Express Entry What we Know, and Don’t Know, So Far

December 2014

Since the Express Entry program was first announced last April, I’ve been checking the CIC website regularly for news on what the program would look like.  I’ve been following the tweets.  I’ve been reading the Canadian Bar Association listserv posts.  I listened to the webcast where the Express Entry Ambassador told lawyers what was coming.  Last month, I attended the Immigration Law Summit conference in Toronto where the Ambassador gave another presentation.  Over the past week, I read the Ministerial Instructions, digested the Comprehension Ranking System and went over the Express Entry Questions and Answers.    

I have Express Entry Exhaustion.


With only a few weeks to go before Express Entry opens, here is what we know about the program:

  • Express Entry changes the way you apply to the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP), the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) and a portion of the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP).

  • It does not affect family class sponsorships or applications for visitor, work or study visas, or any other immigration program other than those listed above.

  • The eligibility criteria for the FSWP, FSTP and the CEC have not changed. The only change is that there is no longer a list of eligible occupations or a list of occupations that are ineligible (as is currently the case with the CEC program). As long as you have experience in a National Occupation Code O, A or B level position, you can apply.  

  • Before, entry to Canada through the FSWP, FSTP and the CEC was on a first come, first served basis. As long as you met the eligibility for the program and got your application in before the quota was reached, you would be granted permanent residence. This is no longer the case. Now, the government will pick the immigrants it wants from an electronic pool of applicants.

  • To apply to Express Entry, you set up an online profile (much like signing up for a dating service…). There will be no fee to set up a profile.

  • You must have taken a language test in order to apply for Express Entry, even if your first language is English or French. No exceptions are made, even if you’re from the US or the UK and you have a graduate degree in English Literature.

  • If you are applying for the FSWP, you must have had your education credentials assessed by an independent organization before you can apply through Express Entry.

  • Everyone who sets up a profile will be given a “score.” Applicants will be ranked according to their score.

  • There will no longer be quotas for each program or for certain occupations. The government hopes to attract 181,000 economic class immigrants in 2015. They will draw enough individuals from the pool in order to meet these targets.

  • The government will draw the highest scoring applicants from the pool. These applicants will be given an “Invitation to Apply” for permanent residency.

  • Applicants will then have 60 days to submit their application for permanent residency after being given an Invitation to Apply. CIC is promising that processing of the permanent residency application will be complete within 6 months of submission.

  • Express Entry will not apply to those who will live in the province of Quebec.

How Will Scores be Allocated?

  • There will be a total possible score of 1200.

  • There will be up to 500 points available for a candidate’s “core human capital.” These points are based on age, education, language and Canadian experience.

  • Candidates with an accompanying spouse or common-law partner may be awarded up to 460 points for their own core human capital, with a further 40 points available for the core human capital of the spouse or common-law partner.

  • Candidates can obtain 100 points for “skills transferability.” This involves very confusing combination of language abilities, education, Canadian work experience, foreign work experience, and having a certificate of qualification in a trade occupation.

  • An additional 600 points will be awarded to candidates with a “confirmed job offer.” This job offer must be based on a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) in a skilled occupation or through a nomination from a Canadian province or territory.

Will your Application sit at the bottom of the Express Entry pool, drowning?

  • If you do not have a provincial nomination or a confirmed job offer supported by a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment, you can score only half of the total possible points.

  • This guarantees that those with a LMIA or a PNP nomination will be selected.

  • If you don’t have a LMIA or a PNP… well, time will tell how many applicants they will select based on high scores out of 600 points. The government will be publishing the lowest score that was accepted in the last “draw,” so that when you set up your profile, you will know how likely it is that you will be accepted in the next draw.  

  • If you don’t have Canadian work experience… only Canadian work experience counts towards the 500 points for “core human capital.” Foreign work experience can only be used for the 100 points for “skills transferability.” This guarantees CEC applicants will be more highly ranked that those who have never worked in Canada, regardless of how useful that work experience would be to the Canadian labour market. This is good news for international students who have worked under a post-graduate work permit or others who have worked temporarily in Canada.

  • You can update your profile. For example, if you re-take your language test and get a better mark, you can enter your new test results onto your profile and this will increase your score. You can also update your profile if you get a confirmed offer of employment or a PNP. Your profile will be valid for 12 months. After that, you can re-apply to enter the pool. You must continue to meet the eligibility requirements for the FSWP, FWTP or CEC in order to continue being in the pool.

  • The Express Entry Ambassador indicated that in the early days of the program, there won’t be a lot of applicants who have LMIAs or PNPs, so it is best to get your application in as soon as possible.

What we still don’t know:

  • Will lawyers be permitted to set up Express Entry profiles on behalf of their clients? When asked this question at the Immigration Law Summit, the Ambassador said, “Ummm, I’m not sure on that.” Seriously. This is what she told the 600 lawyers in attendance, only 6 weeks before the program was set for launch. Had they not considered that there is a lack of reliable internet access in some corners of the world?

  • Since then, the government has announced that lawyers will be able to represent candidates. But how will this work, in practice? Right now, lawyers have a separate Portal that allows them to upload visa applications on behalf of their clients. Regular folk have their own Portal. Sometimes, there are glitches, with the ability to apply for certain applications through one Portal, but not the other. Will this be the same for Express Entry applications?

  • Foreign nationals without a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment will be required to register with the Job Bank within 30 days in order to be matched with a prospective employer. However, since the matching feature of the Job Bank will not be available until spring of 2015, we don’t quite know yet how this will work. In order to get a LMIA, an employer must have advertised the positions to Canadians for one month out of the last three. What if the employer finds an Express Entry candidate four months after they have done their advertising? Will they need to re-advertise?

  • Another point on the need to register with the Job Bank; will this apply to international students already working in Canada under a post-graduate work permit? I can’t see the point of requiring candidates to register with the Job Bank if they are already working.

  • Just released Ministerial Instructions indicate that temporary workers who are already in Canada on temporary work permits pursuant to provincial nominee program certificates or Canada’s free trade agreements (e.g., NAFTA, Chile Free Trade Agreement) will not be eligible for an Invitation to Apply, unless they have a positive LMIA. They can’t enter the pool based on their personal 600 points alone. Was this an error? Or do they actually intend this? If they do, then this puts these candidates at an unfair disadvantage.

  • What is the purpose of continuing to require 67 points for the FSWP? The FSWP gives points for having a close relative in Canada. But this factor isn’t considered under the Express Entry Comprehensive Ranking System. Having two points system seems unduly complicated. Will making the system so complicated turn off prospective immigrants?

  • Will the lack of certainty for CEC applicants make prospective international students think twice about choosing a Canadian school? If they are more sure to be accepted by another country after graduation, wouldn’t they study in that country instead?

  • What will Canadian employers think of all of this? Will they want to hire an international student on a post-graduate work permit, knowing that their new employee may not be selected for permanent residency?

  • Will the selection of immigrants shift from Citizenship and Immigration Canada to the Department of Employment and Social Development? ESDC is the government department which approves LMIA applications. If 50% of the points are for either a LMIA or a PNP, does this not give ESDC a great deal of control over who is selected for immigration to Canada? And let’s not even get into the fact that in the first 4 months of 2014, ESDC refused 71% of LMIAs filed to support FSWP applications.

  • And the biggest question of all… the Express Entry system goes online at noon on January 1st. How long will it take before the entire system crashes?

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) published an excellent article on Express Entry, with sample points calculations.  I encourage you to take a look. 

Below are links to various pages on the Citizenship and Immigration website.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s main page on Express Entry – this link is updated regularly.  You can sign-up for Express Entry updates at this link.

How Express Entry works

Information for immigrants (Express Entry)

Express Entry: what prospective candidates need to know

Comprehensive Ranking System (how candidates will be scored)

Express Entry Questions and Answers

Ministerial Instructions