The Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) program is one of the easiest ways a non-Canadian can immigrate as a permanent resident. The program looks for the most qualified people that would be best at contributing to the culture and economy of Canada. This program primarily assesses your age, work history, education, language skills. If you are under 35, have professional experience, have an advanced degree, and are fluent in English or French, then chances are you’ll be invited into the FSWP program.

The FSWP is part of the Express Entry immigration program, which reviews your qualifications and decided if you’d be suited for life in Canada. Your professional and academic life is evaluated based on a scoring system and points are awarded for each category. You need a minimum of 450 points in order to be invited to apply for Express Entry. The CIC is sort of vague about the exact number of points you can get for your qualifications, but you can always try a third-party site that will help you to calculate your score to figure out if you’d qualify for Express Entry before you submit your profile. So long as you have a minimum score of 450 points, then you’ll probably be invited to apply for permanent residence status (for the record, we scored just barely over 450 points and were invited to apply for Express Entry just a week after submitting our profile). We found the CIC score calculations to be tricky to understand, so we made a quiz that might help you pick out which immigration programs you’re likely to qualify for and be accepted into.

The younger you are, the less work experience you need to have. So, for example, if you are 32 but have only 1 year of professional work experience, then you probably won’t have enough points to be invited to apply as a FSWP. However, if you are 32 and have 3 or more years of work experience, then you probably will make it in. 

Unfortunately for those of us over 29, the Canadian Express Entry program is specifically looking for younger adults to immigrate to the country. After the age of 35, your chances of being accepted into the Express Entry program decline significantly. If you’re under 41 with a PhD, are fluent in both English and French, and have 3+ years of professional experience, then  you’ll probably get just enough points to apply for Express Entry. However, it’s nearly impossible to get to 450 if you’re over 45 unless you have a valid job offer or a provincial nomination.

Like most things in life, there is an exception to the age rule if you’re under 50 and want to live in Ontario. If you have an advanced degree and can demonstrate 3+ years of professional experience, then you might qualify for the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP). OINP seeks specifically to to bring French speakers into the predominantly English-speaking province. There’s no way to apply directly to this program, instead just submit your Express Entry profile and enter that you intend to live in Ontario. Once your profile is reviewed, you’ll receive a notification letting you know that you qualify for the OINP program along with instructions for how to continue.

If you’re married, in a common-law relationship, or have dependant children, you’ll need to include personal details for all people in your family as part of your own application. Assuming you are invited to immigrate, your spouse/partner and dependent children would automatically be invited along with you.

The basics:

  • You’ve worked in an applicable NOC field full-time (30+ hours a week) for at least 12 months in the last 10 years. Or, you’ve worked the equivalent in part time hours such as  15 hours a week for 24 months
  • You can prove that you held at least one job in an applicable NOC field for at least 12 continuous months
  • You can provide letters from all employers that you’ve worked for over the last 10 years verifying that you worked there along with your primary duties, length of employment, title, salary, benefits, hours, and NOC code (you’ll even need letters for jobs that aren’t related to the NOC field)
  • You’ll need to have your academic diplomas evaluated by a CIC approved third party such as World Education Services (WES) in order to prove that they are equivalent to Canadian degrees
  • You must have at least $12,000 CAD in savings. Canada requires you to prove that you have a minimum amount of accessible dollars in order to qualify. If you’d want to immigrate alone, you would need to prove that you have about $12,000 CAD and about $3,000 CAD for each additional family member that would move with you. Only accessible funds count towards this amount, so you can’t include any retirement accounts.

Other requirements:

  • You’ll need to prove that you are fluent in English or French by taking a language test
  • You must be admissible to Canada
  • You intent to live in any province or territory except Quebec, which has different immigration programs from the rest of Canada
  • You’ll need to demonstrate that you are in relatively good health
  • You can provide all of the necessary documentation

Things that will increase your score:

  • Being younger will count for more because you get less points for every birthday you’ve celebrated after 29 (you’ll get zero points for being over 44)
  • Having advanced degrees (a PhD is worth more points than an MA, which is more points than a BA)
  • 3+ years of professional experience in an an applicable NOC field
  • Being fluent in both English and French
  • Having a valid job offer for a company located in Canada is worth 600 points on its own
  • Having legally worked in Canada for at least 1 year  sometime in the last 10 years
  • Holding a diploma from a Canadian academic instutution
  • Having relatives in Canada

If you’re married, your spouse will also be evaluated for their work experience, education, and language credentials. The more points they can bring in, the better it is for your joint application.

Things that won’t increase your score:

  • Having a lot of money
  • Owning property in Canada
  • Having a large amount of money in a retirement account

Work Experience

Your work history will need to fit the specific types of fields that Canada is looking for. Specifically, you’ll have to prove that your experience is in certain National Occupation Classification (NOC) codes that fit within one of these categories:

  • Skill Level 0: Management – almost any type of job that includes manager or supervisor in the title will qualify
  • Skill Level A: Professional – most office jobs will qualify. Often these types of jobs will require some sort of degree, but that’s not necessarily a requirement
  • Skill Level B: Technical – these jobs often require an Associate’s degree or apprenticeship of some kind.

NOC codes are vast and can be difficult to track down unless you know exactly what you’re looking for. You’ll need to find the exact NOC code that matches the types of job(s) you worked at for at least 12 months in Canada in order to apply to Express Entry. The CIC put together a matrix that helps to narrow down some of the more popular job types. Otherwise, if you have to search all of the codes, start broad and look for the most appropriate unit group. The NOC job title might not match up exactly with your official title, but so long as it’s close and your employer will vouch for you, it should be okay. If you worked two different types of jobs that are both in Skill Level 0, A, or B categories, you can still apply so long as it adds up to at least 12 months of full time work over the last 10 years.

This can still apply to you if you’ve been self-employed, so long as you can provide proof of income and verification letters from clients, vendors, or buyers that document your experience.