Have you worked in Canada for at least 12 months in a skilled job? Now might be the time to submit an Express Entry Profile and apply for Canadian permanent residency

Have you completed one year of skilled full-time work in Canada on a valid work permit? Have you taken an English or French language test? If so, you might be eligible to apply for Canadian permanent residency under the Canadian Experience Class (CEC).

The CEC is the principal pathway foreign students use to obtain Canadian permanent residence. To qualify under the CEC, all you need is to prove that you worked full-time for at least one year in a skilled occupation and obtained a minimum English or French proficiency score (from an approved language test). Once these criteria are met, you can submit an Express Entry Profile and wait for an Invitation to Apply for your permanent residence.

However, meeting the CEC’s minimum criteria is not enough to actually obtain your permanent residency. You still need to obtain sufficient points under Canada’s Express Entry System, where additional points are awarded based on your profile metrics. Candidates are selected by the government approximately twice a month, with the highest-ranking candidates in the pool receiving an Invitation to Apply.

Previous CEC and general invitation rounds ranged between 450 to 478 minimum required points, which meant that many individuals who meet the CEC criteria were still unable to secure an Invitation to Apply. A typical profile of a young CEC applicant that reaches above 450 points requires studying in Canada for at least two years, having a bachelor’s degree, and a strong score (CLB 9) on the IELTS English proficiency exam. After working in Canada for one year, the latter profile would yield 484 CRS points.

Individuals in Canada who failed to score at the CLB 9 level on the IELTS English exam have historically been unable to receive an Invitation to Apply, unless points are bolstered through overseas work experience, which many young students on post-graduate work permits in Canada do not possess. Even with an overseas bachelor’s degree, an individual who scored CLB 7 on the IELTS exam and worked in Canada for one year (with no previous overseas work experience) would only score 403 CRS points.

These dynamics have resulted in many students on post-graduate work permits not qualifying for Canadian immigration without the explicit support of a Canadian employer through a positive LMIA opinion letter from Employment and Social Development Canada.

All of this changed on 13 February 2021 when the government invited CEC candidates with a score of just 75 CRS points, which resulted in 27,332 ITAs issued. In essence, the government dropped the qualifying score to anyone between the ages 18 and 35 who met the minimum CEC program requirements. The government took the unprecedented step of inviting as many ex-students as possible in response to the pressures the pandemic has placed on Canada’s annual immigration targets, which sits at 401,000 permanent residents for 2021.

While the CEC ‘free-for-all’ delighted thousands of post-graduate work permit holders in and out of Canada, who suddenly realized they qualify for Canadian immigration, the surprise CRS draw led to some unintended consequences. Specifically, ethical lawyers do not retain clients who don’t have a realistic chance to qualify for Canadian immigration when they are assessed during a consultation. This meant that many individuals who met the minimum CEC requirements but failed to reach around 450 CRS points (the historical levels) never retained counsel or submitted an Express Entry Profile, meaning that they lost out on the chance to receive an Invitation to Apply when the score dropped to 75 points during the February draw.

But now that the government has created a precedent by dropping the CRS score for CEC applicants to 75 points, lawyers are duty-bound to take that fact into consideration when advising clients on their chances of successfully obtaining Canadian immigration. Although there is no indication the government will again issue a very low CRS score, the current immigration landscape and processing environment needs to be carefully considered. For these reasons, as long as you have worked full-time in Canada in a skilled occupation for at least one year and have obtained a minimum English proficiency score (either CLB 7 or CLB 5), now might be the time to submit an Express Entry Profile. To learn more, please contact one of the lawyers at Borders Law Firm at [email protected] or by calling 416.481.5689.

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