Federal Skilled Worker Program Opens to Immigration Applicants

New Canadians taking their Citizenship Oath. After nearly one year, the Federal Skilled Worker Program opened to new applications on May 4 with a set of changes to the applicant assessment process (Citizenship and Immigration Canada)

The federal government began accepting Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) applications on Saturday, marking an end to a nearly one year moratorium on the skilled worker program.

The annual reset of the program’s quota was scheduled for July 1 2012, but was postponed due to a backlog of FSW applications that Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) said it needed to work through, and to give CIC time to make changes it said were needed to make the program better meet Canada’s economic needs.

The new annual quota for the FSWP is set at 5,000 applications, which is less than the 10,000 application cap of 2012, and is expected to be filled quickly as immigration hopefuls rush to apply after a years-long wait. The 5,000 applications accepted are expected to represent about 12,500 people as they will include spouses and dependents of principal applicants.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney promoted the goals of the program changes on Friday, saying they would benefit Canada:

“The government’s number one priority remains jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity. Our changes ensure not only that Canada can select the immigrants most needed by our economy, but that they are best positioned for success.”

These changes include a greater weight placed on English or French language ability, applicants of a younger age, and Canadian work experience, in assessments of FSW applicants. The changes were made after research and consultations to find the factors that most often accompanied successful economic integration and employment by immigrants.

The program has also introduced a requirement for applicants to provide Educational Credential Assessements (ECAs) for credentials earned outside of Canada, provided from one of three organizations designated to provide ECAs.

New Federal Skilled Worker Program to Launch May 4 2013

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced today that the long-awaited Federal Skilled Worker Program will be launched on May 4th 2013 (Citizenship and Immigration Canada)

Citizenship and Immigration Canada announced today that the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) will re-open on May 4 2013 with the new selection rules.

CIC closed the FSWP to new applications in July 2012, saying it needed time to reduce the program back-log and re-design the point system used to select immigrants to better meet Canada’s economic needs.

The re-launched FSWP will award more points for youth and English/French language proficiency, factors CIC says its body of research shows contribute to economic success for immigrants.

FSW applicants will need to meet the Canadian Language Benchmark 7 standard for English proficiency to qualify for the program, which is the equivalent to scoring 6 on the IELTS, the most widely taken English language assessment test.

The new FSWP selection rules will also utilize an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) process that will be introduced with the program, which will award points for foreign educational credentials based on assessments of their equivalent value in Canada.

A list of organizations designated  by Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to do the assessments will be released in early 2013.

“For too long, too many immigrants to Canada have experienced underemployement and unemployment, and this has been detrimental to these newcomers and to the Canadian economy,” said Kenney.

“Our transformational changes to the FSWP will help ensure that skilled newcomers are able to contribute their skills fully to the economy as soon as possible. This is good for newcomers, good for the economy, and good for all Canadians.”

CIC also said that new FSWP applications will be processed in months, instead of years, owing to the work the department has done in reducing the existent backlog and limits the program will put in place in quantity of applications it will accept.

Federal Skilled Worker Program fact-sheet

  • Maximum points awarded for a principal applicant’s proficiency in a first official language increased from 16 to 24 points, in proficiency in a second official language reduced from 8 to 4 points
  • Maximum of 12 points awarded to applicants aged 19 to 35, with decreasing points awarded until age 46
  • Maximum number of points awarded for foreign work experience reduced from 21 to 15
  • Points awarded for spousal education replaced with a maximum of 4 points awarded for spousal language proficiency
  • Maximum of 10 points awarded for Canadian work experience
  • Points awarded for foreign education credentials to be determined by an assessment of the foreign credential’s equivalent value in Canada as assessed by an organization that is designated to provide credential assessment and authentication

Study: Learning Canadian Culture/Customs, Not Just Language, Essential for Immigrants’ Success

New immigrants taking a computer class as part of the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program (City of Peterborough)

A study released on Thursday finds that the success of Canada’s immigrants rests not just on their English and French language skills, but also their knowledge of Canadian culture.

The study authors, Tracey Derwing and Erin Waugh, advise that the language training programs for immigrants that the federal government funds, like the Language Instruction for Newcomers (LINC) program, be refocused to place a greater emphasis on helping new Canadians acquire pragmatic skills and Canadian cultural knowledge.

The study, Language Skills and the Social Integration of Canada’s Adult Immigrants, was done for the Institute for Research on Public Policy and based its conclusions on several research findings on the language proficiency levels of immigrants, including a seven-year longitudinal study that followed two groups of immigrants, one Slavic language speakers, and the other Mandarin speakers, to observe their progress over the period.

The data from the longitudinal study shows that Mandarin speakers acquired lower levels of both official Canadian language skills and national cultural knowledge than Slavic language speakers. It found that among the Mandarin speakers, many did not know their Canadian born neighbours after seven years, and were less likely to be aware of local events than their Slavic-language speaking counterparts. This isolation from the Canadian population further limited the opportunity for Mandarin speakers to develop their language skills.

The authors believe the differences in the experiences of the two groups are due to Mandarin being more distinct from English than Slavic languages, which are in the same language family as English, and more cultural overlap existing between Slavic-language speakers and native-born Canadians, for example in a shared interest in hockey, than between Mandarin speakers and average Canadians.

The authors recommend that immigrant-focused government and other organizations expand outreaches to help immigrants network in Canada, in order to help them develop  the “soft skills” needed to integrate in the economy, and to work to raise awareness among native-born Canadians about the challenges immigrants face and strategies for interacting with them.