What immigration programs will be managed through Express Entry?

Express Entry will be used by anyone interested in applying for permanent residence under the Canadian Experience Class, the Federal Skilled Worker Class, and the Federal Skilled Trades Class.  Most candidates may apply with or without a qualifying offer of arranged employment from a Canadian employer as long as they meet the qualification requirements of one of the three immigration classes above.  However candidates currently on work permits issued pursuant to a Free Trade Agreement or Provincial-Federal agreement cannot apply through Express Entry unless they have a qualifying offer of arrangement employment.  Similarly any foreign worker currently permitted to work in Canada without a work permit, for instance religious workers, would similarly require an offer of employment.

With the introduction of Express Entry in January 2015, numerical caps on each of the programs above will no longer exist. However this does not mean there will be no limits in place.  Instead CIC may adjust the number of applicants they will accept through each program throughout the year.  They will be basing the number of candidates receiving an Invitation to Apply (ITA) on the Annual Immigration Levels Plan, which will be a set of broad admission ranges for the different immigration programs using Express Entry. Furthermore, before applying for Express Entry, applicants will still have to meet the selection criteria of either Skilled Worker or CEC programs, for example, 67 points as a Skilled Worker and one year of Canadian work experience under CEC.

If someone does not currently meet the criteria of one of the above immigration programs using Express Entry, they may look to other existing immigration programs as alternatives.  For instance, the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP) have each province or territory establishing their own qualification requirements for applicants.  For example, Ontario PNP has a category for international students who are completing their Masters or PHD studies at an Ontario University, which is advantageous for individuals who may not have foreign or Canadian employment experience.  At the same time, provinces and territories may also use the Express Entry system to identify candidates suitable for PNP.

While Express Entry will be used for most of the country, Quebec will continue to select skilled workers based on its own criteria and the province will not be participating in the new system.

Comprehensive Ranking System

Starting in January 1, 2015, candidaes will create an online profile on the Express Entry portal. This profile acts as an official expression of interest to apply for permanent residence.  Rather than providing a series of forms and supporting documents at the initial stage, the profiles include more simplified information about the candidate, including education, work experience, and English or French language test results.

Candidates are assessed points based on the information they provide in their profile and their overall score is ranked against other candidates who created Express Entry profiles.  This system is called the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS).  CIC will be reviewing the rankings of the candidates in the Express Entry pool and they will complete a series of “draws” throughout the year where high scoring candidates are selected and given an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence.   Once a candidate receives an ITA, they have 60 days to submit an electronic application online for permanent residence.

As the name of the Express Entry system suggests, CIC is focused on speeding up the processing of permanent resident applications for candidates who receive an ITA.  Their goals is a six-month or less processing time from the day they receive a complete application to the day a final decision is made.

Little information is known about the frequency of draws from the Express Entry pool, but as of this writing, we expect CIC to draw from the pool every two to three weeks. CIC has stated each draw will have a set of instructions that will indicate the date of the next draw, the number of candidates that will get an ITA, and, if applicable, which specific immigration program will be included in the draw.  This means that sometimes a draw may only be held amongst those candidates eligible for a specific program, such as Canadian Experience Class, or otherwise the draw is based on the CRS score of all candidates in the pool.

A candidate’s profile will remain on the Express Entry system for one year provided they do not withdraw or receive an ITA before this period has elapsed.  The candidate may adjust their profile details at any time prior to an ITA being extended and these changes can affect their overall assessed points.  For instance, they could update their language results if they scored higher on a new test or if they acquired additional employment experience.  They will also be able to view their ranking in comparison to other candidates.  Of course the ranking of a candidate will fluctuate depending on changes in their own profile and, more importantly, depending on additional candidates accessing Express Entry or leaving the system when they receive ITAs.

Once a year has elapsed, the candidate may renew their profile or else CIC will delete it from the Express Entry system.  There is no bar against creating a new profile after this.  When it comes to costs, there is no fee for a candidate to create an Express Entry profile.  Existing permanent resident application fees will apply if a candidate accepts an ITA and submits an application.  However applicants must keep in mind indirect costs.  For instance, before creating an Express Entry profile a candidate must complete a language test.  As well, foreign post-secondary education must get an Educational Credential Assessment if the candidate wants to claim points for these studies in the CRS.  Both activities incur costs.

