Looking at Other Nation's Migration Policies - Canada's Point System

By David North on November 10, 2009

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, most of the other English-speaking nations in the world have adopted a points system as part of their immigrant-screening process.

Such a system allows the government to make more nuanced decisions on whom to admit to the country – as opposed to our all-or-nothing system. For example, if you are a skilled would-be migrant and you want to come to the U.S., (and can not do so as a refugee or a family member) you will need an employer and a government-approved labor certification. If you are certified you can come – unless you are a known criminal. If you do not have the certification, you are totally out of luck.

It is more complex in Canada, and while the employer's desires are a factor, they are not the only factor.

The Canadian system gives points for a number of variables, such as the employer's wishes, your education, and your language skills, but no single factor is crucial. Currently you need 67 points out of a maximum available of 100 to be admitted to Canada as a skilled worker. The points system does not apply if you are either a refugee or a close relative of a Canadian.

Canada has created an interactive website – almost a computer game – on which you can figure out if you could migrate to Canada; it borders on being fun. You answer a few questions and see whether – all else being equal – you qualify.

One of the advantages of a points system is its administrative flexibility – if the government is worried about the size of the flow of immigrants it can raise the points threshold, and if not, it can lower them. It also can add or subtract different factors, as public policy needs change. Some years ago, Canada added points if you want to migrate to Newfoundland (as few have done in the last hundred years) or take them away if you wanted to settle in all-too-popular Toronto.

Currently the point system has these ingredients: up to 25 points for education; up to 21 for work experience; up to 24 for English and/or French linguistic abilities; up to 10 points for a government-approved job offer; up to 10 points for age (youth, really) and up to 10 points for adaptability, a catchall category, including one's spouse‘s education.

When I tried it I just barely go past the 67 mark. I got full marks of 25 for education (I have a master's degree), 21 for work experience, and 16 for my English for a total of 62; then nothing for age (I am over 53, well over), nothing for an approved Canadian job offer, as I have none, but scraped through with another five points because my wife, too, has an M.A. If I could get a single point for my minimal ability to read some French, it would have been 68.

Try it yourself.

Australia, New Zealand, and, more recently, Great Britain, also have their own versions of point systems to help make immigrant-admission decisions.