On November 28, 2008, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada issued Ministerial Instructions which identify applications that will be given priority processing, and which set out a new occupations list for the federal Skilled Worker Program

Changes to the federal Skilled Worker Program were announced some time ago. The regular federal Skilled Worker Permanent Resident Program has been significantly altered and is now an occupations-based system.

Federal Skilled Worker Applications submitted on or after February 27, 2008 will be placed into processing immediately upon receipt if they qualify under one of the following sub-categories:

  1. Applications submitted by foreign nationals who qualify for "Arranged Employment." Many foreign workers in Canada on valid work permits will have Arranged Employment. It may also be gained when an employer makes a permanent job offer to a foreign worker, and obtains an Arranged Employment Opinion (AEO) from Service Canada; or
  1. Applications submitted by foreign nationals who have been residing legally in Canada for at least one year as temporary foreign workers or international students; or
  1. Applications from skilled workers who can prove that they have at least one year of continuous full-time (or equivalent) paid work experience in the last ten years in one of the occupations on the Minister's Occupation List. The current list has 38 occupations: Occupations List.

Under the prior rules, anyone could apply under the federal skilled worker category if they had one year of work experience in any occupation under skill level 0, A or B of Canada's National Occupational Classification (NOC). Points were assessed under several factors such as work experience, age, and education. If they met the points threshold, they could qualify for permanent resident status. Now, only those with experience in one of the listed occupations will be able to apply. Please note that applicants under any of these three sub-categories will still have to have enough points under the traditional skilled worker points system in order to qualify for permanent resident status.

As noted above, those who have arranged employment and those who have resided legally in Canada for at least one year, may apply for permanent status without having to have experience in one of the occupations set out in the Occupations List.

The Occupations List also does not affect those who may apply under the recently introduced Canadian Experienced Class (CEC). This permanent resident category helps foreign workers and foreign graduates of Canadian institutions who have work experience in Canada to obtain permanent resident status under a pass/fail system (for more information see CEC Category). For example, foreign workers who have two years of work experience in Canada in a position that is at Skill Level 0, A or B under the NOC may apply under the CEC.

Therefore, most foreign nationals who are already working in Canada will have a route to permanent resident status without needing to be on the Occupations List.

The stated goal is to process these permanent resident applications in 6 to 12 months of receipt.

Overall, these changes and developments give the Canadian government more control over the occupational background of federal skilled worker applicants. The list of occupations may be modified from time to time by issuing new Ministerial Instructions. Therefore, as the labour market changes, a new mix of occupations could be listed. Secondly, both the CEC and the Ministerial Instructions facilitate obtaining permanent resident status for many types of temporary foreign workers who are already working in Canada.