The Federal Skilled Worker Program (also known as the Federal Skilled Worker Class) is Canada’s flagship immigration program for workers, allowing the country to welcome tens of thousands of newcomers every year based on their ability to become established in Canada’s workforce.

Who is it for?
Professionals and skilled workers around the world who want to immigrate to Canada permanently can do so through the Federal Skilled Worker Program. Candidates can apply with their spouse/partner and dependent children.

What is the processing time for Federal Skilled Worker Program?
80 percent of complete applications are processed within six months or less.

Who can help me with my Canadian Federal Skilled Worker Program?
View our Book an Immigration Consultant page for a list of recommended experts.

Since 2015, federal skilled worker (FSW) applications have been managed under the Express Entry selection system.

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Video: Federal Skilled Worker explained

Watch this three-minute video to understand the basics of FSW and get an understanding of what you can do to improve your chances of increasing your points score for an FSW Program in Canada. This video is intended to be viewed in conjunction with this page to give you a full idea of what moving to Canada through the FSW Program is like. So, if you have questions on anything aspect of the FSW Program then the answers should be outlined in the video below.

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The Express Entry Roadmap

Our free Express Entry Roadmap will give you all the information you need to navigate your Express Entry process!

What is Express Entry?

Express Entry allows Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to invite eligible candidates to make an application for permanent residence.

These candidates have all made a formal ‘Expression of Interest’ to settle in Canada by creating an online Express Entry profile. Eligible candidates have their profiles accepted to the Express Entry pool where they are given a score and ranked under the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) based on the personal information they provided.

In addition to the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the pool contains candidates under the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) and Federal Skilled Trades Class (FSTC). IRCC then invites candidates to apply during its Express Entry draws from the pool.

Federal Skilled Worker Program advantages

For Federal Skilled Worker Program candidates there are two distinct advantages, and one possible disadvantage, under Express Entry.


  • Federal Skilled Worker Class candidates do not require any connection to Canada in order to be eligible for the program. Minimum requirements for work experience, language proficiency, and education can all be completed outside of Canada, so the program is an excellent option for those living outside of Canada.
  • The Federal Skilled Worker Program candidates receive the highest percentage of invitations to apply, with FSWC candidates receiving more than half of all invitations issued in 2018.

Potential disadvantage:

Let’s go over the eligibility requirements for the Federal Skilled Worker Program, as it is not enough just to have skilled work experience.

Eligibility Requirements – Federal Skilled Worker

In order to be eligible to submit an Express Entry profile under the Federal Skilled Worker Program, you must meet several minimum eligibility criteria:

  • Work Experience: You must have a minimum of 12-months of full-time, skilled work experience, or an equivalent amount in part-time experience. This experience must be continuous and in a single occupation. To be considered “skilled” experience, you must have been working in an occupation at National Occupation Classification (NOC) Skill Level 0, A, or B.
  • Language Proficiency: You must take an approved language test showing you are proficient in either English or French. The minimum score for FSWC is equal to the Canadian Language Benchmark of Level 7 (CLB 7), although the higher you score, the better your chances of success.
  • Education: You must have completed a minimum education equal to the completion of a Canadian high school diploma. If your education was completed outside of Canada, you will need an Educational Credentials Assessment (ECA) attesting to the value of your education by Canadian standards.
  • Federal Skilled Worker Points Grid: All FSW candidates must score a minimum of 67 out of 100 points on the FSW points grid. Details are below.
  • Settlement Funds: You must have enough funds to support your settlement in Canada. Details are below.

If you meet these minimum requirements, you may be eligible to submit an Express Entry profile. However, please note that being eligible does not guarantee that you’ll be invited to submit an official application for Canadian permanent residence. Express Entry is a competitive immigration selection system, so only the highest ranking FSWC candidates will be invited to apply.

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Federal Skilled Worker Points Grid

In order to be eligible for the Federal Skilled Worker Program, candidates must score a minimum of 67 out of 100 points on this points grid. Please note that this is a completely separate points system from the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) used to ranking all Express Entry profiles.

Six factors are considered under the Federal Skilled Worker Program points grid. Click on any of the slides below to learn more.

Language ability: up to 28 points

Up to 24 FSW Canada points may be awarded for your first language ability, with a further four Federal Skilled Worker points on offer if you can prove ability in a second language. An additional five FSW points may be obtained if your spouse/common-law partner, if applicable, also proves language ability; these Federal Skilled Worker Canada points are available under the ‘adaptability’ factor, outlined below.

All candidates, regardless of background, are required to prove language ability in English and/or French. There are four tests recognized for the purpose of assessing language ability:

1. IELTS (International English Language Testing System)

  • Only the IELTS General edition is recognized for immigration purposes (the Academic version is not).
  • This test is available at test centres internationally.

