Misconceptions about Express Entry

March 2017

I do a lot of consultation appointments with individuals who want to know if they are eligible to immigrate to Canada through Express Entry.

The next question I’m always asked is ‘how long will it take until I get my permanent residency?’

My answer to the question of their eligibility is often, ‘yes, but maybe no’. As to the question about how long it will take, I answer ‘somewhere between a year and never’.

Here are the explanations I give:

Question 1 - In order to apply to immigrate to Canada under Express Entry, you must first be eligible under one of Canada’s immigration programs, such as the Canadian Experience Class or the Federal Skilled Worker Program.  Once you are found to have met the minimum eligibility criteria for one of these programs, you will be placed in a pool of applicants and given a ranking based on your personal characteristics. This includes your age, language ability, education and work experience.  The government of Canada will select the highest-ranked applicants from the pool.

So, while you may be eligible for an immigration program, if your ranking isn’t high enough, you may never be selected. (‘Yes, but maybe no’)

Question 2 – Draws from the Express Entry pool of applicants occur about every two weeks.  If you are highly ranked, you can expect to get invited to apply for permanent residence in the first draw after you submit your profile.  Once invited to apply, you have 90 days to complete the electronic application for permanent residence.  Once it is submitted, the government will likely process your application within 5-6 months, and you will then have some time to settle your affairs and arrive in Canada.  Highly ranked applicants can arrive in Canada about a year after they apply.  Other individuals may be in the pool for several months before getting an invitation to apply.  Those who are not highly ranked may never be invited to apply. (‘Somewhere between a year and never’)

If this wasn’t hard enough to explain, I also have to correct misconceptions. Individuals have often been given information that is outdated or incorrect by well-meaning, but uninformed friends and family members.  Here is some misinformation I have heard in consultation appointments:

If two people are in the pool of applicants and have the same score, the government will select the person who has been in the pool longer – This is incorrect.  If two people have the same score, the government will select both of them.  This is why the number of applicants selected at each draw seems so random.  Let’s say the government wants to invite 2,000 individuals during a draw.  If the top 2,000 individuals in the pool have a score of 500, then 500 will be the minimum score for that draw.  However, it is unlikely that only one person in the pool has a score of 500.  If 163 people have a score of 500, then 2,163 people will be invited to apply for permanent residence.

American citizens get preferential treatment – Ah, no.  The fact that we share a border does not give you any additional Express Entry points.  Also, education completed in the US does not award ‘extra’ points.  This is a point about which I recently informed readers of the Boston Globe.

I don’t need an English language test because I’m English – You Brits may have invented the language, but even those from England need an IELTS result to apply for Express Entry.  All applicants need a language test (IELTS, CELPIP, or for French, TEF), regardless of whether their first language is English or their post-secondary education was in English.

I can’t apply until I have sufficient bank funds – If you qualify for the Canadian Experience Class, you don’t need to have any money in the bank, even though the electronic application for permanent residence isn’t yet smart enough to leave out the upload link asking for your bank statements.

If I have experience in a certain occupation, I can (or cannot) apply – There is no longer a list of ‘occupations in demand’ under the Federal Skilled Worker Program. There also isn’t a list of excluded occupations under the Canadian Experience Class.

If I’m a tradesperson, I must apply through the Federal Skilled Trades Program – If you have NOC Level B experience (which many tradespeople do), your application can be assessed under the Federal Skilled Worker Program.  If this is the case, you do not need a LMIA or a certificate of qualification from a Canadian province or territory to apply.

I can get a ‘regular’ educational credential assessment if I’m a doctor or pharmacist – If your work experience is in NOC 3111 ‘specialist physician’ or NOC 3112 ‘general practitioner/family physician’, then your educational credential assessment must come from the Medical Council of Canada. If your work experience is as a NOC 3131 ‘pharmacist’, then your educational credential assessment must come from the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada. If you have a medical or pharmacy degree but your work experience is not in NOC 3111, 3112 or 3131 (for example, if you are a professor of medicine or a research scientist in the medical or pharmaceutical fields), then you can get a ‘regular’ educational credential assessment.

Self-employment doesn’t ‘count’ as work experience – This is true for the Canadian Experience Class and for Canadian experience points.  However, self-employed work is eligible for the Federal Skilled Worker program, and, if done outside of Canada, for foreign work experience points.  In a gaping hole in the Ministerial Instructions that I’m hoping the government will address, self-employed work in Canada is not eligible for any points at all – not as in-Canada experience, nor as foreign work experience. 

When comes to Express Entry, the devil is in the detail.