Federal Skilled Trades Program
Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP)
Since 2013, the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) has offered an immigration pathway to global talent with skilled trades backgrounds.
The FSTP is one of three skilled worker programs management under Canada’s Express Entry system. Learn everything you need to know on the FSTP in this comprehensive CAN Pathways page.
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Table of Contents
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) launched the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) in 2013 to offer a dedicated immigration pathway to skilled trades workers.
The FSTP is one of three federal economic programs managed by the Government of Canada’s Express Entry system. Express Entry is the main way Canada welcomes economic class skilled workers to immigrate to the country. Under its Immigration Levels Plan, Canada aims to welcome over 400,000 new immigrants per year with an average of 110,000 annual immigration spots allocated to Express Entry.
Applying through the FSTP is one of many ways you can pursue immigration to Canada as a skilled trades professional. Other options include applying through other federal immigration programs, applying through the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), and applying to immigrate to Quebec.
What are the benefits of the FSTP?
The FSTP is part of a major effort by federal and provincial governments to welcome more skilled trades workers to Canada to address labour shortages in trades occupations. Canada has an aging population and low birth rate, which is why it is relying more on immigration to support its labour force and economic growth. The skilled trades is an area of significant need.
Immigrating to Canada under the FSTP offers a number of benefits. Under Express Entry, successful FSTP candidates are usually able to obtain their permanent residence within six months.
FSTP candidates may have lower CRS scores than other candidates in the Express Entry pool in part because they are not required to prove their level of education. IRCC, however, occasionally holds program-specific Express Entry draws inviting only FSTP candidates. Entering the Express Entry pool increases your odds of obtaining permanent residence since you can receive a provincial nomination which will all but guarantee your success through Express Entry. A provincial nomination is worth an additional 600 CRS points which means you will very likely eventually receive a permanent residence invitation under Express Entry.
If you are a FSTP candidate with Canadian work experience, you are well-positioned to succeed in the Canadian labour market. IRCC provides more Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points to candidates who have worked in Canada and also who have studied here.
Research by Canada’s governments as well as academics also shows that having Canadian experience is a major advantage when obtaining permanent residence. The combination of the knowledge, connections, experience, and skills you obtained while working in Canada will provide you with a labour market edge when you obtain permanent residence under the FSTP.
How the immigration process works with the FSTP:
IRCC uses Express Entry to manage skilled worker applications for three economic class skilled worker immigration programs including the FSTP.
You first need to ensure you meet the FSTP’s eligibility criteria or the criteria of the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) or Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program. If you meet the eligibility criteria, you can upload an Express Entry profile onto IRCC’s website where you will receive a CRS score based on the likes of your age, education, language skills, work experience, and Canadian work and study experience. Usually every two weeks, IRCC holds Express Entry draws inviting the candidates with the highest CRS scores to apply for permanent residence. IRCC will provide you with a deadline on how much time you have to submit your permanent residence application. IRCC will aim to process your application within six months.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how you can pursue immigration to Canada through the FSTP:
Step 1: See if you meet the FSTP’s eligibility criteria. CAN Pathways has a free eligibility tool.
Step 2: If you meet the eligibility criteria of the FSTP or another Express Entry program, you will need to complete an English and/or French language test officially recognized by IRCC. If you have studied abroad in an eligible program, you may also want to claim the additional CRS points you are eligible for by obtaining an Educational Credential Assessment. More information is available on CAN Pathways’s Express Entry page.
Step 3: Submit your Express Entry profile on IRCC’s website for free.
Step 4: Follow IRCC’s Express Entry draws to see if you receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence. Draws tend to take place every two weeks.
Step 5: If you receive an ITA, submit your completed permanent residence application to IRCC within the specified deadline. IRCC’s processing standard for permanent residence applications is six months or less for most applicants.
In order to be eligible for the FSTP, you must:
- have valid job offers of continuous, paid, full-time employment (at least 30 hours a week) from up to two employers in Canada for at least one year OR a certificate of qualification* from a provincial or territorial body;
- provide proof of basic language proficiency from a designated language testing organization, demonstrating that the applicant meets the minimum threshold set by IRCC — Canadian Level Benchmark (CLB) 5 for speaking and listening, CLB 4 for reading and writing;
- have obtained 2 years of full-time work experience (or an equal amount of part-time work) in the skilled trade in the five years before applying; and
- be able to demonstrate the skills and experience and that they have performed the essential duties of the occupation.
*A certificate of qualification proves that a foreign national is qualified to work in a skilled trade occupation in Canada. With a certificate of qualification, applicants prove they have passed a certification exam or met all the requirements to practice their trade in a specific province or territory.