2. CELPIP (Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program)

  • This test is available within Canada and a small selection of international test centres only.

3. TEF (Test d’Évaluation de Français)

  • This French test is available internationally.

4. TCF Canada (Test de connaissance du français pour le Canada)

  • This French test is available internationally.

In order to gauge a common equivalence of ability among Express Entry candidates who take different tests, test scores are converted into what are known as Canadian Language Benchmarks, or CLBs, which range from 1 to 10. Federal skilled worker (FSW) candidates who obtain a test score equivalent to 9 or higher in any single language ability in their first language are awarded the full number of FSWP points available for that ability.

CELPIP test results align with CLBs perfectly, whereas IELTS, TEF, and TCF results do not.

FSWP points are assigned on the following basis:

First language ability

Ability TypeAbility LevelIELTS equivalentCLB equivalentPoints
Speaking / Listening / Reading / WritingIntermediate6.074 pts/ability
Speaking / Listening / Reading / WritingHigh intermediate6.5 / 7.5 / 6.5 / 6.585 pts/ability
Speaking / Listening / Reading / WritingAdvanced7.0 / 8.0 / 7.0 / 7.096 pts/ability

Second language ability

Ability TypeAbility LevelIELTS equivalentCLB equivalentPoints
Speaking / Listening / Reading / WritingInitial intermediate5.0 / 5.0 / 4.0 / 5.054 pts in total

Spouse / common-law partner’s language ability (first language only)

Ability typeAbility levelIELTS equivalentCLB equivalentPoints
Speaking / listening / reading / writingFluent basic4.0 / 4.5 / 3.5 / 4.045 pts in total

Education: up to 25 points

Federal skilled worker points for level of education are assessed on the following basis:

Level of educationPoints
Doctoral Level25
Master's level or professional degree23
Two or more post-secondary credentials, one of which was for three years or longer in duration22
Three-year or longer post-secondary credential (e.g. Bachelor’s degree)21
Two-year post-secondary credential19
One-year post-secondary credential15
Secondary school5

Work experience: up to 15 FSW points

Some notes on work experience and the Federal Skilled Worker Program:

  • Only skilled work experience is counted. Skilled work experience for federal skilled workers is work experience in an occupation that falls under a National Occupational Classification (NOC) code at 0, A or B level.
  • A minimum of nine points must be obtained under the work experience in order for a candidates to be eligible under the Federal Skilled Worker Program.

Federal skilled worker points work experience are available on the following basis.

Work experiencePoints
1 year (minimum required under the program)9
2-3 years11
4-5 years13
6 years or more15

Age: up to 12 FSW points

Federal skilled worker points for age are available on the following basis:

18 to 35 (inclusive)12
47 and over0

Arranged employment: up to FSW 10 points

Having ‘arranged employment’ in Canada can result in 10 points being awarded. This is when a federal skilled worker candidate receives a qualifying offer of full-time employment in Canada under one of the following scenarios:

The candidate is currently working in Canada on a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)-based work permit in a skilled occupation.

  • The work permit must be valid when the application is made.
  • The employer has made a full-time job offer in a skilled occupation to the candidate.


The candidate is currently working in Canada on a LMIA-exempt work permit or a work permit issued under a provincial/territorial agreement.

  • The work permit must be valid when the application is made.
  • The employer has made a full-time job offer in a skilled occupation to the candidate.


The candidate holds a valid Canadian work permit or is otherwise authorized to work in Canada, but does not fall into either of the above scenarios.

  • The work permit authorization is valid when the application is made.
  • A prospective employer has offered a permanent, full-time job to the candidate.
  • This job offer is supported by a positive LMIA.


The candidate does not hold a valid Canadian work permit.

  • A prospective employer has offered a permanent, full-time job to the candidate.
  • This job offer is supported by a positive LMIA.

In any of the above scenarios, 10 FSW points may be awarded under the arranged employment factor. A further five FSW points may be awarded for arranged employment under the adaptability factor (see below).

Adaptability: up to 10 points

Federal Skilled Worker Program candidates may obtain up to 10 points under the adaptability factor, which assesses individuals’ and families’ ability to become established in Canada from an economic and social point of view.

Though the table below shows the various ways whereby a candidate may be awarded points under this factor, please note that you ‘max out’ once you receive 10 points for adaptability.

Adaptability factorPoints (10 max)
Previous work in Canada in a skilled occupation (one year or more)10
Previous study in Canada5
Arranged employment in Canada5
Relative in Canada*5
Spouse/partner’s previous work in Canada5
Spouse/partner’s previous study in Canada5
Spouse/partner’s language ability (CLB 4 or higher)5

*The relative must be at least 18 years of age and may be the relative of the candidate or his or her spouse/common-law partner. The relative may be a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, sibling, aunt, uncle, niece or nephew, and the relative must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

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Federal Skilled Worker Settlement Funds

Federal Skilled Worker Program candidates without a valid offer of arranged employment must declare sufficient settlement funds upon entering the Express Entry pool. This declaration must then be proven when an application for permanent residence is made.

