Express Entry is making waves. I get questions about it from clients and the general public nearly every day. While we know slightly more now than we did a few weeks ago, it is still largely an unknown.
What we do know is this. Express Entry is a new two-step process that aims to make the permanent process faster for selected applicants. The first stage is that an applicant will make an online application to determine eligibility. This will put them in a pool with other candidates, all waiting to be ranked and hopefully “extracted” in the next draw.
These applicants will be able to “promote” themselves to Canadian employers to increase the likelihood of their being matched to an employer, thereby increasing their chances of extraction and of being invited to apply for permanent residence to Canada under one of the current federal skilled worker programs.
Applicants selected will benefit from stated processing times of six months or less. (These new faster processing times are being offered in large part because much of the leg-work on behalf of both the applicant and Citizenship and Immigration Canada will happen prior to being selected to apply for permanent residence.)
It sounds good in theory. Canada should only be supporting those candidates who have a strong likelihood of being able to establish themselves in Canada. It’s the basis of any sound skilled worker/professional program, and one that Canada has admittedly struggled with over the past several years.
However, the troubling aspect of Express Entry is the ongoing lack of information as to how individuals will be ranked, when the extractions will occur, and what the general process will look like. Further, what has been released is troubling in that it seems to denude programs like the Canadian Experience Class.
What does seem clear so far is that only those foreign workers with work permits based on labour market impact assessments will be automatically eligible for extraction in the as-of-yet undetermined draw (When will the draw take place? How many people will be accepted?). This seems to mean those workers who are in Canada under intra-company transferee provisions, for example, will not be eligible for automatic extraction despite having a valid work permit in Canada.
When questioned, the government has indicated an individual who otherwise qualifies for the Canadian Experience Class skilled-worker category would likely be well positioned in the ranking to be extracted. But where is the certainty in a likelihood of being well-placed based on an unknown system during a seemingly random draw?
This seems to be a startling omission from the list of those who will automatically be asked to apply. The Canadian Experience Class has long been touted as a more direct pass/fail avenue towards permanent residency for those individuals who have proven that they have what it takes to make it in Canada.
Under this new system, these applicants may ultimately still be treated to pass/fail processing, but since they will not be automatically chosen in a draw, their ability to apply will be subject to their overall ranking against others in the pool. This could result in a disadvantage to those recent foreign graduates who have worked for one year in Canada, but who may not rank as highly due to lack of overall work experience, etc.
Again, note that it’s a “may not” rank. Because details of the ranking system have not been made public, it is impossible to know where these individuals will fall, making Canada a less certain permanent option for many deserving applicants.
Many young professionals may choose to leave Canada for greater certainty or opportunities abroad, after coming to Canada due to systems like the post-graduate work permit that allowed them to enter the workforce and build a steady, relatively certain path to permanent residency.
I am all for reforms that help ensure people can establish in Canada and that fill true labour gaps. While it is my opinion that the definition of “job offers” referred to thus far in the Express Entry information is too narrow, I do understand the desire to insist on labour market proof with respect to a permanent residence application.
Requiring an LMIA in order to be automatically drawn makes sense if the goal is to ensure that a new permanent resident will not displace a Canadian. I equally support efforts to speed up processing times and to minimize unnecessary red tape. But it has to be done openly and transparently if people are expected to continue to trust the system.
In a time of uncertainty throughout many immigration programs, multinational companies may be growing weary of a system that has changed so many times and so drastically. This can only hurt the very parts of the Canadian economy that programs like Express Entry are meant to address.