Express Entry is Canada’s main immigration system for attracting skilled foreign workers to immigrate to Canada permanently. There are three federal economic immigration programs that candidates can apply through under the Express Entry system: the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), and the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP).
Each program has its own criteria for what is considered eligible work experience that can help candidates score points and qualify to immigrate to Canada. The eligibility requirements differ between the programs. Generally speaking, to count under Express Entry, work experience must be:
- Paid work (not volunteer or unpaid internships)
- Skilled work (falling under qualified NOC skill type 0, A or B)
- Continuous full-time or part-time work
- Gained within the last 10 years
- For the CEC, gained while authorized to work in Canada
Let’s take a closer look at the specifics for each program.
Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP)
Under the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), eligible work experience must be in a skilled occupation classified under National Occupational Classification (NOC) skill type 0, skill level A or B. These NOC categories are:
- NOC Skill Type 0 (management jobs)
- NOC Skill Level A (professional jobs)
- NOC Skill Level B (technical jobs and skilled trades)
To qualify under FSWP, candidates must have at least one year of continuous full-time work experience (or an equal amount of continuous part-time work experience) within the last 10 years in a skilled NOC 0, A or B occupation.
The work experience must have been paid and match the lead duties listed in the NOC description. Volunteer work, unpaid internships, work while a full-time student, or self-employment do not count.
FSWP candidates can satisfy the 1-year minimum through:
- 1 year of full-time work (30 hours/week)
- An equal amount of part-time work (e.g. 15 hours/week for 2 years)
- A combination of full-time and part-time work
Special provisions exist for paid work experience obtained during studies. As long as the work was continuous, paid, and meets the NOC skill level requirements, it can be counted under FSWP.
The work experience for FSWP does not have to have been obtained in Canada. Both foreign and Canadian work experience in a skilled NOC 0, A or B occupation can count.
Canadian Experience Class (CEC)
To be eligible under the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), candidates must have at least one year of skilled work experience in Canada within the three years before they apply.
The work must have been:
- In a skilled NOC 0, A or B occupation
- Gained on a temporary resident status
- Authorized full-time or part-time paid work in Canada
- Matching the lead NOC duties
Self-employment, volunteer experiences, unpaid internships and work while a full-time student do not qualify under CEC.
However, IRCC has introduced a temporary public policy exempting self-employed foreign doctors who were invited to apply for permanent residence through Express Entry from the CEC’s self-employment restrictions.
CEC candidates cannot claim work experience outside Canada. Only skilled work experience gained while legally authorized to work in Canada counts.
Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP)
To qualify under the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP), candidates must have:
- At least two years of full-time work experience (or equivalent part-time) within the last five years
- In a skilled trade classified as NOC B
- Where they performed the lead NOC duties
- Work was paid and authorized
Eligible work experience under FSTP must be in one of the following NOC trade groups:
- 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 83: Jobs in natural resources and agriculture
- Major Group 92: Processing, manufacturing and utilities supervisors and central control operators
- Major Group 93: Processing and manufacturing machine operators and assemblers
To qualify, FSTP candidates must have been qualified to practice their skilled trade independently while working.
Experience in Canada is not mandatory for FSTP, foreign skilled trades work experience can also be eligible. However, any restrictions and licensing requirements for practicing the trade in Canada will be assessed.
In summary, all three Express Entry programs have minimum work experience requirements, but the specifics of what is considered eligible skilled work experience differs. FSWP and FSTP allow both Canadian and foreign work experience, while CEC is strictly based on authorized skilled work in Canada.
When preparing an Express Entry profile, candidates should carefully review the criteria for their program stream and only list work experience that meets the eligibility thresholds. Accurately documenting eligible skilled work experience is key for scoring high and getting an Invitation to Apply for permanent residence through Express Entry.