Applying For Canada’s Federal Skilled Worker Program
Earlier this year I applied for permanent residency in Canada through the Federal skilled worker program. This program allows you to apply for residency without a job offer in place, but relies on your education, skills and experience. From the Canadian Immigration FSW site:
Canada encourages applications for permanent residence from people with skilled work experience and education that will contribute to the Canadian economy.
As you would expect, the application process is complicated and long. To give you an idea, it took me around three months of toil to get everything together in order complete my paperwork, and at the time of writing, the processing time for applications from the UK is 27 months. Once submitted you just have to wait. After four months, and hearing nothing, I finally received confirmation that my paperwork was complete and that I was eligible for the FSW program. My application was going on to be processed.
While building my application I had lots of questions, it felt like every requirement generated it’s own set of obstacles and questions to figure out. There is some very useful information available online, but it still took a lot of piecing together. I thought I would make available some of what I learned about the process in one place so it might help others.
Please note, this is not a complete guide to applying for residency as a Federal skilled worker. I don’t have my residency yet, my paperwork has simply been checked and I have been deemed ‘eligible’. Canadian Immigration have their own official guide which is your best starting point (you will probably end up reading this a few times)
The information below is true to my knowledge, but it is important to note that I am a UK citizen, applying through the FSW program as a Computer Programmer (more specifically a Web Programmer) in 2014. If your citizenship, skills or date of application differ, then things will undoubtedly be different for you.
One last thing before I start – the application process can seem very daunting and frustrating at times. You are not alone and if you persevere then you will find that no obstacle is insurmountable.
UPDATE (05/11/14) – A couple of weeks after my application went through to be processed I was asked to provide additional documentation in support of my application. Specifically, I was asked to provide a copy of my long-form birth certificate (I had provided the short-form version) and a certified copy of my bank statements. I have updated the information below to reflect what I learnt in order to provide these extra documents.
UPDATE 2015 – After my additional documents were received I was shortly after asked to do a medical, which I flew to Vancouver to do. Shortly after this I was approved my permanent residency and travelled to a Canadian border crossing to activate it. When I initially submitted my completed application the average wait time in the CIC website was 27 months, however I received my PR in just 7! At the border, the guard told me that they were ‘fast tracking’ skilled worker applications. Whatever the reason, after all the hard work of doing the paperwork things happened much quicker than I expected.
The list below reflects numbered sections on the document checklist. Any numbers not covered means that section was either not applicable to my application, or because I have nothing to add.
Jump to a section:
- Generic Application Form to Canada
- Background Declaration
- Additional Dependants/Declaration
- Supplementary Information – Your Travels
- Economic Classes
- Additional Family Information
- Use of a representative
- Travel documents and passports
- Proof of Language Proficiency
- Letter of Attestation OR Official Transcripts
- Arranged Employment
- Work Experience
- Canadian Educational Credential or Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) Report
- Proof of Relationship in Canada
- Settlement Funds
- Identity and Civil Status Documents
- Children’s Information
- Police Certificates and Clearances
- Photo Requirements
- Fee Payment
- Mailing Your Application
1 – Generic Application Form to Canada
This form is pretty straight forward if you follow the instructions. This PDF, and all PDFs which need to be filled in digitally can be opened in Acrobat Reader only. Opening and saving the PDFs is your first hurdle!
2 – Background Declaration
This form requires a fair bit of information, including education, work and previous addresses from the last ten years. So be prepared to sit down for a morning piecing this one together. I found my email account (more specifically my Amazon order confirmations) was my best friend for previous addresses.
Filing in the form itself gave me the most issues – firstly some boxes weren’t big enough, so I had to leave some spaces blank and then fill them in by hand. I also had to go on to an additional sheet, which I just created in a word processor. Most annoying of all was that once saved, the document locks is uneditable – “You cannot save a completed copy of this form on your computer”. This means that if you make a mistake and don’t notice until after you save, then you need to start from scratch… which I did more than once.
4 – Supplementary Information – Your Travels
Be prepared to set aside another morning to piece together this one. Past emails were again helpful here. This is another one of those can’t-save/not enough space in the gaps forms. You have been warned. I also needed some extra space, so I again created a simple table in my word processor. They ask for a “Purpose of travel” for each trip, which I found difficult to summarise in a small box so I ended up stating fairly vague purposes like “Visiting friends” and “Travelling”.
5 – Economic Classes
The “Main duties” column of the Work Experience section isn’t very big and I personally found it a little hard to condense describe technical programming concepts down to fit.
