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:
  1. Generic Application Form to Canada
  2. Background Declaration
  3. Additional Dependants/Declaration
  4. Supplementary Information – Your Travels
  5. Economic Classes
  6. Additional Family Information
  7. Use of a representative
  8. Travel documents and passports
  9. Proof of Language Proficiency
  10. Letter of Attestation OR Official Transcripts
  11. Arranged Employment
  12. Work Experience
  13. Canadian Educational Credential or Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) Report
  14. Proof of Relationship in Canada
  15. Settlement Funds
  16. Identity and Civil Status Documents
  17. Children’s Information
  18. Police Certificates and Clearances
  19. Photo Requirements
  20. Fee Payment
  21. 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:

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!
My completed application ready for posting

Piles of forms and documentation making up my completed application

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!

Certifying Documents

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.

Useful Links

Canadian Immigration links: Other links:  

24 thoughts on "Applying For Canada’s Federal Skilled Worker Program"

  1. Olivia says:

    Hey Joe,

    What a great post! If you don’t mind my asking…

    Did your client letters from your freelance time included how much you were paid by that client? If so, did you provide any proof of payment?
    Did you provide all the work invoices from your regular clients, or just a few (as a sample)?

    Thanks a lot!

    1. Joe says:

      Hi Olivia,

      I included sample invoices for the clients who wrote letters of reference, not all clients. My tax returns obviously outlined my income, so I figured just providing documentation for my main clients was enough. All in all I provided a lot of documentation for my freelance work and they never requested further information.

      I hope this helps.


      1. Olivia says:

        Nice to know! But, just to be sure, for the clients who did give you reference letters, did you provide all the invoices, or just a few?

        I am including in my letters how much each client paid me in total for my services, but I am missing invoices for a lot of project, so I’m worried this will raise a red flag (saying that I got paid X but only giving proof of being paid X-1).

        And what exactly were the financial records you provided — were they bank statements?

  2. Satinder Kaur says:

    Hi, I know the threads been quite old now and might not be active. However, I guess I am in the same situation, I have a question regarding the self-employment. As i was also working on free lance basis I don’t have article of incorporation. Just wondering what explanation did you provide for this. Also, did you submit the tax calculations from HmRC or tax returns? How did you show the business ownership in this case? I will really appreciate your help in this matter as I couldn’t find any reliable answer for this case anywhere else.

    1. Joe says:

      Hi Satinder,

      I was also a self-employed freelancer, not incorporated, so no need to prove business ownership. I just provided tax returns and a few other things which I outline in “12 – Work Experience” above.

      I hope this helps.


      1. Satinder Kaur says:

        Hi Joe,

        Thank you so much for your help. I really appreciate it. Just a quick question, did you explain that you were not incorporated (and how) or you just provided the above mentioned documents. Please advise.

        Satinder Kaur

  3. Stefanie says:

    Hi Joe, congrats on your application!
    Even though this was posted three years ago, I hope you will see my comment. I am currently married to a web developer and we will try to immigrate to Canada via Express Entry (FSW). Like you, my husband is also self-employed, and we have found little information on the internet as to how we can prove that he has worked full-time for the last few years.

    Would you be able to share a model of the letters of reference you got from your clients, as well as the cover sheet you provided CIC? This would be very, very helpful to us, and I would really appreciate if you could share more details.

    Please feel free to contact me by e-mail if you end up seeing this comment. 🙂

    Thank you,

    1. Joe says:

      Hi Stefanie,

      On my covering letter I broke it down into time periods and outlined what I was doing for work during that time, including bullet points of my main duties. For each section I also provided bullet points explaining the supporting documentation included for each role, as this was a lot of paper to go through, so I wanted to make it as clear and as logical as possible. That’s all there was too it!

      Good luck.


      1. Stefanie says:

        Hi Joe, thanks a lot for the reply!

        If you don’t mind, I have just one more question… Did you have to prove that you worked at least 30 hours/week for every week of every wear you claimed, or did you just provide evidence that you had a constant amount of work every month?