Factors affecting a candidate’s ranking

The Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) used for Express Entry will give points to each candidate and comparatively rank all candidates based on their points.  The maximum number of points available to a candidate is 1200 and a candidate is assessed points based on the following components:

  1. Core Human Capital Factors: either 500 points if the candidate is not married or in a common-law relationship or, alternatively,  460 points if the candidate is married or in a common-law relationship
  2. Accompanying Spouse or Common-Law Partner Factors: 40 points (if applicable)
  3. Skill Transferability Factors: 100 points
  4. Provincial Nomination or Qualifying Offer of Arranged Employment: 600 points

As one can see, a provincial nomination or offer of arranged employment is a substantial benefit for anyone looking to apply for permanent residence as it offers half the points of the 1200 available.  CIC has indicated that those candidates with a provincial nomination or arranged employment will have enough points to be given an Invitation to Apply (ITA) at the next eligible draw of candidates from the Express Entry pool.

Core Human Capital Factors (500 points or 460 points available depending on the candidate’s marital status)

These points are assessed based on four criteria:

  1. Age of the candidate (110 or 100 points depending on marital status)
  2. The candidate’s level of education  (150 or 140 points)
  3. The candidate’s proficiency in one or both official languages (up to 150 points)
  4. The candidate’s Canadian work experience (80 or 70 points)

The highest points for age are offered to those candidates between 20 and 29 years old, and diminished point amounts are assessed for the remaining ages between 18 to 44 years old.  Individuals 17 years and younger or 45 and older will be assessed 0 points.

A candidate must have Canadian post-secondary studies or an Educational Credential Assessment completed on their foreign studies in order to be assessed points for their level of education.  So any candidate planning to rely on foreign studies to acquire points should begin the credential assessment process.  The most points are given to individuals with studies in a post-secondary program of three years or more, entry-to-practice professional degrees, or doctoral level studies.  Whereas someone without any completed secondary education will receive 0 points.

Candidates are assigned points based on their proficiency in English or French.  If a candidate has completed a language assessment for both languages then they will be assessed additional points based on their scores.  Higher results in each language skill under the Canadian Language Benchmarks garner more points in the Express Entry assessment. Language results must be disclosed on the Express Entry profile, including a reference number to the test completed so CIC officers may verify its completion.   Therefore it is important for candidates to complete their language assessment by one of the organization designated by CIC as soon possible. A delay in taking the language test will delay a candidate’s ability create an Express Entry profile.

Lastly in the Core Human Capital Factors, candidates will be assessed points for their Canadian work experience. Work experience must be in National Occupational Classification Skill Type 0 or Skill Level A or B.  The experience must be within the past 10 years and be a minimum of one-year full-time employment or an equivalent amount of part-time (full-time employment is considered 30 hours per week).  Self-employment or unauthorized work will not be included in the assessment of points.  Maximum points are given to candidates with five or more years of full-time Canadian work experience.

Accompanying Spouse or Common-Law Partner Factors (40 points when applicable)

If a candidate has an accompanying spouse or common-law partner, then 40 points of their overall assessment will be based on:

  1. The spouse/partner’s level of education (up to 10 points)
  2. The spouse/partner’s language proficiency in English or French (up to 20 points)
  3. The spouse/partner’s Canadian work experience (up to 10 points)

Similar to the Core Human Factors, foreign studies require an Educational Credential Assessment and language skills must be assessed by one of the organizations designated by CIC.  So candidates should begin preparation of these requirements early if they seek to claim points for their spouse/partner.  Canadian work experience must be in Skill Type 0 or Skill Level A or B, occurred within the past ten years, and is full-time or equivalent part-time work.

Skill Transferability Factors (100 points)

Skill transferability factors relate to a candidate’s level of education, foreign work experience, and certificate of qualification in a trade occupation.  Points are assessed for each of these factors in combination with language proficiency or Canadian work experience. There are 100 maximum available points for skill transferability factors. The combinations include:

  1. Education and English or French language proficiency;
  2. Education and Canadian work experience;
  3. Foreign work experience and English or French language proficiency;
  4. Foreign work experience and Canadian work experience; and
  5. Certificate of qualification in a trade occupation and English or French language proficiency.

