Add Federal Skilled Workers To The List of Suspended Programs


Without much warning, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration announced that the Federal Skilled Worker Program is now suspended until at least January 2013.

If you are not familiar with the program, it allows individuals with a certain set of skills and a certain level of education to apply for Canadian permanent residence directly without having to obtain a job offer.  Applicants would have to score 67 points with a combination of work experience, education, language, and other factors.  This program used to be the primary way most non-family members immigrated to Canada.

However, in recent years, the Federal Skilled Worker Program has been dramatically changed.  At first it was open to all skilled occupations and individuals who scored 67 points would succeed in getting permanent resident.   Since last June, the program was only open to twenty-nine occupations that were considered in high demand in Canada, and a maximum of 10,000 applicants were permitted.

Usually, the program is re-set every July, and the applicant number starts at zero then closes when the 10,000 number is reached.

This year is different than any year before.

The Minister has suspended this program until January 2013 – why?

The two main factors are backlog and changes in the program.

The backlog of applications is still high, which means that applicants are waiting for over two years for a decision.  This is unacceptable.  Although it is difficult for those who wish to apply under the program to wait until January, a massive reduction in the backlog will improve processing times dramatically.  Moving from two or three years to six months would be a major improvement in Canada’s immigration system.  It is also fair to applicants – expecting someone to wait years for a decision is not reasonable – who can plan that far ahead?

The second (and perhaps more troubling) reason behind the suspension of the program is the introduction of program changes.  There is no doubt the skilled worker program will look a lot different come January.  The Minister has already stated that the program will address labour shortages in Canada, and an ability in English or French will be paramount.

My guess is that there will be a lot more emphasis on trades – welders, carpenters, plumbers, electricians and so forth – as well as on medical personnel such as nurses and pharmacists.  I suspect the days of a university educated manager in commerce or retail obtaining permanent residence are coming to an end.  Unless your training and experience meet immediate needs in the Canadian job market, you won’t likely qualify to migrate to Canada.

Overall it is a positive move, but I don’t know why the program couldn’t have been kept open for those occupations and skills we know are needed now.  Making them wait until January doesn’t make a lot of sense, as they would not add significantly to the backlog.

About the author

Gianpaolo Panusa Gianpaolo Panusa is a Canadian immigration lawyer, writer, and founder of the PanCanadian Immigration Law Group based in Vancouver, Canada. Google+ Profile