The Express Entry program is so broad in its attraction of candidates, that IRCC’s system sorts every profile into 4 subcategories. Although the end result of each is the same (permanent residency), each one has substantial differences despite some overlap overall. This post details all 4 of them at a basic level.
The Canadian Experience Class is for applicants with at least 1 year of skilled work experience in Canada. It is the main category for work permit holders who have spent enough time in Canada to acquire such experience within the last 3 years before applying (so it can include candidates who completed work and then returned to their countries of origin recently). An applicant may have this work experience in part-time or full-time form, but they must have been physically present in Canada (i.e. not remote work done at a distance). The applicant must have higher language skills, if the skill level of the work was higher, but they do not need to have had secondary or post-secondary education, or a job offer from their current or former Canadian employer (though both of these help with points).
The Federal Skilled Worker Program covers all applicants with at least one year of skilled foreign work experience within the last 10 years. It must have been accumulated all at once (continuous). All FSW applicants must have higher language skills, regarding of their main chosen occupation. A secondary education is also required, and since the majority of foreign workers did not study in Canada, a credential assessment is required for this to be recognized. Unlike CEC, FSW applicants must also show they have the funds needed to settle in Canada; a requirement waived if they have a valid job offer or are already working in Canada.
Applicants may be qualified for both the FSW and CEC program, but those qualified for both will be preferentially invited in the CEC program, since its requirements are slightly easier to meet.
The Federal Skilled Trades Program is much more narrowly-tailored than the first two categories. As the name suggests, it is for those with experience in skilled trades, as defined by the National Occupation Classification codes. There are too many to list here, but they broadly cover the various technical and general trades, natural resource production, and some other special types of work that IRCC defines as a trade. They need experience for 2 of the last 5 years (again, either part or full-time), and their language requirements are somewhat lower than the first two categories (and there is no higher education requirement). Importantly, the work experience must not be as an apprentice under someone else; they must be fully qualified to work in whichever country their experience is in.
The most difficult aspect of this program to meet is the mandatory requirement to have either a job offer from a Canadian employer, or a certificate of qualification for the skilled trade in question. Both of these can be difficult to obtain without having prior work experience in Canada or taking exams. Each Canadian province has its own requirements for qualification, so the choice of where to live in Canada is much more important than the other two categories as well.
As with the FSW program, applicants must also meet financial requirements by showing they have the money to cover the costs of their settlement (and that of their accompanying family) in Canada, unless they have a job offer or already have a work permit.
Provincial Nominee Program
This is a subcategory of all of the above; when an applicant is qualified for any of the above programs, they can also be nominated by a province, which gives them a large number of points, enough to guarantee being chosen in the next round of invitations. This is a more complicated program, however, and will be discussed in greater detail in part four of this series.
This blog details the many legal issues among Luka's practice areas, for a general audience. None of this information is a substitute for legal advice.