Canada Express Entry Returns: Lowdown On The Federal Skilled Trades Program

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Canada Express Entry, Federal Skilled Trades
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Canada immigration news: All-program draws under the Canada Express Entry system – including the Federal Skilled Trades (FST) program – re-start this week after Ottawa hit the pause button on them more than a year and a half ago.


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The last all-program Express Entry draw was on Dec. 23, 2020. But Immigration Minister Sean Fraser pledged in late April that these draws would resume in July. 

“We will … begin to invite new candidates to apply for permanent residence under our Express Entry system beginning in July,” he tweeted. “This includes skilled newcomers already in Canada on temporary status.”

FST Applications Expected To Soar This Year With Return Of All-Program Express Entry Draws

Two other immigration programs also draw on profiles in the Express Entry pool, the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSW) and the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program.

But the FST is the most important pathway for aspiring immigrants with skills in the trades.

In 2019, the last full year before the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada welcomed 1,170 new permanent residents under the FST in all provinces with the exception of Quebec, data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) reveals.


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The francophone province of Quebec has its own immigration department and selects its own skilled workers for immigration. 

With the hiatus on all-program draws during the first four months of this year, though, only 190 new permanent residents settled in the provinces and territories outside of Quebec through the FST with provincial nominations. 

That rate of arrival of these skilled workers would put Canada on track to receive only 570 new permanent residents through the FST this year if the trend were to continue.

But the return of all-program Express Entry draws starting this month means the number of new permanent residents coming to Canada under the FST is very likely going to spike. 

Skilled Tradespeople With Work Experience, Job Offer Can Get Permanent Residence

That immigration program is geared to foreign nationals who have been offered a full-time job in the trades for at least a year from one or two employers or to those who hold a certificate of qualification in their trade by either the federal government or a Canadian province or territory. 

A certificate of qualification is a document which proves a person is qualified to work in a certain skilled trade in Canada. 

It shows they have passed a certification exam and meet all the requirements to practice their trade in that province or territory. This certificate of qualification – or qualification certificate as it is sometimes called – is issued by the body which governs trades in a Canadian province or territory or by a federal authority.

There are basic language requirements under the FST. 

Applicants need to be able to speak and understand English at the Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) level 5 and come in at the CLB level 4 for reading and writing in that language. The French-language standards, determined by the Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadien (NCLC), are NCLC level 5 for speaking and listening and NCLC level 4 for reading and writing. 

Those who have advanced French-language skills, though, can boost their profile’s ranking. 

“You can now earn up to 50 additional points for strong French language skills, even if French is your second language,” notes the IRCC.

Advanced French-Language Skills Can Be Worth Another 50 Points

Under changes made to the Express Entry system, applicants who score NCLC 7 or higher on all four French language skills can get 25 additional points if they scored CLB 4 or lower in English (or if they didn’t take an English test) and 50 additional points if they scored CLB 5 or higher on all four English skills as well.

“Your language tests are valid for two years after the date of the test result,” notes the IRCC. “They must be valid on the day you apply for permanent residence.”

Since this a skilled trades immigration program, there is also of course a requirement that applicants have actual work experience in their trade.

Foreign nationals looking to immigrate under the FST need to have at least two years of full-time, paid work experience – or an equal amount of part-time work experience – in a skilled trade starting from the time they were qualified to independently practice the occupation within the five years before their application. 

In their applications, the candidates need to show they performed the duties set out in the lead statement of the occupational description in the National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This includes all the essential duties and most of the main duties listed.

The NOC lists the trades in four major groups and two minor ones. Those are:

  • major group 72, industrial, electrical and construction trades;
  • major group 73, maintenance and equipment operation trades;
  • major group 82, supervisors and technical jobs in natural resources, agriculture and related production;
  • major group 92, processing, manufacturing and utilities supervisors and central control operators;
  • minor group 632, chefs and cooks, and;
  • minor group 633, butchers and bakers.

A good way to find those occupational descriptions is on the federal government’s Jobbank website. 

Those applicants who went to school in Canada must also produce a certificate, diploma or degree from a Canadian secondary school, college or university. 

Those educated abroad must have a completed credential and an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) for immigration purposes from a designated organization showing their education is equal to a completed certificate, diploma or degree from a Canadian secondary school, college or university.

Proof Of Sufficient Funds A Requirement Under FST

When applying, foreign nationals should pay close attention to the province or territory in which they indicate they want to reside because although IRCC officials will not generally hold them to it, they will if the applicant is applying with a provincial nomination. 

In order to ensure the immigrant arriving under the FST and his or her dependents will not put a strain on Canada’s social safety net, the immigration program requires foreign nationals to demonstrate they have sufficient funds to take care of themselves and any dependents.

As of June 9, this year, a single person needs to have $13,310, a couple needs $16,570 and a family of three $20,371 to immigrate to Canada under the FST.

Number of family members Funds required
1 $13,310
2 $16,570
3 $20,371
4 $24,733
5 $28,052
6 $31,638
7 $35,224
For each additional family member $3,586

“(Those) funds must be readily available to you,” notes the IRCC. “For example, you can’t use equity on real property as proof of settlement funds.

“You also can’t borrow this money from another person. You must be able to use this money to pay the costs of living for your family even if they aren’t coming with you.”

In Canada, the trades are assessed at the provincial and territorial levels and that means an immigrant coming through the FST needs to check whether his or her credentials are recognized in the province of his or her choice.

“You may also need an employer in Canada to give you experience and training,” notes the IRCC. “To learn more about getting assessed, you should go to the website of the body that governs trades for the province or territory where you would like to live and work. The process is different, depending on where you want to go.”

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Colin Singer is an international acclaimed Canadian immigration lawyer and founder of immigration.ca featured on Wikipedia. Colin Singer is also founding director of the Canadian Citizenship & Immigration Resource Center (CCIRC) Inc. He served as an Associate Editor of ‘Immigration Law Reporter’, the pre-eminent immigration law publication in Canada. He previously served as an executive member of the Canadian Bar Association’s Quebec and National Immigration Law Sections and is currently a member of the Canadian Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Colin has twice appeared as an expert witness before Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. He is frequently recognized as a recommended authority at national conferences sponsored by government and non-government organizations on matters affecting Canada’s immigration and human resource industries. Since 2009, Colin has been a Governor of the Quebec Bar Foundation a non-profit organization committed to the advancement of the profession, and became a lifetime member in 2018.