that language proficiency had the biggest impact on their ability to find employment in a high-skilled job or in their intended field.
  • In a 2009 Compas Research survey on strategies for integrating internationally educated professionals into the Canadian work force, 87% of employers cited inadequate language skills as the top barrier preventing the foreign-educated from finding suitable employment.
  • A 2008 Statistics Canada study found that literacy skills play a role in the wage gap between Canadian-born workers and newcomers to Canada.
  • A 2001 academic studyFootnote 1 on immigrant earnings in Canada found that on average, the greatest economic gains are realized from immigrants who arrive in Canada between 20 and 30 years old.
  • A 2004 academic studyFootnote 2 on elderly immigrants in Canada found that migrants aged 45 years and over experience unemployment rates almost double those aged 25 to 34 years.


Subscribe to news

Page details

Date modified: