Last Updated on October 26, 2014 by Steven Meurrens

On January 1 2015, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (“CIC“) is expected to overhaul its economic immigration programs with the launch of Express Entry.  On December 1, 2014, the Government of Canada released detailed Ministerial Instructions regarding Express Entry.  In this post I hope to provide an easy to read overview of the new program.

Express Entry will significantly alter every economic immigration program, including the Federal Skilled Worker Program (“FSWP“), the Canadian Experience Class (“CEC“), the Federal Skilled Trades Program (“FSTP“), and the Provincial Nominee Program (“PNP“).

Rather than first in, first processed for permanent residence applications Express Entry will feature a “selection” of candidates who the Government of Canada believes is most likely to succeed in Canada.

Express Entry will consist of two steps for potential applicants:

  1. Completing an Online Express Entry Profile
  2. Receiving a Letter of Invitation

CIC is touting that Express Entry is not a new immigration per se, but rather a way for CIC to manage economic immigration applications online.  However, a quick review of Express Entry suggests that who will be eligible to immigrate to Canada under Express Entry will fundamentally change.

From the CIC website.Step 1 – Completing an Online Express Entry Profile

Potential applicants must complete an online Express Entry profile where they will provide information about their skills, work experience, language ability, education, and other details.  Applicants must verify their language skills by submitting valid language test results, and generally must affirm the legitimacy of their education by submitting Educational Credential Assessments if they received their education from outside Canada.  There will be no limit to the number of people who may enter the Express Entry pool.

Those who meet the criteria of the FSWP, the CEC, the FSTP, and the PNP will be placed in a pool of candidates.  (As of writing, CIC representatives have begun orally confirming that it is doing away with the eligible occupations list for the FSWP and CEC. )  Candidates will be ranked against other applicants in the pool.  How this ranking system will work has yet to be unknown.

Candidates in the pool will be given a score to determine their place in the pool using a Comprehensive Ranking System that is based on a maximum total of 1200 points.  The Comprehensive Ranking System will be based on factors including skills, work experience, language ability, education, and other factors.  Candidates will not be given their ranking in the pool but will receive updates from CIC regarding the minimum point score that was selected to receive Letters of Invitation.  This minimum point score will fluctuate as need for the Government of Canada to meet immigration quota commitments.

The Comprehensive Ranking System is a phenomenally complicated ranking system, and I’d like to thank James Anderson, a Barrister & Solicitor in Ottawa, for giving me permission to reproduce a short PDF that he created summarizing the Comprehensive Ranking System.  While many law firms by now have created complicated Excel spreadsheets to calculate points, this two page PDF provides a succinct summary.

It is important to note that merely completing an online Express Entry profile or qualifying for an existing economic immigration program does not guarantee that a candidate will receive an Invitation to Apply for permanent residence.  Only the candidates who rank highest in the pool, and those with qualifying offers of arranged employment or provincial/territorial nominations, will be invited to apply for permanent residence.  The importance of having a qualifying offer of arranged employment or provincial/territorial nominations is that each is worth 600 points out of the maximum 1200 points available under the Comprehensive Ranking System.  In other words, an otherwise “flawless” candidate who does not have qualifying arranged employment or a provincial/territorial nomination cannot get more points than someone who does.

It is not clear how often CIC will send out Letters of Invitation, although at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, David Manicolm, the Acting Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration), stated that it will be every two weeks.  CIC will post the number of candidates who get an ITA for permanent residence on its Annual Immigration Levels Plan.

Candidates who do not already have valid job offers from Canadian employers, or provincial/territorial nomination, must register with the Government of Canada’s Job Bank which will connect them to Canadian employers. Where applicable, employers will be required to obtain Labour Market Impact Assessments (“LMIA“) from Employment and Social Development Canada (“ESDC“). The LMIA fee will be waived for employers using the Express Entry system.   It is not clear whether employers of LMIA exempt foreign nationals (people working under open work permits, free trade agreements, etc.) will need to first obtain LMIAs before their employees can receive a Letter of Invitation.

When an Express Entry candidate is identified through a PNP, they will be quickly invited to apply for permanent residence.  However, provincial nominees may only use the Express Entry program if they meet the criteria of at least one of the federal immigration programs.  Provincial nominees who do not meet the requirements of one of the federal programs will be able to submit permanent residence applications using the traditional streams.

Candidates in the Express Entry pool who do not receive an Invitation to Apply for permanent residence after 12 months may resubmit their profile and re-enter the pool if they still meet the criteria.

Step 2 – Receiving to a Letter of Invitation

Candidates who receive a Letter of Invitation to apply for permanent residence will have 60 days to submit an electronic application for permanent residence through either the FSWP, the FSTP, the CEC, or the PNP.  Paper based permanent resident immigration applications in the economic streams will cease to exist.  (One can only hope that the same will soon be true in the Family Class.)

CIC has committed to processing the majority of complete applications within six months or less.

Where Does this Leave Students

A quick review of the above suggests that Express Entry will make it almost impossible for most International Graduates to immigrate to Canada.  By requiring LMIA-based job offers, Express Entry would appear to gut the CEC, which is currently one of the most popular options for International Graduates to immigrate to Canada as International Graduates typically cannot meet prevailing wage requirements as their positions are entry-level.  Unless the LMIA regime changes, it will be very difficult for most International Graduates to obtain LMIA-based job offers, and to immigrate to Canada.  Unless a detail of Express Entry has yet to be announced which changes this assessment, Canada’s version of Express Entry, as opposed to Australia’s and New Zealand’s, might make it very difficult to recommend Canada as a destination for international students.

The following CIC powerpoint summarizes most of the above.

[UPDATE – November 12, 2014]

The requirement that employers obtain LMIAs for Express Entry will likely result in Express Entry being a nightmare for employers.  From January 1, 2014 to May 10, 2014, ESDC approved 29% of Labour Market Opinion applications filed in support of Federal Skilled Worker Program applicants.  This was before the transition from the Labour Market Opinion to the LMIA, a much tougher program.  If this trend continues, most employers will find that Express Entry is a huge barrier to finding skilled talent.

LMIA stats New Brunswick s_Page_5

On December 1, 2014, CIC published a useful and comprehensive FAQ on Express Entry, which I strongly recommend for more detailed information.