Skilled work experience eligible for the FSTP falls under the following categories of the National Occupational Classification (NOC):
- 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.
FSTP candidates must plan to reside outside the province of Quebec. The province of Quebec selects its own skilled workers through a unique immigration system. If you plan on immigrating to Quebec, please visit the Quebec Skilled Worker Program page for more information.
Frequently Asked Questions
You need to take an English and/or French test by a third party language tester that has been designated by IRCC.
You need to meet the following requirements at a minimum on your test(s):
- at least a CLB 5 (English) or a NCLC 5 (French) for speaking and listening
- at least a CLB 4 (English) or a NCLC 4 (French) for reading and writing
If you receive an invitation to apply for permanent residence, your test results can not be older than two years old on the day you submit your permanent residence application.
A certificate of qualification demonstrates a person is qualified to practice a skilled trade in Canada. They have passed a certified exam and meet all the requirements to practice the trade in a specific provinces or territory.
The certificate you get will be issued by the body that governs trades in the given province or territory or by a federal government authority.
Under Canada’s Constitution, provinces and territories are responsible for education and training. This means they are usually in charge of setting the requirements to practice a skilled trade in their jurisdiction.
The regulatory organization that is responsible for governing your skilled trade in the province or territory of your choice needs to assess your skills, trades experience, training, and determine if you are eligible to write an exam to be certified.
You will likely need to physically travel to the province or territory to write the exam for certification. In addition, you may need an employer in Canada to train you and provide you with work experience before you write the exam.
There are some trades that are not regulated by a province or territory (e.g., airplane mechanic). If this is the case, your skilled trade may fall under federal regulation. More information on how to get your credentials assessed in Canada can be found on this government website.
No. However, a job offer is required if you do not have a certificate of qualification in your skilled trade that has been issued by a province or territory in Canada.
A job offer is eligible under the FSTP if it is full-time employment from up to two employers in Canada for a minimum of 30 hours per week. The job offer needs to be for at least one year in duration.
Job offers usually require a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) however there are exceptions. LMIAs are used by the federal government to verify that the hiring of foreign nationals does not have a negative impact on the Canadian job market.
Under the FSTP, you can only count work experience in a trade if you were qualified to practice that trade in the region where you obtained the work experience.
For example, you may have been qualified in one country and got work experience there. If you then moved to another country to work, you could only count the work experience you gained in that country if you also got certified by the relevant authority to practice there.
Applying through Express Entry increases your chances of obtaining permanent residence. Even if you have a low CRS score, you get the opportunity to receive a provincial nomination if you are in the Express Entry pool. A provincial nomination will get you 600 extra CRS points and virtually guarantee you will receive a permanent residence invitation through Express Entry.
Keep in mind it is also free to create an Express Entry profile. You can create an Express Entry profile and also apply to other immigration programs as well.
Among the ways you can improve your CRS score include:
- Secure an eligible job offer
- Claim all the CRS points you are eligible for (e.g., if applicable, get an Educational Credential Assessment If you obtained eligible foreign education)
- Obtain an eligible academic credential in Canada and/or work in Canada
- Prepare adequately for your English or French language test and retake it until you are satisfied with your score
- If applicable, have your spouse or partner as the principal applicant if they have a higher CRS score
Click here for more details on how you can improve your CRS score.
Yes, you need to show IRCC you have enough funds to support yourself and your family (if applicable) upon completing your permanent residence landing in Canada. However, this requirement is waived if you are legally able to work in Canada and have an eligible job offer.
Once the individual enters the pool by having created an Express Entry profile, he or she becomes a candidate and is ranked along with other candidates. The Express Entry pool is a competitive environment, with a points-based ranking system where candidates are awarded up to 1,200 points under the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). The government conducts periodic draws, in which the top-ranked candidates are issued an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence.
Under Canada’s Constitution, the federal government and provinces and territories share the authority to select and settle new immigrants.
Canada’s federal immigration department, IRCC, manages the overall immigration system including Express Entry, and various programs such as the FSTP.
In addition, the provinces and territories operate their own selection programs for skilled workers. Quebec operates its own system. Most other provinces and territories operate the Provincial Nominee Program. Under the PNP, each province or territory can “nominate” immigration candidates who meet their requirements. Immigration candidates with a provincial nomination then have their permanent residence applications processed by IRCC.
You can get a provincial nomination two ways. You can apply directly to a province or territories’ PNP. You can also enter the Express Entry pool if you are eligible for the FSTP or another program, and potentially receive an invitation by a province or territory to apply to their PNP. This will give you 600 extra CRS points which will almost guarantee you will get a permanent residence invitation by IRCC under Express Entry.
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