Express Entry: What Have We Seen So Far?

We are two months into the launch of Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s (“CIC”) Express Entry system for managing certain applications for permanent residence. The new system has come under serious fire and there is pressure on the government from the Canadian Bar Association and affected stakeholders to change the way the system works and impacts foreign nationals. So, what have we seen so far?

Four draws from the pool of candidates have taken place from January 1, 2015 to February 27, 2015; all of which have selected applicants with Comprehensive Ranking System (“CRS”) scores of at least 735-886 points. Since applicants cannot score more than 600 points without a Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA”) – formerly known as the Labour Market Opinion (“LMO”) – or a qualifying provincial nomination, we know that every foreign national chosen to date possesses a LMIA or provincial nomination. Anyone without one is left waiting in the pool, regardless of how much education, Canadian and/or foreign experience, skills and talent they have that could benefit our labour market.

In total, just over 3,700 applicants have been selected and invited to apply for permanent residence. In 2014, CIC planned to admit about 15,000 foreign nationals under the Canadian Experience Class alone, not including the numbers under the Federal Skilled Worker, Federal Skilled Trades and Provincial Nominee Programs. If CIC continues at the current rate of selection, it will only invite about 18,000 foreign nationals under Express Entry in 2015, which isn’t much when stacked against the anticipated 65,000 Express Entry invitations it hopes to issue (out of its 250,000 annual immigration target for new permanent residents). With little transparency from CIC on what it is thinking, the best guess is that CIC is slowly edging into the program to give itself a chance of meeting its 6 month processing time promise.

In terms of impacts to the permanent residence process itself, the intent of Express Entry was modeled after the Australian expression of interest model and was anticipated to be an electronic system to manage applications and give CIC the ability to choose the best and brightest candidates. In practice, Express Entry creates a new layer of eligibility requirements in terms of having a LMIA or provincial nomination to have a chance for selection and this creates hardship for applicants and Canadian employers.

The system puts LMIA-exempt work permit holders and international students at a serious disadvantage. These foreign nationals, who already have Canadian work experience and/or Canadian education that CIC should want to retain, are being forced to obtain LMIAs or provincial nominations. Foreign students are generally eligible for LMIA-exempt work permits under the Post Graduate Work Permit category and, under the old system, could apply under the Canadian Experience Class once they have one year of Canadian work experience. Under the new system, these students will not have enough CRS points for selection unless their employer obtains a LMIA, which means advertising for their role and proving that no Canadian exists to do the job. This is almost impossible when you have new graduates with little employment experience competing for jobs. Furthermore, employers with foreign nationals who are in Canada as LMIA-exempt work permit holders (i.e. Intra Company Transferees and NAFTA work permit holders) are effectively forced to go through the LMIA process to retain those workers permanently, even though those workers came in under international agreements where LMIAs were not required in the first place. It is counterintuitive for employers to recruit foreign workers for these roles when there is no intent to actually hire Canadians. Plus, it goes against the intent of the LMIA-exempt work permit categories, existing immigration regulations and the government’s intention of making the LMIA process a last resort for employers who cannot find Canadian citizens or permanent residents to fill jobs. These oversights in the new system create a significant burden for employers and make Canada an unattractive place for international students.

With continued pressure on the government, things will (hopefully) have to change and we are hoping to see amendments to the Express Entry system that give LMIA-exempt work permit holders and international students a fighting chance, without forcing them through the last resort LMIA process.

To read the Canadian Bar Association's criticism and recommendations on the Express Entry system, please click here.