While each combination can give a client up to 50 points, assessed points in certain categories cannot be combined to exceed 50 points in total.  In particular, Combination A and Combination B, both relating to Education, cannot add up to more than 50 points together.  Combination C and Combination D work the same way for foreign work experience.

Nomination Certificate or Qualifying Offer of Arranged Employment (600 points)

Lastly, candidates with a provincial or territorial nomination certificate or with a qualifying offer of arranged employment through a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) are given a significant advantage using Express Entry.  This final component provides up to 600 points out of the 1200 available.  CIC currently states on its website that any candidate acquiring these points will be ranked high enough to receive an ITA at the next eligible draw of candidates.

However the process of getting a nomination certificate or a qualifying job offer is not a simple task for most candidates (or an employer when it comes to LMIAs).  More details about each method and their implications for a candidate using Express Entry will be discussed in upcoming posts in this series.   Additionally, we will review the available options for candidates who do not have arranged employment or a nomination certificate for acquiring these additional 600 points.

Qualifying Offer of Arranged Employment

There are four kinds of qualifying offers of arranged employment for the purposes of Express Entry. These categories depend on whether candidate is applying through the Federal Skilled Worker Class or through the Federal Skilled Trades Class.  So a candidate can pursue one of the following routes:

1.     Federal Skilled Worker Class

The Federal Skilled Worker Class requires that the offer of employment be in a National Occupation Skill Level 0, A or B occupation and the employment being offered is full-time, non-seasonal and permanent.  In addition, one of the following must apply:

  • The employer must receive a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment for the purposes of supporting the candidate’s permanent residence application; or
  • The candidate must already be working for the employer with an existing work permit based on a Labour Market Impact Assessment (or previously known as a Labour Market Opinion).

2. Federal Skilled Trades Class

The Federal Skilled Trades Class requires that the offer of employment be in a National Occupation Skill Level B occupation and the employment being offered is continuous full-time work for a minimum period of one year.  In addition, one of the following must apply:

  • The employer must receive a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment for the purposes of supporting the candidate’s permanent residence application; or
  • The candidate must already be working for the employer with an existing work permit based on a Labour Market Impact Assessment (or previously known as a Labour Market Opinion).

Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) are provided by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). The LMIA application must be completed by an employer, not the candidate.  Also the process is not brief and the time it takes to receive a positive LMIA from ESDC does not count towards Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s six-month processing time goal for permanent residence applications.  Currently ESDC intends to process LMIAs that solely to support permanent residence in 10 business days.  However this is subject to change if there is increased demand because of the incentive to have an LMIA when applying for permanent residence via Express Entry.

Prior to applying, employers must thoroughly review the requirements of an LMIA application.  These requirements can be very specific and time-consuming, including advertising the available position for at least four weeks and other ongoing efforts to recruit a Canadian citizen or current permanent resident for the position. The danger of completing the application incorrectly is that LMIA’s are frequently refused processing if information is missing.

There is no fee for the LMIA if the employer is seeking an assessment solely for the purpose of supporting a candidate’s permanent residence application.  However the fee is $1000 if the LMIA is to support the candidate obtaining a “dual intent” LMIA that is in support of permanent residence and also in support of a work permit so a candidate may begin employment while the permanent residence application is underway.

On a final note, candidates applying for Express Entry with a qualifying offer of employment must also consider the minimum language requirements they must meet.  For occupations that are Skill Level 0 or A, a candidate must meet the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) of 7 or higher in each of the four required abilities (speaking, listening, writing and reading).  Skill Level B occupations require a minimum CLB of 5.

While an offer of arranged employment is certainly advantageous for a candidate applying for permanent residency, it required the full cooperation of an employer.  The LMIA application process and any compliance requirements imposed by ESDC depend on the employer’s participation.  The LMIA process may appear onerous to some employers, however the intended benefit is solving labour market shortages by securing employees that intend to remain with the company on a permanent basis.  Therefore the solution may be very worthwhile for many candidates and employers.

Provincial Nominee Programs

Most provinces and territories manage their own Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP) for permanent residence.  They set program eligibility criteria based on meeting their local immigration and labour market needs. While these programs will continue to exist separate from Express Entry, provinces and territories will now have the additional opportunity to access the Express Entry system to recruit candidates they conclude will benefit the region. For candidates, this creates an opportunity to guarantee an Invitation to Apply (ITA) through Express Entry because a nomination certificate through PNP will be assessed 600 points in the ranking system. Similar to having an offer of arranged employment, a nomination certificate gives sufficient points for a candidate to receive an ITA in the next eligible draw.

Foreign nationals may still wish to pursue a PNP nomination independently of Express Entry. Since Express Entry requires a candidate to first qualify for one of the three economic programs (Federal Skilled Worker, Federal Skilled Trade, or Canadian Experience Class), some individuals will not meet this initial requirement. They may, however, still meet the eligibility requirements for different provincial nomination programs. One should look at the range of program options available through the various provincial and territorial PNP offices.

For individuals qualifying for Express Entry, they may utilize PNP in one of two possible ways. First, one could apply directly to PNP and wait to receive a nomination. Then if the candidate qualifies for one of the economic immigration programs in Express Entry, they could create a profile and state they received a nomination certificate. This would gain them the additional 600 points in the ranking system and guarantee being selected for an ITA.

Alternatively, provinces and territories can decide to access the Express Entry pool of candidates to see if some individuals are suitable for a nomination. Candidates would then be contacted by a nominee program to ask if they would like to apply for PNP.  Once a nomination certificate is received, the candidate would update their Express Entry profile, be assessed the additional 600 points, and thus qualify for an ITA during the next draw of candidates.

The extent to which provinces and territories will pursue Express Entry candidates remains uncertain as PNP offices have not yet indicated how they may utilize the system.  For now foreign nationals should continue to explore their options through the individual nominee programs available while also considering the opportunities that may be created through Express Entry.

Express Entry for Candidates without Arranged Employment or Provincial Nomination Certificate

Foreign nationals without an official offer of arranged employment or a provincial nomination certificate should not be discouraged from pursing permanent residence through one of the three economic programs managed via Express Entry. While gaining 600 additional points by having one of the two above options guarantees the candidate will be invited to apply for permanent residence, there are still opportunities for candidates to be selected based on their points ranking with the other 600 points for Core Human Capital Factors and Skill Transferability Factors.  Strong language skills, Canadian work experience, and higher levels of post-secondary education all benefit a candidate looking to maximize their points. Once ITAs begin to be distributed in 2015, there will be a clearer picture of what factors typically benefit candidates and how many points are commonly required to be competitive within the ranking system.

Express Entry does impose an additional requirement on candidates who do not have arranged employment or a nomination certificate. These candidates must register with the government-operated Job Bank within 30 days of creating their Express Entry profile. Registration with the Job Bank will allow candidates to seek employment opportunities available by applying for jobs and, with this, raising the possibility of securing an offer of arranged employment.

Moreover, later in 2015 the Job Bank will offer a Job Match program where employers with available employment positions will receive details of Express Entry candidates who may have suitable qualifications and experience for the position.  An employer could then explore the possibility of making an offer of arranged employment to the candidate, thereby guaranteeing the candidate’s selection for an ITA in the next draw from the Express Entry pool.

Interestingly, this Job Bank registration requirement will apply even to Express Entry candidates who may have existing employment in Canada.  While many employers are not in the position to offer permanent, full-time employment approved through a Labour Market Impact Assessment, they may already be employing foreign nationals currently on other types of work permits in the country.  Such candidates may not be interested in being matched with other potential employers and employment opportunities but, rather, they are simply participating in the Job Bank as part of the Express Entry requirements.

While there is no confirmation of when the Job Match program will be in place or how successful it will be in pairing candidates to employers, it re-affirms Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s preference to have permanent residence applicants who secured with employment in the Canadian labour market.

Express Entry Tips and Reminders

Since January 1, 2015, foreign nationals wishing to apply for permanent residence through one of the three economic programs must first step into the new world of Express Entry (EE). EE is Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s method for selecting whom to invite to apply for PR in the Canadian Experience Class, Federal Skilled Worker, and Federal Skilled Trade programs.

The first step for an interested candidate is to create an online profile on the EE system, which will then calculate a score based on personal details of the candidate, such as language ability, age, work experience, and education experience.  Top-ranking candidates with the highest points will receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for PR. Those individuals not selected for an ITA will have their profile remain in the EE pool for possible selection in future draws that will take place throughout the year.

