Overview of Express Entry following the November 19, 2016, Changes to Express Entry

Express Entry is Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) electronic system for applications for permanent residence. Potential applicants must complete an Express Entry profile to be entered into the pool of candidates. Once an application is accepted into the pool, the candidate is ranked based on a Comprehensive Ranking System. Points are awarded using the information in a candidate’s Express Entry profile. Candidates with the highest scores in the pool will be issued an Invitation to Apply. There is no guarantee that a candidate will be issued an invitation to apply. Invitations to Apply are based on draws that happen sporadically every few weeks.

Once an Invitation to Apply has been issued, the candidate will have 90 days to submit an online application for permanent residence. If a complete application is not submitted within 90 days, the Invitation to Apply will be retracted and the candidate will have to re-submit their profile to the pool. If the candidate does not get an Invitation to Apply for permanent residence within 12 months of submitting an Express Entry profile, their profile will automatically be deleted. They may then submit a new profile and re-enter the pool. There is no guarantee that a candidate will be issued an Invitation to Apply. Candidates can increase the likelihood that they will be issued an Invitation to Apply by increasing their score.

In order to qualify for Express Entry, foreign workers must first qualify under one of the existing pathways to permanent residence: Federal Skilled Worker (“FSW”); Canadian Experience Class (“CEC”); or Federal Skilled Trade (“FST”). Foreign workers are then assessed based on their age, education, language skills, work experience, whether they have a provincial nomination, Canadian educational credentials or a qualifying job offer in Canada. Based on this information, which is populated into the Express Entry profile, foreign workers are then given a score and ranked in the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) against other candidates.

Candidates with a provincial nomination under Express Entry are awarded an additional 600 points. Provincial nomination programs select candidates from among those in the Express Entry pool based on score and various other criteria.

As of November 19, 2016, candidates with an LMIA supported offer of employment are no longer awarded an additional 600 points. Instead, candidates with a qualifying offer of employment are now eligible for either 50 or 200 points depending on their NOC (National Occupational Classification). Foreign workers working in NOC 00 positions are eligible for 200 points for having a qualifying offer of employment, while those in NOC A, B, and all other 0 occupations are eligible for 50 points.

As of November 19, 2016, the definition of what constitutes a qualifying offer of employment has also been expanded. It now includes:

    • Holding an Offer of Employment + an LMIA; or
    • Holding an LMIA/LMO supported work permit + an Offer of Employment in a NOC Skill level 0, A, or B; or
    • Holding an LMIA exempt employer specific work permit issued under IRPR 204(a) or (c) or 205 + an Offer of Employment + have at least one (1) year full-time or equivalent in part-time experience, over a continuous period of work for the employer who made the offer

Having an LMIA exempt employer specific work permit means that the foreign worker’s employer is named on the work permit. LMIA exempt employer specific work permits include but are not limited to:

  • International Trade Agreements
    • NAFTA Professional
    • GATS Professionals
  • Intra-Company Transferees
  • Significant Economic or Cultural Benefits
  • Entrepreneurs
  • International Experience Class Young Professionals
  • Canada Research Chairs
  • Francophone Mobility
  • Medical Residents
  • Post-Doctoral Fellows
  • Charitable or Religious worker

Qualifying job offers must now be for at least one year after the issuance of the permanent residence visa, instead of permanent and indeterminate, as had previously been required.

Candidates can also obtain additional points for having an eligible Canadian educational credential. Points are only awarded for the highest level of Canadian education achieved. Candidates can receive 15 points for having completed a one or two-year Canadian post-secondary program. They can receive 30 points for having completed either: a 3+-year post-secondary program; a master’s level university level program; an entry-to-practice professional level program for a NOC A position; or doctoral degree.

Candidates who submitted their Express Entry profile prior to the November 19, 2016, changes should make sure to update their Express Entry profile with details regarding their qualifying job offer or eligible Canadian educational credentials. Candidates who submitted their Express Entry profile prior to the November 19, 2016, changes should also review their profiles to make sure that their points have been updated and that all of their previously inputted information remains in the system.

In order to enter the Express Entry pool, the foreign national will have to complete an IRCC approved language test (IELTS or CELPIP). Language test results are only considered valid for two years, after which the foreign national must retake the test. The test must still be valid at the time of submission of the application for permanent residence. One way that foreign nationals can increase their points is by studying and retaking the language test.

In order to obtain points for foreign educational credentials, or to qualify under the Federal Skilled Worker program, candidates have to undertake an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) of their Canadian educational equivalency from an IRCC approved agency in Canada. Without an ECA or Canadian educational credentials, candidates cannot qualify for points for their education. ECA results are only considered valid for five years, after which the foreign national must have their credentials reassessed.

Foreign nationals can also increase their points under Express Entry by having their spouse complete an IRCC approved language test and/or by having them undertake an IRCC approved Educational Credential Assessment.

The foreign worker should take the language test and apply for their Canadian equivalency as soon as possible as these preliminary processes can take months to complete.

Since January 2015, the draws have pulled candidates with progressively lower scores. The lowest Comprehensive Ranking Scores to date was 453 points. With the decrease in points awarded for LMIAs, we anticipate that scores will begin to fall drastically after November 19, 2016.

As candidates with LMIAs are now only granted 50 to 200 additional points (depending on their NOC), an LMIA is no longer a guarantee of a selection under Express Entry. However, for foreign workers on non-employer specific work permits, such as Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) holders and International Experience Class Working Holiday work permit holders, or for those without a work permit, having an LMIA will provide an additional 50 to 200 additional points which will increase their chance of selection. A permanent LMIA will also provide foreign workers with an LMIA exempt employer specific work permits an additional 50 or 200 points if they wish to obtain points for having a qualifying offer of employment prior to their have obtained one year of work experience in Canada.

Consequently, employers with foreign workers who do not require LMIAs, but who need additional points to qualify or whose work permits will soon expire and require an LMIA, should complete a Permanent LMIA application.

Alternatively, foreign workers may be eligible for one of the various provincial nominee programs. In Ontario, foreign nationals may be drawn under the Ontario Provincial Nominee Program’s Express Entry Human Capital Stream or the Ontario French-Speaking Skilled Worker Stream. Those candidates issued a nomination under a provincial nomination program are granted an additional 600 points. However, as of November 2016, many of the provincial nomination programs have met their quotas for the year and will not reopen until 2017. Check with each individual provincial nomination program to find out more about their selection criteria and whether they are still taking applications or issuing nominations.

The Ontario Human Capital Stream program has now been closed for several months and it is not expected to reopen until sometime in 2017. When the program reopens, the selection criteria are expected to change.

As the Express Entry system is relatively new and run through an online platform, it is subject to frequent technical glitches, which can make these applications more difficult to complete as the applicant is required to submit a perfect and complete application. Failure to submit a perfect application can result in the application being refused. Computer glitches can also result in the application being refused.

IRCC has claimed that most applications will be processed within 6 months of the submission of the complete application for permanent residence. As the program was only instituted in January 2015, actual processing times are not yet known, though anecdotally most applications are being processed in the promised 6 months.

The lawyers of Capelle Kane are committed to keeping up-to-date on the latest updates and changes to Canadian immigration. The government has announced that further changes to the Express Entry program will come in 2017. More details about the changes to the program will be posted once they are released.