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Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) applications pass through three phases of evaluation, each with their own requirements.

This phased approach was introduced with amendments to Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) in 2008, with the primary aim of reducing backlogs and wait times.


A FSW application must first be considered eligible for processing. This is the primary way the government has reduced the number of applications it has to process.

Applications that are judged to be ineligible will not be processed.

Eligibility requirements were introduced as a set of instructions by the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, beginning in February 2008. They can be changed by the Minister at any time, and have changed several times since.

Currently, to be eligible for processing, an applicant must:

Have worked for the equivalent of one continuous year in one of 29 specific qualifying occupations during the last 10 years. There is an overall cap of 10,000 applications per year that will be processed under these criteria, with a maximum of 500 per occupation. To see how much space is still open, see Applications Received; or
Have an Arranged Employment offer. Job offers have their own set of criteria that are required, and must be approved by Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC). For more information, see Arranged Employment. There is no cap for applicants with Arranged Employment; or
Have either completed two years of study towards a PhD at a provincially recognized program, or have completed a PhD in Canada within the last year. PhD applicants are subject to their own cap of 1,000 per year.
If an application does not fit into one of these categories, it is returned, and the government processing fees the applicant paid are returned as well.


Once an application is deemed eligible for processing, it enters the selection phase.

The selection phase evaluates for all of the following:

Whether the applicant has the equivalent of one year of continuous paid work experience in a skilled occupation in the last 10 years. Applicants qualifying under one of the 29 occupations at the eligibility phase would have already passed this requirement at that point. For more information, see Skilled Occupations.
Whether the applicant meets sufficient points. Points are awarded for education, work experience, age, language and adaptability. At the present time, the applicant must score at least 67 points. For more information, see Selection Factors.
Whether the applicant can establish himself/herself economically once in Canada. This can be satisfied in one of two ways: the applicant has sufficient settlement funds according to government thresholds (for more information, see Settlement Funds), or has an Arranged Employment offer.
The applicant must satisfy all of these criteria for a positive selection decision to be made.

If all of these selection factors are not met, the application is refused, and the associated government processing fees the candidate paid are not returned.

One exception worth noting is that in some rare cases, a visa officer can override the points result. They might do this, for example, if they think, from all the other evaluated criteria, that a candidate is likely to be successful in Canada, even if they are missing the required points.

If a positive selection decision is made the application proceeds to the final phase of the process.


The final phase of the FSW application process determines whether the applicant is admissible to Canada. This phase has two parts, a medical check, and a security check.

An applicant can be medically inadmissible if they somehow endanger the health or safety of the Canadian population, or might cause excessive demand on government health or social services. For more information, see Medical Inadmissibility.
An applicant can be criminally inadmissible if they have committed certain types of crimes, have been involved in organized crime, crimes against humanity or war crimes, or are deemed somehow to be a threat to Canadian security. For more information, see Criminal Inadmissibility.
If an applicant is inadmissible to Canada, similarly to the selection phase, their application is refused, and the government processing fees the candidate paid are not returned.

Passing these two final checks completes the FSW application process, with the applicant able to then proceed to immigrate to Canada.

To see if you are eligible for the FSW program complete our free immigration assessment form.


This information is for general purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Go Canada Visas accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Go Canada Visas. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Go Canada Visas.