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Canada Wants You

Apply for a Skilled Worker Visa

After the 2004 presidential election, many Americans were so desperate to leave the country they considered marrying themselves off to complete strangers in the Great White North (www.marryanamerican.ca). Less adventurous types—or people who are already married—might prefer to apply for a Skilled Worker Visa through Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). Canada is actively seeking more than 200,000 new immigrants a year.

The Canadian Skilled Worker Visa allows immigration to Canada as a permanent resident without the need for an employer or sponsor. Holders of this visa are able to seek employment and apply for jobs following the exact same process as a resident worker, without requiring you and your employer to go through the work permit process.

How skilled do they mean by "skilled?" How much work makes you a "worker?" To determine eligibility for the Skilled Worker Visa, Canada looks at six selection factors including Education, Official Languages Spoken, Work Experience, Age, whether you have Pre-Arranged Employment in Canada, and Adaptability. All of these factors are scored on a point system from 0 — 100. To see if you might be eligible for this visa, let's go through the sections and see how you add up.

Education: Higher education really counts when applying for the Skilled Worker Visa. On the point system, you can get a maximum of 25 points for education. CIC gives only five points for a high school degree. That bumps up to 20 points with a bachelor's degree from a university and 25 points for a master's degree or higher.

Official Languages Spoken: The two official languages of Canada are English and French. Points towards the Skilled Workers Visa are awarded on a sliding scale of proficiency. CIC gives 16 points to proficient speakers of one of the official languages, and if you are proficient in both English and French you can earn a maximum of 24 points.

Work Experience: Canada prefers immigrants who have some work experience. For one year of experience CIC awards 15 points. After that it's two points for every additional year of experience, up to a total of 21 points.

Age: If the applicant is between the ages of 21 and 49, that's 10 easy points toward the Skilled Worker Visa. Subtract two points for every year the applicant is under 21 or over 49.

Arranged Employment in Canada: While it is not necessary to have a job set up before you apply for the Skilled Workers Visa, CIC awards 10 points to applicants already working in Canada or outside of the country who have a permanent job offer approved by the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.

Adaptability: You can earn extra points toward the Skilled Workers Visa if you show you and your family will adapt easily to life in Canada. Apparently, Canada thinks education leads to greater adaptability because CIC awards up to five points according to a spouse's level of education. CIC also awards five points for each of the following: one year of Canadian work experience, two years of Canadian study, if you already have arranged work, and if you have extended family living in Canada — up to a maximum of 10 points for this section.

How Does it Add Up? If you have been keeping score, add up all the points you have earned in each section now. Currently, the "pass mark" is set at 67 points. Confused? Here's an example: Let's say an applicant has a bachelor's degree (20 pts), speaks English with proficiency (16 pts), has four years of work experience (21 pts), and is between the ages of 21 and 49 (10 pts), there's 67 points right there; this person is eligible for a Skilled Worker's Visa.

What Now? If you qualify for the Skilled Worker's Visa, congratulations! But don't start celebrating yet—you still have lots to do. Be aware that it's not a quick or easy process by any means—you will need to spend several hours filling out a complete Skilled Worker Visa application with documentation, then you'll have to wait up to 12 months for a response. If you are serious about applying for the Skilled Worker Visa, the first place you should explore is the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) website.

The good news is that there's no guesswork involved—if you score high enough on the point scale, you'll get the Skilled Workers Visa. It's just a matter of time. After that, where and when you move to Canada is up to you. Will it be the pacific shores of British Columbia, the prairies of Alberta, the French-speaking cities of Quebec, or the uncharted wilds of the North? Or will it be somewhere else in Canada entirely? Canada is the second largest country in the world and the possibilities are truly endless.

Editor's note: Please refer to the websites linked to in this article on working in Canada for answers to your particular situation (there are almost as many unique situations as there are people wishing to get a work visa, and the requirements change on a regular basis), or see our collection of resources for living in Canada.

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