Posted on - May 13, 2013

By Catherine Sas, Q.C.

Catherine Sas Q.C.

Canada’s skilled worker program for permanent residence was re-opened on May 4, 2013 after several months of being suspended. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney closed the program in June of 2012 to further address a backlog of applications as well as to overhaul the program. The skilled worker category has been the cornerstone of Canada’s economic immigration program for decades but in recent years had built up a backlog of nearly one million applications that were often taking in excess of five years to process. The newly re-introduced skilled worker program is designed to allow processing to occur far more quickly. In addition the new program changes shift emphasis from education and foreign work experience to language proficiency and Canadian work experience with the goal of enhancing an immigrant’s ability to integrate into the Canadian workplace more quickly.

The skilled worker category has always been based on a point score for various selection criteria with applicants needing to score a minimum of 67 points out of 100. While the selection criteria remain the same, the points allocated for each criteria have changed. Applicants will also have to submit the results of an approved language test as well as an educational credential evaluation from an approved testing and evaluation service centre at the time of submission of the application.

Key Program Changes:


Language is now the single most important factor under the skilled worker criteria with the maximum available points increasing from 24 points to 28 points for demonstrating proficiency in one or both of Canada’s two official languages – English and French. There is also a much greater weight given to an applicant’s first official language with fluency earning a maximum of 24 points instead of the previous 16 points. Points are still awarded for demonstrated proficiency in each of reading, writing, speaking and comprehension, but the level of proficiency has increased based upon the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) standards. Applicants must score CLB 7 to earn 4 points; CLB 8 to score 5 points and CLB 9 to score 6 points for each of the four competencies. Test scores from one of the approved language testing centres MUST be submitted at the filing of the application which is designed to speed up the application process by making it easier for officers to confirm language proficiency at the outset of the application process.


Canada Immigration is seeking younger skilled workers! The age range shifts downwards to 18 – 36 from a previous range of 21-49. The point allocation also increases from 10 points for age to a total of 12. Applicants under 18 receive no points and points diminish for applicants over 36 by one point per year with applicants over 47 scoring 0 points.


The maximum points remain the same for the education criteria, however, the allocation of points for various education levels changes. 5 points are awarded for secondary school, 15 points are awarded for a one year post secondary credential, 19 points are awarded for a 2 year post secondary credential, 21 points are awarded for a post secondary program of 3 years or more, and 22 points are awarded for 2 or more post secondary credentials with at least one of them being 3 years or more. 23 points are awarded for a Master’s degree or an educational certificate for a professional degree such as a physician, lawyer, or accountant. Previously, many professionals were only allocated 20 points for the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree. 25 points are still awarded for a PhD.

All skilled worker applicants MUST submit the results of an approved educational credential evaluation service. The Minister has designated 4 credential evaluation services which can be found on the CIC website.

Also, Canada Immigration has eliminated points for an applicant’s spouse’s education and replaced it with points for a spouse’s language proficiency. This is discussed further below.

Work Experience

Points decrease for work experience from 21 to 15 points for previous work experience and the range of experience necessary to earn points is increased with 9 points being awarded for one year of experience, 11 points being awarded for 2-3 years of experience, 13 points being awarded for 4-5 years of experience and 15 points being awarded for six or more years of work experience.

Arranged Employment

The points remain the same at 10 however it is now necessary to apply to Service Canada for a Labour Market Opinion ( LMO) which can be used to obtain a work permit as well as to apply for permanent residence. Applicants who obtain an LMO can also score an additional 5 points under adaptability.


The maximum score of 10 remains the same, but the basis for scoring the points shifts dramatically. Significant emphasis has been given to Canadian work experience with a full 10 points being awarded for one year of work experience in Canada at NOC level 0,A or B ( skilled worker NOC levels). Applicants can also earn a combination of 5 points for previous study in Canada by either themselves or their spouses, previous work experience in Canada of their spouse, having a close relative in Canada of at least 18 years of age, having arranged employment, and for their spouse’s language proficiency with an overall score of CLB 5 or higher.

Eligible Applicants

On April 17, 2013 the Minister introduced his most recent set of Ministerial Instructions identifying 24 eligible occupations under the new skilled worker category. In addition, the Skilled worker program will accept an overall total of 5000 principal applicants until April 30, 2014, with a maximum of 300 applicants per occupation. This is to allow for faster processing of existing Skilled Worker applications as well as for applicants in the other economic immigration categories such as the Canadian Experience Class, Skilled Trades Class, Provincial Nominee Programs, PHD Students Programs and Live-In Caregiver class. Canada’s economic immigration program accepts 160,000 immigrants annually.

Catherine Sas, Q.C. is a Vancouver immigration lawyer at Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre in Vancouver, BC Canada. Catherine has been practicing law for over 25 years, and has been voted Vancouver’s Best Immigration Lawyer by the Georgia Straight newspaper for 6 consecutive years.

To learn more about immigrating to Canada, becoming a permanent Canadian resident or bringing your family to Canada, email Catherine Sas or call her at 1-604-689-5444.

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