Express Entry

In January 2015 Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) opened the Express Entry application. The system- which represents a major shift in the way Canada selects, receives and processes certain permanent residence applications within the economic immigration stream- actively and purposefully issues invitation to apply to citizenship to candidates who are best positioned for economic success in Canada.

The program ushered in many improvements to Canadian immigration, including quicker processing times, greater accessibility to applicants from a wider variety of different fields, and a greater focus on the quality of applications. The one main drawback of the new program, uncertainty, is unavoidable in the application process for any immigration program and appears to be outweighed by all of the potential benefits that the program will create for applicants and Canadian employers.

What is Expression of Interest and Express Entry?

An expression of interest program is an immigration program where an applicant documents their credentials (education, work experience, qualifications, etc.) and provides an explanation of their interest in working and living in a given country for expedited processing. Canada’s expression of interest program, Express Entry, is inspired by a similar model originally developed in New Zealand and recently adopted by Australia.

Express Entry has been compared to applying for a job through one large central organization, Canada, who then presents the applicant’s resume and credentials to smaller organizations, such as Canadian Provinces and employers.

How Will the Program Work?

Under Canada’s Express Entry system, after an application is received it will be entered into a pool or database of candidates for review or selection by an interested “selector.”  The Express Entry Process can be divided into 5 steps:

  1. First, all potential candidates will create an Express Entry profile using an online platform that identifies their skills and qualifications, taking the form of an online resume. All Express Entry profiles will be ranked against the other applicants in the system based on a variety of factors, including their language proficiency in English and/or French, their education, their Canadian work experience (if applicable), and other factors that indicate the candidate will be successful in Canada.
  2. Applicants to the program without a job offer from a Canadian employer will be required to register with the newly upgraded Canada Job Bank. The Job Bank is a platform where individuals can post their credentials and Canadian employers seeking workers can search for an applicant who meets the requirements of their position in order to offer them a job.
  3. After each profile in the system has been assessed, the candidates who meet the criteria of a federal economic program will be placed in the pool of candidates for Express Entry.
  4. If their application is selected by an employer through the Job Bank, the applicant will be issued an “Invitation to Apply,” and will have 90 days to apply for permanent residence.
  5. The successful candidate will then apply for permanent residence under the Federal Skilled Worker program (FSW), the Federal Skilled Trade program (FST), the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), or through a Provincial Nomination Program (PNP). After being offered an invitation to apply applicants will still be required to meet the criteria of the program they are applying under.  The entire process of applying for permanent residence will be online.

After an individual has recieved an Invitation to Apply (ITA), Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has committed to processing these applications in six months or less.

How Will Candidates be Ranked?

Candidates for Express Entry will be ranked using a points system, much like the points system used for the Federal Skilled Worker Program.  Applicants can be ranked on a variety of factors, including their age, education, language proficiency in English and French, and Canadian work experience.  Applicants can also earn points in these categories for their spouse or common-law partner, transferability factors, and for an arranged employment offer or a provincial nomination.

Human Capital Factors for Principal Applicants:

 

Age Number of Points with spouse or common-law partner Number of Points with spouse or common-law partner
17 0 0
18 90 99
19 95 105
20-29 100 110
30 95 105
31 90 99
32 85 94
33 80 88
34 75 83
35 70 77
36 65 72
37 60 66
38 55 61
39 50 55
40 45 50
41 35 39
42 25 28
43 15 17
44 5 6
45 or more 0 0
Education Level Number of Points with spouse or common-law partner Number of Points without spouse or common-law partner
Less than high school 0 0
High School Diploma 28 30
One year post-secondary program 84 90
Two year post-secondary program 91 98
One or two year post-secondary received at Canadian Institution 15 extra points
Post-secondary program of 3 or more years 112 120
Three plus years post-secondary received at Canadian Institution 30 extra points
Two or more post-secondary credentials, one of which was three or more years 119 128
Masters level university credentials or an entry-to-practice professional degree (NOC Skill Level A) 126 135
Doctoral level university credential 140 150
Proficiency in first official language (English or French) Number of Points with spouse or common-law partner Number of Points without spouse or common-law partner
Less than Canadian Language Benchmark Level 4 0 0
Less than Canadian Language Benchmark Level 5 6 6
Less than Canadian Language Benchmark Level 6 8 9
Less than Canadian Language Benchmark Level 7 16 17
Less than Canadian Language Benchmark Level 8 22 23
Less than Canadian Language Benchmark Level 9 29 31
Less than Canadian Language Benchmark Level 10 or above 32 34
Proficiency in second official language (English or French) Number of Points with spouse or common-law partner Number of Points without spouse or common-law partner
Less than Canadian Language Benchmark Level 4 or less 0 0
Less than Canadian Language Benchmark Level 5 or 6 1 1
Less than Canadian Language Benchmark Level 7 or 3 3
Less than Canadian Language Benchmark Level 9 6 6
Work Experience in Canada Number of Points with spouse or common-law partner Number of Points without spouse or common-law partner
Under one year 0 0
1 year 35 40
2 years 46 53
3 years 56 64
4 years 63 72
5 years 70 80
Maximum Points Possible 490 530