9 – Proof of Language Proficiency
I obtained my English language test through IELTS, who have a test centre at my local university. The test was on two days and has four parts – listening, reading, writing and speaking. As a native English speaker I did well on the test and although I didn’t get 100% on the test itself (nearly) it counted as towards full points towards this section of my residency application.
Beforehand I wasn’t sure if the test would be a breeze for me or not, so I went through all of the practice material on the IELTS website. Most of it was pretty straight forward but I would still recommend a look over the material so you understand the format on the day. I found the listening test the most challenging part by far, as you have to read, listen and write all at the same time (so more like a test of multi-tasking skills) I would definitely recommend doing the practise listening test.
11 – Arranged Employment
I don’t have any arranged employment so this section was not relevant to me. I am self-employed in the UK and hope to remain self-employed in Canada. I am therefore relying on my education, skills and experience to be enough for me to quality for residency through the Federal Skilled Worker program.
12 – Work Experience
I have been both employed and self-employed in the last ten years so documenting my work history was one of the most complicated sections. For my employed work I provided contracts and letters or reference from employers, which wasn’t too hard to arrange.
What was complicated was the need to prove that my self-employed work is relevant to “Web Programming”. This was made murkier still by the fact that during self-employment I had worked as freelancer and also running my own online business, generating my own work.
For my self-employed work I provided:
- Tax returns for each year of self-employment (lots of paper!)
- Letters of reference from my regular freelance clients
- Work invoices from regular clients (I asked permission to give out copies of these)
- Financial records to prove earnings from my own business
- A cover sheet explaining all of the above and highlighting relevant sections
13 – Canadian Educational Credential or Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) Report
I got my ECA report from ICAS. I had to complete some forms through their website, post copies of school certificates, my degree/transcripts, pay a fee and wait several months to receive my certificate! I had to contact my university registry department to obtain transcripts but they were very helpful. Apparently I am not the only person to ever ask.
15 – Settlement Funds
For “Settlement funds” I provided copies of bank account statements and printouts of online currency conversion calculations showing the total in Canadian dollars as shown on my paperwork (you need to provide the amount in CAD)
16 – Identity and Civil Status Documents
When I submitted my application I included a photocopy of my birth certificate. Once my application was being processed, immigration requested that I send them a copy of my “long form” birth certificate. Unbeknown to me, in the UK there are two types of birth certificate – long and short. I therefore needed to obtain a copy of my long form birth certificate from the General Register Office. Because of the time constraint I needed to get this done quickly, so I called them. They were extremely helpful on the phone and offered an express service. I had a copy of my certificate in my hand in just a couple of days.
18 – Police Certificates and Clearances
In the UK this consisted of filing out some forms, providing a passport size photo and paying a fee. The photograph had to be endorsed by a professional person who knows me. I asked a friend who runs his own company, who I have worked with to do this.
19 – Photo Requirements
I was in Canada briefly while building my application and this was when I decided to get my photo taken. I was surprised to discover that passport photo booths, which are quite common in the UK don’t exist in Canada, or aren’t very common. The required photos aren’t passport size, but slightly different dimensions. I did a web search and found a photographer in the local shopping mall, which turned out to be a much better option than a machine. The photographer was knowledgeable about the photo requirements for residency and did everything that was required (including stamping and signing the backs of some, but not all of the photos)
20 – Fee Payment
I decided to send a money order instead of providing my credit card details, which I thought might get intercepted, or more likely expire before they attempted to take payment. Also while in Canada I went into a Canada Post branch to get a money order to cover the fee. This also meant I didn’t have the headache of finding someone in the UK who could make out a postal order in Canadian dollars.
21 – Mailing Your Application
Once I had my application ready I send it via FedEx from a local authorized shipping company. This gave a me a tracking number which allowed me to see that it had been delivered, which was my only confirmation of any sort that it had arrived until hearing back from Canadian Immigration four months later!
As there are application caps for each occupation category, I wanted to get my application submitted as soon after the opening date as possible. This seemed like a good move – after five months Computer Programmers are by far the most applied-for occupation category (718 of the 1000 cap at time of writing) So don’t delay.
… and good luck!
The document checklist states that:
Note that original or certified copies of documents or more information may be requested by an officer at a later date.
A couple of weeks after my application went through to be processed I got an email from Immigration requesting “certified copies of your bank statements” as proof of settlement funds. Reading online, they spot check some applications and ask for further proof of settlement funds. I then had to look into how to get photocopies certified and found that in the UK you can follow these steps laid out on the government website.
Canadian Immigration links:
- Understand permanent resident status
- FSW application guide
- FSW document checklist
- FSW caps
- Links to FSW application package
- Step by Step Processing of FSW Application Guide
- International Credential Assessment Service of Canada (ICAS)
- International English Language Testing System (IELTS)