        The problem with my husband’s company is that clients do not hire him for a specific amount of hours per week. They just hire him to complete a project, and then my husband estimates the amount of hours that will take and gives a prediction of when it will be ready considering his current schedule. So, at a time, he is working on multiple projects, but he sets his own schedule and can’t really prove that he has worked an “X” amount of hours per week.

        Also, did you hire an immigration consultant/lawyer to help you with the paperwork?


      2. Joe says:

        Hi Stefanie,

        No, I did not provide evidence for working hours, just finances.

        I did all the paperwork myself, so I know what you are going through. It’s a huge mountain to climb, but definitely an achievable and worthwhile endeavour.

        Good luck.


  4. Paul says:

    Hi Joe, thanks for the detailed post. This is very helpful. Had a quick question:

    Once you get PR, within how long do have to enter Canada? In other words, how long can you sit on the PR without moving there immediately?

    1. Joe says:

      Hi Paul,

      I dug out my CORP (Confirmation of Permanent Residence) letter from immigration and they gave me a year to arrive in Canada from when my residency was approved. I hope this helps, and good luck.


  5. Lian says:

    Hi Joe,

    Have you got your PR from cic? I want to apply for a PR through Canada’s FSW Program. I’m at the stage of having my official documents reviewed by ICAS. I hope you can share with me how long it would take for ICAS to send you the assessment report after they received all the documents from you and your universities? Hope I can hear from you soon.

    Thanks and regards

    1. Joe says:

      Hi Lian, after ICAS received my documents it took almost exactly two months to receive my assessment report. They do have an online progress tracker, but if I remember correctly this wasn’t much help. As I am sure you are finding out, the whole process was a huge amount of work, but it was well worth it.

      Good luck!


  6. Laura says:

    This is a great help. Thanks for going to the trouble of collating all this information.

  7. Stacey says:

    Thanks a lot for your very detailed and useful post. It has been a god send while completing my application. I wish you good success for the future.

  8. SHERIF says:

    Thanks a lot for this great useful detailed blog, i really appreciate it. Hope i get accepted in the fsw 2014

  9. Soso says:

    I have a question. Did you submit the money order with the application?
    I am considering asking my cousin who resides in canada to buy me the money order and send it directly while I send my application from here. I am not quite sure if that would be OK. What do you advise? thanks

    1. Joe says:

      Hi Soso,

      Yes I submitted the money order along with my application, as specified in the document checklist. Instead of supplying a money order, you can also provide credit card details which will be charged if/when payment is required. If you submit your application without either of these then I would suspect that you application would be returned to you as incomplete. I hope this helps.


  10. Shrikant G Vaze says:

    Hi Joe,

    I found your post very useful .Thanks for putting the whole process in detail. One question I wanted to ask is how much time it actually takes ,from applying and getting the Work permit.


    1. Joe says:

      Hi Shrikant,

      Processing times vary depending on your country. You can see an overview here:

      At the time of writing this, the UK has a 27 month processing time. I had to supply some additional documentation once my application was being processed, which they state adds an extra 4 months.

  11. George says:

    Thanks Joe, very useful and well narrated first hand info from an applicant perspective.

    I have couple of questions if you could answer them (thanks in advance) I didnt want to depend on any agency in the application process.

    Did the copies you sent were attested or just plain copies? and for the police clearance you get two identical orginals are we supposed to send one along with the application or just a copy of it?

    1. Joe says:

      Hi George,

      I’m glad you found the post helpful. I didn’t get any photocopies “certified” (using the Canadian Immigration terminology) when I submitted my application, as they aren’t required on the document checklist, however it does state that:

      Note that original or certified copies of documents or more information may be requested by an officer at a later date.

      This actually happened to me. Last week 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.

      In regards to police certificates, the document checklist specifies that you are:

      Strongly encouraged to submit your police certificates with your application

      and that these must the original. I hope that helps.

  12. Jessica A. Hawes says:

    October 19th. I’m sure this will be very useful to anyone starting this process. It certainly shows that the applicant needs plenty of perseverence. So you have worked hard and succeeded Joe and are almost on your way. I look forward to your next blog and wish you very good fortune in the days ahead. Grandma