Points for Spouse of Common-Law Spouse’s Qualifications (if applicable):

Education Level  Number of Points 
Less than high school 0
High school Diploma 2
One year post-secondary program 6
Two year post-secondary program 7
Post secondary program of 3 or more years 8
Two or more post-secondary credentials, one of which was three or more years 9
Masters level university credentials or an entry-to-practice professional degree (NOC Skill Level A) 10
Doctoral level university credential 10
Proficiency in first official language (English or French)  Number of Points 
For each ability (Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening) 5
Less than Canadian Language Benchmark Level 4 0
Canadian Language Benchmark Level 5 or 6 1
Canadian Language Benchmark Level 7 or 8 3
Canadian Language Benchmark Level 9 or more 5
Work Experience in Canada  Number of Points
Under one year 0
1 year 5
2 years 7
3 years 8
4 years 9
5 years 10
Maximum Points Possible:  40

Transferrability Factors:

Skill Transferability Factors Maximum 100
Education Maximum 50
With good official language proficiency and a post-secondary degree Maximum 50
Points for CLB 7 or more on all first official language abilities, one or more under 9 Points for CLB 9 or more on all four first official language abilities
High school credentials or less (levels 1 and 2) 0 0
Post-Secondary credentials of at least one year in duration (levels 3, 4, and 5) 13 25
Two or more post secondary program credentials, of which at least one was issued on completion of a post-secondary program of three years or longer (levels 6, 7, and 8) 25 50
Work Experience in Canada and a post-secondary degree
Maximum 50
Points for Education and one year of Canadian work experience Points for Education and two or more years of Canadian work experience
High school or less (levels 1 and 2) 0 0
Post-secondary program of at least one year in duration (levels 3, 4, and 5) 13 25
Two or more post secondary program credentials, of which at least one was issued on completion of a post-secondary program of three years or longer (levels 6, 7, and 8) 25 50
Foreign Work Experience Maximum 50
With good official language proficiency and foreign work experience Maximum 50
Points for foreign work experience, plus Canadian Language Benchmark Level 7 or more on all first official language abilities, one or more under 9 Points for foreign work experience, plus Canadian Language Benchmark Level 9 or more on all four first official language abilities
No foreign work experience 0 0
1 or 2 years of foreign work experience 13 25
3 years or more of foreign work experience 25 50
Canadian work experience AND foreign work experience Maximum 50
Points for foreign work experience and one year of Canadian work experience Points for foreign work experience and two or more years of Canadian work experience
No foreign work experience 0 0
1 or 2 years of foreign work experience 13 25
3 or more years of foreign work experience 25 50
Certificate of Qualification Maximum 50
With good official language proficiency and a certificate of qualification Maximum 50
Points for certificate of qualification and Canadian Language Benchmark 5 or more on all first official language abilities, one or more under 7 Points for certificate of qualification and Canadian Language Benchmark 7 or more on all first official language abilities
With a certificate of qualification 25 50

Additional Points:

Additional points can be earned for:  Number of Points 
Arranged Employment Offer 200 or 50
Provincial or Territorial Nomination 600
Possible total: 800 or 650

Who Can Apply?

Under the new Express Entry program, anyone will be able apply. Instead of needing to have experience in an occupation on a strict list of eligible occupations as with many other immigration programs, Express Entry will have no occupation list and applicants can present their impressive credentials regardless of what industry or profession they are in.

Canada’s most popular immigration program for foreign workers without a job offer is the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) eligible occupation stream. Only a limited number of applicants can apply (maximum 1,000 per eligible occupation) and they must have work experience in one of 50 eligible occupations within the last 10 years. Canada needs workers from more than 50 occupations, and many people in occupations not on the list would benefit Canada’s economy and workforce.

Unlike the restrictive FSW program, the new Express Entry program allows people from all occupations to apply without limiting availability to those fortunate enough to have their occupation included on a small list.

Additionally, Express Entry will also not include the application caps featured in many other Canadian immigration programs, including the FSW program.  Without a cap on the number of applications being accepted for processing, applicants can apply to Express Entry at any time without fear that the program will close or fill up before their application is completed.

What are the Benefits of Express Entry?

Honest, Current Credentials

The new Express Entry program will also allow applicants to focus on and highlight their impressive credentials as opposed trying to fit those same credentials into the CIC’s existing framework.  While current immigration programs require applicants to demonstrate how their work experience and qualifications match existing occupations, the Express Entry program allows for the creation of a profile that best highlights the applicant’s experience, skills and qualifications.  Free from the limitation of having to try and explain how they fit into a related category at some time over the past decade, applicants will be able to create an application that highlights their relevant skills and experience across occupations.  When the applicant has the freedom to include a wide array of related skills in their profile, they can ensure their application is the most accurate reflection of the contribution they would make to the Canadian labour market, enhancing immigration officials’ understanding of each applicant.

For example, in the list of eligible occupations for the FSW program, 5 IT designations appear, but IT Manager does not. If someone has been an IT manager for 9 years, but previously worked as a programmer, they will need to try to document their experience from 9 years ago when they were a programmer to apply under the Programmer occupation category. Canada may be getting a very valuable IT manager, but the IT manager will only able to apply because of work experience as a programmer nine years ago. If the same IT manager had only been a programmer 11 years ago, applying may not be an option under the current program.

