Backgrounder - Action Plan for Faster Immigration: Ministerial Instructions

How the ministerial instructions fit within the Action Plan for Faster Immigration

The Action Plan for Faster Immigration includes instructions outlining a set of eligibility criteria that apply to all new federal skilled worker applications received on or after February 27, 2008. All applications made before February 27, 2008, will be processed according to the rules that were in effect at that time.

According to the instructions, applications are eligible for processing if they:

  • include an offer of arranged employment, or
  • are from a foreign national living legally in Canada for one year as a temporary foreign worker or international student; or
  • are from a skilled worker who has at least one year of experience under one or more of the 38 occupations listed at

The occupations fall under high-demand areas such as health, skilled trades, finance and resource extraction.

How the instructions came about

On June 18, 2008, Parliament approved changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act removing the obligation to process all applications CIC receives, and authorizing the Minister to issue instructions to immigration officers regarding which applications are eligible for processing, based on the Government of Canada’s goals for immigration.

To help develop the instructions, CIC consulted with Human Resources and Social Development Canada, Health Canada, the provinces and territories, over 150 stakeholder organizations and 500 others who gave input online. From this, CIC identified the most common and acute labour market pressures across the country.

Why the Action Plan for Faster Immigration’s instructions are necessary

With a backlog of over 900,000 people, two thirds of them federal skilled worker applicants, wait times can be as long as six years. The instructions make the system more efficient and competitive. They enable CIC to keep the federal skilled worker backlog from growing, to reduce wait times and to assess new applications according to Canada’s labour market needs.

The instructions will also help to ensure that the newcomers welcomed in the federal skilled worker category respond to Canada’s economic needs and reinforce public support for immigration.

What the Action Plan for Faster Immigration’s instructions mean for applicants

Federal skilled worker applications received on or after February 27, 2008, will now be assessed for eligibility according to the criteria set out in the instructions. If an application does not meet the criteria, it will not be processed, and the application fee will be fully refunded. New federal skilled worker applicants, including those with arranged employment, should receive a decision within six to 12 months.

The Action Plan for Faster Immigration’s instructions comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In addition, they do not apply to refugee and family applicants.

A range of other immigration options for those who are not eligible

The eligibility criteria outlined in the Action Plan for Faster Immigration’s instructions for processing federal skilled worker applications are meant to reflect Canada’s labour market needs. The instructions can be adjusted over time as the labour market changes, in consultation with provinces, territories and stakeholders.

There are also many other ways to immigrate to Canada. People who are not successful through the Federal Skilled Worker Program may qualify under another category.

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