Express Entry: The First 12 Months

Canada’s Express Entry system recently celebrated its first birthday.  First introduced on January 1, 2015, individuals and their representatives have since been navigating this major departure in the way that the Government of Canada processes permanent resident applications under Canada’s economic immigration programs.

Express Entry is an online application management system that now governs the intake of applications for Canada’s economic immigration programs; these programs include the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program, the Canadian Experience Class and portions of the Provincial Nominee Programs of certain provinces.

Prior to Express Entry, any individual who met the eligibility requirements of one of these programs could submit their permanent residence application and know that their application would be placed in the queue and would eventually be processed.  This has changed significantly under the new Express Entry program.  Under Express Entry, it is no longer enough to be eligible to make an application for permanent residence, only those who are invited to apply through Express Entry will be able to submit a permanent residence application.  Express Entry has effectively allowed the Government of Canada to limit the number of applications that it is obligated to consider and process thus eliminating backlogs and improving processing times.

Express Entry is a two step process.  The first step requires the potential candidate to submit an online Express Entry profile in which they will declare information like their age, education, language abilities, Canadian and foreign work experience, education and certain other personal characteristics.  The online system will assess the candidate’s profile and automatically assign it a certain number of points according to a ranking system called the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS).  Under the CRS, candidates will receive up to 600 points for human capital factors (e.g. age, work experience, education, language ability etc.) and an additional 600 points for having either a Canadian job offer supported by a Labour Market Impact Assessment from Service Canada or a provincial/territorial nomination from a participating province or territory – currently, a certificate of nomination from the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program cannot be used for Express Entry.

In the second step of Express Entry, all candidates who meet the criteria of one of the federal immigration programs will be accepted into the Express Entry pool and will be ranked against others in the pool according to their CRS score.  The Government of Canada will then periodically invite a certain number of the top ranked candidates to apply for permanent residence.  The number of invitations issued and the minimum number of CRS points required to receive an invitation will vary from draw to draw.  Once invited to apply, candidates have only 60 days to submit an electronic application for permanent residence along with all of the required supporting documentation.  Profiles remain in the pool for up to 12 months at which time uninvited candidates will need to submit new profiles.

Looking back at 2015, there were 23 rounds of invitation and approximately 31,000 Invitations to Apply were issued.  After the program’s first four rounds of invitation, the minimum CRS scores required for invitation dipped sharply such that after February 2015 all but one of the remaining 19 rounds of invitation had minimum CRS scores under 600 (the minimum CRS scores for these rounds ranged from 450 to 489 points) – this indicates that there were individuals who did not have Canadian job offers supported by Labour Market Impact Assessments (or applicable provincial nominations) who were still able to receive invitations to apply.  The rounds of invitation in 2015 also made clear that having a qualifying Canadian job offer essentially ensured that a candidate would be issued an Invitation to Apply right away.

Readers should note that even after overcoming the first hurdle and receiving an Invitation to Apply, it can be difficult to comply with the stringent documentary requirements and short timelines of the electronic permanent residence application.  Upon creating an Express Entry profile or even prior to the creation of a profile, candidates should consider what documentation will be required for their permanent residence applications as once an Invitation to Apply is received there will only be 60 days to provide the required documentation and the timelines are largely strictly enforced.

Looking forward, representatives of the Government of Canada have suggested that they expect the number of invitations issued per round to increase and that the minimum score of those that are invited will likely drop over time.

There is also the potential that the CRS may be amended to benefit candidates with Canadian family members.  In his mandate letter to new Minister of Immigration, John McCallum, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked that the department make it a priority to find a way to give additional points under the Express Entry system to provide “more opportunities for applicants who have Canadian siblings”.

To the extent that CRS scores may continue to decrease or that the CRS may be modified in the future, individuals may want to consider creating Express Entry profiles so that they might become eligible to receive Invitations to Apply and individuals who currently have profiles in the pool should ensure that they create new profiles upon the expiry of their current profiles.

Having an Express Entry profile in the pool is an important way for individuals to pursue Canadian permanent resident status in 2016.

McCuaig Desrochers LLP is a general practice law firm with Edmonton’s largest group of immigration lawyers.  This article first appeared in the January 2016 edition of the Millwoods Mosaic – The Multicultural Voice of Edmonton Southeast and is intended to provide general information only and should not to be relied on as legal advice or opinion.

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Breanna L. Case
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