Experience from 9 years ago may be obsolete and the former programmer may have no desire to work in that field. Under the Express Entry program the same IT manager may be able to focus his application on his current job and skills. If the IT manager is selected based on his current skills, he may be able to better contribute to his new Province and employer and actually use the skills for which he was selected after arrival in Canada.

The benefit of Express Entry is that applicants are expected to have the freedom to include any credentials and qualifications that they feel are most relevent to their application, as well as the skills and experience that will allow the applicant to gain a high ranking in the candidate pool.

Focus On Quality, Not on Timing

Even applicants who satisfy the eligibility requirements of the FSW program might need to rush to submit their applications, as FSW applications have historically been treated on a first come, first served basis. Last year only 300 applications were accepted per eligible occupation. If an applicant waited for program to open or for the eligible list to be announced, which usually happens a few days before the program opens, the applicant may have been too late to take a language test, have their credentials assessed and collect documents. Even under the current FSW program, where 1000 applications are accepted per occupation, popular occupation may fill quickly. This creates a situation where the best applicants may not always have their applications reviewed.  For example, even if the 1001st applicant under the Specialist Physicians category is the best physician in the world, under the current system his application would not be processed.

Under the new Express Entry system, an unlimited number of applicants will be able to apply and quality will play a significantly more important role than the current minimum requirement, first come first served.  Also, applications will be selected as demand arises.  This means that the first application submitted will not always have an advantage over a better application that is submitted months later. Under Express Entry, employers and provinces will be able to choose the best doctors, IT managers, etc. without penalizing them for not being amongst the first files submitted.  Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander noted that the Express Entry program will “select the candidates who are most likely to succeed economically in Canada, rather than passively process all applicants in a queue.”

Revolutionary System: Less Ability to Predict the Outcome

A critique of the program that has been raised is that there is greater uncertainty for applicants under Express Entry than under any current program.

Currently, applicants applying for Canadian immigration without a job offer can know before applying which criteria they must satisfy in order to immigrate: satisfying a points requirement, working in a specific occupation, obtaining a minimum score on a standardized language test, etc.  Under the new Express Entry system, it appears that applicants will document and present their credentials to the Canadian government, but only find out if they succeeded and obtain permanent residency if their application is chosen by a Province or employer in Canada.

The above critique does not consider that even under the current programs, applicants cannot predict with certainty if a cap will be reached or whether an immigration officer will refuse their application. If an applicant checks the CIC website and sees that 800 applications have been accepted under the FSW program for their occupation, they may try and submit their application. They may later find out that 200 more applications had been sent in but not counted or reviewed, and be surprised to find out they were refused. Applying for immigration always tends to involve uncertainty and risk, whether a precise pass-mark is posted in advance or not.

Additionally, under the Express Entry program, it is very unlikely that applicants will be kept waiting for long periods of time while their application is being processed.  While many of Canada’s immigration program have lengthy processing times and significantly increase uncertainty for applicants, Express Entry already has set out procedures to prevent backlogs.  If an applicant has not recieved an invitation to apply for permanent residency after one year, their application will be removed from the system and the applicant will get a chance to re-apply with a new application that better reflects their skills and qualifications.  The federal government expects that applications will be processed within six months.

Getting Prepared for Express Entry

Even before the final details of the program are announced, there are many measures that prospective applicants can take to prepare for Canadian immigration through the Express Entry program. Applicants can begin updating their resumes, obtaining references and documenting their credentials. By looking at Canada’s current immigration requirements, applicants may be able to predict some of the documentation that will be useful under Express Entry.

Below are some of the many steps that prospective applicants might take in anticipation of Express Entry, or another Canadian immigration category.

  • IELTS: a language test is required for almost every immigration stream that leads to a Permanent Resident visa. Documenting one’s language ability may help them immigrate, and even if an IELTS is not required for Express Entry, the score may still help an applicant convey their English language proficiency to a potential employer.
  • Credential assessment: Under the current FSW programs, foreign diplomas are given an equivalent value in Canada. The credential assessment can also be an important first step towards licensing or certification in their field in Canada.
  • Resume and reference letters: Many people do not have an up to date resume and have not needed to ask their employer for reference letters. Beginning to update and edit a resume, as well as starting to determine how to obtain references may be useful for job searching or immigrating to Canada.

It is important to note that applications currently in the system or awaiting processing will not be transfered to Express Entry when it opens, and each application will be assessed based on the application caps and other requirements in place when that application was recieved by CIC.  Applicants who have already applied to an existing Canadian immigration program will need to apply separately for Express Entry to be considered under this expedited program.

Getting excited about Express Entry

This long awaited program aims to make immigration faster, more efficient and result in satisfied employers and applicants. At this time, the program appears to be making Canada an option to a greater number and variety of skilled workers who are interested in immigrating to Canada. We encourage anyone who is interested in the program to check news updates regularly, about Express Entry and other programs, as many details have not yet been revealed.

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