Canada's Federal Skilled Immigration Pathways
Since 1967, Canada's federal government has operated a merit-based points system so that skilled workers from all over the world can immigrate to Canada.
Today, the main federal pathway for skilled workers is Canada's Express Entry system. In addition, there are other prominent federal options that are available to you. This comprehensive CanadaVisa page provides you with an overview of these options.
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In 1967, Canada became the first country in the world to launch a merit-based points system by introducing the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP). The FSWP, which exists to this day, was revolutionary and innovative.
Up until that point, Canada selected skilled workers from overseas based on its discretion, namely the Canadian government's perception of whether a candidate could integrate into the labour market.
Recognizing the flaws of this approach, Canada launched the FSWP to become more objective in how it assessed candidates. Rather than using subjective criteria, Canada evaluated all candidates equally, based on the likes of their age, education, occupation, and language skills. This model has since become the norm across all of the Canadian skilled worker programs that have launched since 1967, and has also been adopted by countries around the world.
Skilled workers are the backbone of Canada's immigration system. Today, Canada aims to welcome over 400,000 new immigrants per year, of whom, some 60 per cent arrive as skilled workers.
The selection of skilled workers is split between Canada's federal and provincial governments. About half are welcomed by the federal department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), while the other half are identified by Canadian provinces and territories.
The main way Canada and the federal government identifies and selects skilled workers is through the federal Express Entry application management system. In order to be eligible for Express Entry, you need to meet the criteria of one of its three programs.
In addition to Express Entry, the federal government operates several other skilled worker programs which exist outside of Express Entry. These programs exist to help Canada meet its broad labour market needs.
The second leading way to immigrate to Canada as a skilled worker is under the Provincial Nominee Program.
The third leading way is through the province of Quebec's immigration system.
Canada aims to welcome an average of 110,000 new immigrants per year under Express Entry.
A major benefit of Express Entry is successful candidates can gain permanent resident status within six months.
To benefit from Express Entry, you must meet the criteria of at least one of the following three programs:
- Federal Skilled Worker Program: The FSWP is the most common option for candidates who have not lived in Canada before.
- Canadian Experience Class: The CEC is a prominent option for candidates who have lived in Canada to study and/or work.
- Federal Skilled Trades Program: The FSTP is an option for those who have a skilled trades background.
Under its Immigration Levels Plan, the Canadian federal government aims to welcome an average of over 15,000 new immigrants each year under the following skilled worker programs:
- Atlantic Immigration Pilot: The AIP aims to promote economic development in the Atlantic provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.
- Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP): The RNIP seeks to promote economic development in rural and northern communities across Canada.
- Agri-Food Immigration Pilot: This pilot seeks to support the labour market needs of Canada's agri-food sector.
- Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP): Along with the two pilots below, Canada welcomes caregivers to support its health care sector and offer support to Canadian families.
- Home Child Care Provider Pilot
- Home Support Worker Pilot
After Express Entry, the second major way for skilled workers to immigrate to Canada is through the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP).
Introduced in 1998, the PNP has proven to be extremely successful in attracting skilled workers to many different communities across Canada in support of economic development. Today, Canada welcomes over 80,000 new skilled workers per year under the PNP.
The PNP operates in Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories. Each of these jurisdictions defines their own skilled worker criteria and then nominate successful candidates. It is the federal government's role to then process the permanent residence applications of successful PNP candidates.
Quebec is the third major way for skilled workers to immigrate to Canada. The province operates its own skilled worker immigration programs which are similar to those operated by the federal government. In fact, Quebec is a pioneer among Canada's provinces and territories when it comes to sub-national participation in Canada's immigration system. Since the 1960s, Quebec has played an active role in recruiting and selecting immigrants to support its economy and Francophone character. Just like the PNP, Quebec identifies successful candidates, and then the federal government processes permanent residence applications.