Northern Exposure

New express entry system introduced by CIC: What employers should know

by Isabelle Dongier

As of January 1, 2015, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) implemented its new electronic Express Entry (EE) system, which must now be used by potential applicants for permanent residence under certain economic immigration programs. These programs include the Canada Experience Class (CEC), the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) Program, the Federal Skilled Trades (FST) Program, and the Provincial Nominee Program in participating provinces. (At the moment, Quebec does not use the Express Entry System but rather selects its own skilled workers.)

The EE system has been presented as a win-win solution for applicants, employers, and CIC alike. The idea is that this system will assist CIC to better manage its incoming permanent residence applications, while also providing facilitated access to applicants for employers who are struggling with labor market shortages. Applicants will benefit from an expedited six-month processing time. However, behind these attractive objectives, many practical details remain to be worked out.

Overview of the EE system

The new EE System consists of a four-step process:

1. Entry of an EE profile: Potential applicants may express their interest by entering their profile electronically in the EE pool at no cost. In order to do so, they must provide information about their age, language abilities, work experience, and education;
2. Draws and invitations: Over the course of each year, CIC will regularly conduct draws in the EE pool and will issue invitations to apply (ITA) for permanent residence to the highest-ranking applicants. Ranking will be determined through the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS), a points-based system that assesses the various factors set out in Step 1, above. Additional points will be awarded to those who were granted a job offer with a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) or a provincial nomination;
3. Online application: Invited applicants must file their permanent residence applications online within 60 days of receiving an ITA, while those who have not been issued ITAs after 12 months can submit a new profile; and
4. Processing: CIC has stated that it intends to process the majority of complete applications within six months or less.

Details of the EE system

As with any new system introduced to streamline a complex process, the devil is in the details. Here are some crucial facts for employers and applicants to consider:

  • The EE system is more than simply a modernized intake management system. It introduces new requirements to the current economic categories through the CRS, which must be considered before an applicant may file an application for permanent residence. Therefore, some candidates who meet the standard regulatory requirements will no longer be allowed to simply file their application and, once in the pool, they may never receive an ITA if their CRS score is lower than that of competing candidates.
  • Prior to entering the pool, potential applicants will have to take language tests. They must also obtain their foreign secondary and post-secondary education credentials assessment by an accredited third party in order to be granted points for their education.
  • Potential applicants must be cautious when entering their electronic profile into the EE system. Any inaccuracy or error might be construed as a misrepresentation and result in a five-year inadmissibility to Canada.
  • Potential applicants lacking Canadian work experience will have lower chances of being issued an ITA. In addition, simply having an offer of employment from a Canadian employer will not be sufficient to guarantee a high ranking under the EE system. In order to increase the chances of a higher ranking, candidates will need not only an offer of employment but also an approved LMIA or provincial nomination.
  • Highly skilled temporary foreign workers such as NAFTA professionals, senior managers, and specialized knowledge intra-company transferees, as well as employees with unique profiles bringing significant benefits to Canada also will be affected. While these categories of individuals were previously issued LMIA-exempt work permits and may have been employed successfully for years by Canadian employers, they too will now need an LMIA in order to be granted the necessary bonus points.
  • Similarly, international students also will need an LMIA-supported job offer or a provincial nomination in order to increase their chances for an ITA. It may prove very difficult for their prospective Canadian employers to demonstrate how these recent graduates are not displacing Canadians.
  • While waiting for an ITA in the EE pool, potential applicants without an LMIA will be required to post their candidacy and register as a jobseeker on the Canadian Job Bank for a potential match with an employer. However, some of these applicants may already be employed in Canada and may have no intention of leaving their current employer. CIC has announced that in the later part of 2015, it will establish a matching function to connect employers with EE candidates, but little information on the mechanics of the process is available at this time.

The EE system is in its infancy at the moment, as the first draw from the EE pool was conducted very recently—on February 1, 2015. We note that in this first draw, a maximum of 779 ITAs were available for issuance. Further, CIC set a high bar for the minimum CRS score required in order for applicants to be granted an ITA.

This minimum score was higher than the one some potential applicants had obtained in spite of the additional points they received for having an LMIA-supported job offer. As such, much remains to be seen about how the new system will work in the coming months and how it will practically impact Canadian employers and applicants seeking permanent residence. We will keep readers updated on future developments.