While the process of creating an Express Entry profile can be straight forward, here are some tips and reminder that may be helpful as you navigate the process:

Be accurate with the information you provide and keep it up to date

If you receive an ITA, your profile information is directly transferred to your Application for Permanent Residence (APR). Any changes in information between the two will be scrutinized by a CIC officer. It is possible your permanent residence application could be refused if these changes would have affected the total EE points you would have received. The best way to avoid this is to keep your profile information up to date (for example, if you end employment, get married, or start school). If changes in circumstances did occur between the ITA and the APR, explain them in your application and include supporting documents that verify these changes. Do not misrepresent. A determination of misrepresentation could lead to a five year bar from applying for permanent resident status.

The information you provide must be verifiable with supporting documentation in an APR

The EE system asks a list of comprehensive questions in order to assess a candidate’s eligibility for an economic PR program and to calculate the EE points. As such, the APR will request documentation supporting any information that was used to gain the candidate eligibility and points. Start organizing your documents early so you can apply more quickly when an ITA is received. This may include having your education documents arranged (transcripts, degrees, and possibly an ECA report), employment documents organized (especially T4s and tax documents if Canadian work experience), having your passport renewed so it won’t expire within the next year, or having documents translated if they are not in English.

Take a language test. An ECA report is helpful too if you have completed studies outside of Canada.

Take a language proficiency test from a CIC-authorized organization if you have not done so yet. An EE profile cannot be created unless the candidate has test results. While an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) is only a requirement for candidates to qualify for the Federal Skilled Worker program, it is useful to have one regardless in order to gain additional EE points. Keep in mind that language test results and ECA reports must be valid at the time an APR is submitted. The validity period for language tests is two years and for ECA reports it is five years. If your documents are expiring soon, it may be useful to get new ones.

EE scores can fluctuate and there are ways to improve your score

Your EE points are not static. Some aspects of your points may change due to circumstances beyond control. For instance, having a birthday may result in you being placed in a lower bracket of points for age. At the same time, there are ways to improve your total points. You can obtain an ECA report to assess studies completed outside of Canada or re-take a language proficiency test to try to improve your results. A spouse or common-law partner’s studies and language skills may also improve overall points. Lastly, try to seek out options for an offer of arranged employment (through an LMIA) or a Provincial Nomination Certificate (through a PNP program). Either option dramatically increases your chance of receiving an ITA.

Some questions in the EE profile may not seem relevant but they are

Not all questions in the Express Entry profile are for acquiring EE points. Some of the questions are to assess baseline eligibility in at least one of the three PR programs operating through Express Entry. For instance, the profile asks if you have a relative living in Canada who is 18 years of age or older and who is a citizen or permanent resident in Canada. This question is for assessing a candidate’s qualifications for the Federal Skilled Worker program. Similarly, the profile asks about funds to support yourself and your dependent family members. Support funds are necessary for applicants selected in the Federal Skilled Worker Class who are not currently authorized to work in Canada and have an offer of arrangement employment.

Don’t forget to register for Job Match (if you have to)

Any candidate without a qualifying offer of arrangement employment or a Provincial Nomination Certificate must register for Job Match through the federal Job Bank website. Registration can occur within 30 days of the EE profile being made but a candidate is not eligible for selection in EE until the Job Match registration is completed. So once you make your EE profile, do not presume your tasks are complete.

Prepare for Police Clearances and Medicals

CIC now wants police clearances and medicals to be completed and submitted with the APR rather than being submitted at a later date. A candidate should not complete the medicals until they receive an ITA, but it may be useful to know where these medicals can be completed and start preparing for the financial costs of getting the medicals done. Police clearances should be issued no more than three months before an APR is submitted. If you anticipate an ITA soon, you should begin applying for the clearances. If there is less certainty about when you will receive an ITA then make sure to apply for the clearances as soon as an ITA is received. While indicating this is not their preference, CIC may accept an APR without the police clearances provided there is supporting documents and evidence showing legitimate efforts were made to obtain it.

There is a deadline to submit an APR

Candidates have 60 days from the date of their ITA to submit their APR. CIC has indicated no extensions will be granted. If a candidate cannot submit an application in this timeline, they should decline their ITA. Declining an ITA will keep the candidate eligible in the EE pool for future selection. If an ITA is not declined and an APR is not submitted within 60 days then the candidate’s profile is removed from the EE pool. A new profile would need to be completed.

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