The requirement increases depending on family size.

Number of family membersRequired funds (in CAD)
1 (single applicant)$13,213
For each additional family member, add$3,560

These funds must be available and transferable, and unencumbered by debts or other obligations. The settlement funds requirement must be met at the time the application is made, as well as when the permanent resident visa is issued.

Which skilled workers does Canada need?

Canada has opened up the Federal Skilled Worker Program to a diverse range of workers, including workers with experience in any skilled occupation (NOC 0, A or B). If you are unsure whether or not your work experience is considered skilled, use this tool to learn more.

Canadian Federal Skilled Worker Occupations

There are hundreds of occupations that are considered skilled.

  • Skill Type 0 (zero): management jobs, such as restaurant managers, retail and wholesale trade managers, managers in food service and accommodation, and more.
  • Skill Level A: professional jobs that usually call for a degree from a university, including a range of Information Technology (IT) occupations, engineering and construction occupations, legal occupations, and more.
  • Skill Level B: technical jobs and skilled trades that usually call for a college diploma or training as an apprentice, such as chefs, plumbers, general office workers, retail salespersons, and more.

How to apply for FSW – Step-by-step instructions

Let’s look at the process — from checking your eligibility, to getting your Permanent Resident (PR) card.

Step 1: Check your eligibility.

Using the eligibility criteria outlined above, ensure that you meet the minimum requirements for the program for work experience, language proficiency, and education. Plus, make sure you check your score on the FSW points grid.

Step 2: Obtain the documents your need to create a profile.

In order to create your Express Entry profile, you’ll need three types of documents:

  1. Identification: Make sure you have a valid passport.
  2. Language Proficiency: You need test results from an approved language test that you took within the two years prior to creating your profile. For English, candidates may take the IELTS or CELPIP test. For French, the TEF and TCF are the two available options. Candidates with some ability in both English and French can be awarded additional points for ability in their second language.
  3. Education: For education completed outside of Canada, you need an Educational Credentials Assessment (ECA).

Step 3: Create an Express Entry profile

This step is completed on the IRCC website. You will be asked to provide some personal information, some of which is self-declared (such as your work history), and some of which must be accompanied with the documents from the previous step.

Step 4: Improve your profile and ranking under the CRS

If your CRS score is below the cut-off required to receive an invitation to apply, consult our guide on how to improve your CRS score.

One popular method of increasing your CRS score is to re-take your language tests. If your scores could be improved, it may be worthwhile to take some time to study and then sit the exam again.

There are other potential ways to improve your ranking, such as completing additional work experience or seeing if you are eligible under one of the Express Entry-aligned Provincial Nominee Program streams, particularly those in the province in which you work(ed). Your experience and skills may be in demand in the province, and so there could be a 600-point bonus waiting for you.

Step 5: Receive an invitation to apply

This is arguably the step that brings the most joy, as it allows you and your family, if applicable, to submit an application for permanent residence. From this point, you will have 60 days to submit a complete application. ITAs are issued when IRCC conducts one of its draws from the Express Entry pool.

Step 6: Complete a medical exam, provide security background checks, and submit an e-application

All Federal Skilled Worker applicants are screened for potential medical and criminal inadmissibility. With your application, you will need to show that you have completed a medical exam with an IRCC-recognized panel physician.

In addition, you have to provide a police background check (also known as a clearance certificate) from each country you have lived in for at least six months since the age of 18. The e-application, which must be submitted within 60 days of receiving an ITA, must also include detailed work reference letters from previous employers.

Given the tight time frame, it is a good idea to gather the background checks and work reference letters before you receive an ITA.

Step 7: Your e-application is reviewed

A Canadian immigration officer will review the submitted e-application and let you know if anything else is required.

Step 8: Receive confirmation of permanent resident status and complete your landing

80 percent of applications submitted under the Federal Skilled Worker Program are processed within less than six months. When a person is approved, he or she receives a confirmation of permanent residence (COPR) document. An officer at a Canadian port of entry or at a IRCC office signs and dates this document when permanent residence is granted.

Step 9: Get your PR card

Once you have your confirmation of status, you may then apply for your PR card. If you travel outside Canada, you may use this card as proof of your status in Canada.

Get help with your application

We have designed the Express Entry Roadmap: a free service designed to inform you about the Express Entry process so that you can be empowered to make the best decisions when it comes to your immigration. Sign up for the Express Entry Roadmap here.

Do you need assistance in preparing an application for Canadian permanent residence? If so, view our Book an Immigration Consultant page to see Moving2Canada’s list of recommended, accredited representatives who can assist you in your goals.

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