Major amendments for Canadian Permanent Residency Applications under Express Entry

Canadian Immigration changes point allocation under Express Entry impacting scores for most applicants

Background: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) Minister John MacCallum is set to release major changes to the point allocation systemunder Express Entry by introducing several legislative amendments in the form of Ministerial Instructions, which will become effective November 19, 2016. The changes will re-allocate the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) point system, which will see a drastic decrease in points granted to Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs), and encourage applications from Executives and existing work permit holders such as Intra-Company Transferees (ICTs) who have been working in Canada for at least one (1) year. Additionally, IRCC is extending the deadline to apply for Permanent Residence (PR) following receipt of an Invitation To Apply (ITA) from 60 to 90 days, and also encourages use of the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) by keeping the points granted unchanged for a nomination certificate.

The article seeks to explain and highlight the major changes announced, and provide examples of how these may impact current and future applicants.

“Additional Factors”

At the heart of the point reallocation is the introduction of the concept of “additional factors”. These factors will include (a) provincial nomination, (b) a qualifying offer of arranged employment, and lastly (c) Canadian educational credentials. The aforementioned factors will now serve to complement each other towards the attainment of a maximum 600 points. Applicants will seek to increase their score through a combination of (a), (b) and (c) to meet minimum required rank score to receive an ITA. By contrast, the current Ministerial Instructions specified that an additional 600 points were to be granted for either a provincial nomination or a qualifying offer of arrangement employment. In practical terms, the current provisions are mutually exclusive, as applicants would either obtain an LMIA through their employers, or seek nomination through an Express Entry PNP stream.

While this change appears to make it harder for applicants to attain the same 600 points, it is important to note that if applicants choose only to pursue a PNP certificate, they do not also require arranged employment or Canadian educational credentials. The maximum number of points obtained would remain at 600 points from the provincial nomination. This move empowers provinces, and is likely to encourage immigration to provinces outside of the major traditional immigration hubs. Alternatively, this move will help international students by recognizing their Canadian educational credentials; The applicants will only be eligble for up to an additional 30 points.

Qualifying Offer of arranged employment

Point Reallocation

Two of the most important changes contained in the new Ministerial Instruction stem from the new definition of qualifying offer of employment. This change affects both the number of points allocated, as well as the eligibility criteria. With respect to the number of points, instead of the traditional 600 points usually granted for an LMIA which virtually guaranteed an ITA, the new system will grant either 50 or 200 points. For those occupations in the Major Group 00 of the National Occupational Classification code, which is usually reserved for Senior Managers and Executives, the system will grant 200 points. For all other offers, the system will only grant 50 points. This includes NOC Professional Occupations at either Level A (Engineers, Lawyers, and other professional occupations) or Level B (Technicians, Assistants, or occupations normally requiring a college degree).

Thus, it appears that applications from executives and other senior managerial personnel will have an edge over applicants working in either NOC Level A or B. At the same time it can be interpreted that this will provide more even competition between older applicants working as Executives, and younger applicants working in either entry- or mid-level occupations. For example, a Senior Vice President of 45 years (or more), with a qualifying offer of arranged employment would score 200 points (200 for the offer, 0 for age), whereas a 30-year old Engineer would score 155 (50 for the offer, 105 for age).

Change in definition

In addition to the drastic point redistribution, the definition of qualifying offer of arranged employment has become broader and will apply to more applicants. The new definition outlines two (2) major options, each with three (3) subsections. The options will be applicable to either skilled trade occupations or any other non-skilled trade occupations. In terms of subsections, points will be provided for (a) an LMIA-based offer of employment (i.e. dual intent LMIA), (b) to Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) currently working on a work permit granted pursuant to an LMIA, and (c) TFWs who have been working in Canada pursuant to a work permit granted under paragraph (204)(a) or (c) or section 205 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR).

By including point (c) in the definition of arranged employment, applicants who have already been working in Canada pursuant to an Intra-Company Transferee work permit, for example, issued either under the General Agreement on Tax and Services (GATS) or other Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), can now receive an additional 50 or 200 points, depending on their position. By doing so, this will decrease the number of LMIA applications, as employers will not have to go through this laborious process for their existing employees. This measure clearly favours foreign nationals that have been working in Canada already, and are put on the same level playing field as those applicants with an LMIA. Some of the qualifying work permit categories include Canada-International agreements (Investor, Professionals, Intra Company Transferees, Significant Benefit applicant, Reciprocal employment, Competitiveness and Public Policy, to name a few). Consequently, applicants already working in Canada on an existing work permit seeking to receive points for arranged employment, will not have to register with the Job Bank as a Job Seeker.

Canadian educational credentials

Additional points will now be granted to foreign nationals holding a Canadian educational credential. This move is intended to benefit international students who have completed a program of study at a Canadian educational institution, were enrolled on a full time basis for at least 8 months, and physically present in Canada for the same period of time. Points granted increase based on the highest level of completed educational credential. International students who have only completed high school in Canada will receive 0 points, those who have completed either a 1- or 2-year post secondary program will receive 15 points, while those graduating from post-secondary programs of 3-years or more (Bachelor-level, and certain college programs), or completing a Master or Doctorate, will receive 30 points.

It remains to be seen whether this change will actually help international students. Most provinces offer (non-Express Entry) PNP streams catering specifically to Masters and PhD level Graduates, which graduates can apply to without a job offer. Additionally, those international students who have completed certificates or diplomas of short durations will only see a marginal benefit of 15 points. These changes benefit graduates of Bachelor-level degrees, as not only can they obtain PGWP for the longest duration allowed, but also receive 30 points, similar to a Master or Doctoral graduate.

Other changes

Some of the other changes that need tobe mentioned as a result of these new Ministerial Instructions include an extension in the validity period of an ITA. Currently, an ITA is valid for 60 days from the date of receipt, while after November 19th, these will be valid for 90 days. This will allow applicants additional time to obtain all necessary documents for submitting a complete PR application.

Additional clarity with respect to validity periods of official language test results, and foreign credential equivalency assessments, has been provided. Specifically, language test results will now expire after two (2) years, while equivalency assessments will be valid for five (5) years. This is important to note should expiration dates occur while waiting for an ITA and requires applicants to ensure that their results are up-to-date. The same is now applicable to applicants wishing to include their spouse’s or common-law partner’s official language test results.

Lastly, international student graduates of Master and Doctoral programs will now receive additional points based on the applicant’s level of  of education  and official language proficiency or a combination of the applicant’s level of education and Canadian work experience. Specifically, they will receive 25 points if the language proficiency is assessed at level 7 (or higher) in all language skills areas, with one or more assessed at less than level 9. They are now also eligible to receive 50 points if their language assessment is at level 9 (or higher) in all language areas. Similarly, 25 points will be issued to Master/Doctoral graduates with one (1) year of Canadian work experience, and 50 points for two (2) or more years.

Conclusion

The latest Ministerial Instructions come into effect on November 19, 2016 and seek to redistribute points granted under Express Entry. Certain application profiles will benefit from these changes, while those relying on previously approved LMIA applications will now face additional competition. It is too early to make predictions as to how these changes will impact the minimum scores required to qualify for an ITA, however they do provide the framework and clarifications necessary to calculate new CRS scores. These changes come around the same time as the governments newly issued 2017 immigration targets, which seek to further increase immigration levels for economic applicants.

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Dale & Lessmann LLP invites you to contact our experienced Immigration Practice Group for further discussions on how these Canadian immigration updates might impact your chances of being invited to apply for permanent residency, and for options available to increase your EE score.