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Is ‘express entry’ the solution to Canada’s immigration issues?

The Immigration Line
|Written By Jennifer Nees
Is ‘express entry’ the solution to Canada’s immigration issues?

In January 2015, Canada will roll out the new “express-entry” program. This is being touted as a new and improved way to support economic immigrants interested in coming to Canada.

While the government has spent considerable time hyping the benefits of the new program, there seems to be little practical information reaching the public (or immigration counsel!) about how this new program will work in actual practice.

Here’s what we know so far, some of which was learned from a webinar sponsored by the Canadian Employee Relocation Council and attended by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

The express-entry program is aimed to encourage foreign nationals to apply for Canadian permanent residence under a new regime that will match their specific skillsets to those in demand by actual Canadian employers. These interested foreign nationals (whether abroad or in Canada on work permits) will submit some type of an initial application online (details as to the scope of the application have not yet been released).

We do know that as part of this application, the foreign national will be able to (and is encouraged to) promote themselves to appear more attractive to prospective employers. (This “promotion” was jokingly referred to by immigration counsel at the Canadian Bar Association national immigration conference as being akin to a dating profile on Lavalife.)

Through this process of a foreign national’s self-promotion, employers actively recruiting will be able to gain access to information about the foreign national, including their resume and skillset. The employer can then select an applicant and support that applicant’s permanent residence application.

Effectively, by selecting the foreign national, the ranking of that foreign national will rise, making it more likely he or she will receive an “invitation to apply” for permanent residence. Once a foreign national has received this invitation, he or she has 60 days to file for permanent residence. At the writing of this column, there was no indication as to the frequency with which these invitations would be sent.

The fundamental difference between the current program and the new express-entry scheme is instead of a first-in-line approach, applicants will only be invited to apply once they have ranked high enough to show they possess the ability to integrate economically into Canada. This self-promotion process is critical to achieving this ranking for a foreign national to be able to apply for immigration. It also presupposes employers will want to use this new system as a recruiting tool.

The government has indicated as part of this program, permanent residence applications will process in approximately six months, allowing for the faster entry to Canada of skilled, employable/employed foreign nationals. However, there is no indication of how long the recruitment/promotion stage will take, or how often or quickly applicants will be selected to receive an invitation to apply.

The focus of the PR campaign undertaken by CIC has been on the fact that those applicants who are selected to apply will have been vetted as those who bring an identifiable, and now apparently quantifiable, economic benefit to Canada. Those applicants already in Canada on work permits or who are provincial nominees should be invited to apply for permanent residence immediately, and should ostensibly be given the benefit of the six-month processing time.

It sounds like a PR win. This program, in essence, could limit the number of temporary foreign workers to Canada by increasing the number of permanent residents to Canada through targeted recruitment campaigns and direct employment. In theory, it addresses critical shortages by putting employers directly in touch with potential workers abroad.

While on the one hand, this is certainly a laudable aim, the concern I have as a practitioner is that it assumes two things: 1) employers have six months or more to go through this process (and are willing to make this type of investment on someone they don’t know); and 2) foreign nationals necessarily want to become Canadian permanent residents.

To the first point, I am sure there are employers who have long-term needs that may warrant waiting six-plus months for a foreign national to arrive in Canada to fill a currently empty role. However, this six- or eight-month waiting period is still too long. The market could completely change in that time, the foreign national could get a different offer, or the business could have a new project with a different requirement for a new skillset. It’s not “just-in-time” enough to capture the changing face of a global economy and fast-moving international marketplace.

Further, while most positions may be perceived by an employer to be permanent, supporting permanent residence and having someone move to Canada under this scenario may be more than an employer is willing to take on.

Most multinational companies do fast hiring in response to changing market conditions. These employers will not be able or willing to wait the time necessary to go through the express-entry process for the sole purpose of bringing in a foreign worker when the benefit of the temporary foreign worker program is still available.

At present, the focus of the express-entry system appears to be so limited and overly structured it could prove meaningless to large employers with changing work needs.

The second point is it presupposes every foreign national wants to become a permanent resident of Canada. This is simply not true, and increasingly less true in today’s economic landscape.

I have clients with employees who have chosen that employer specifically because of the ability to travel, to work in new places, and to see different parts of the world. It would seem many professional-level foreign nationals would choose to go through the existing temporary foreign worker process in order to come to Canada on a temporary work permit without the burden or expense of becoming a permanent resident.

That foreign national can always decide at the one-year mark whether or not to pursue permanent residence. At this point, that temporary foreign worker would still receive the benefit of the promised faster processing times under the new program.

At the practice level, I don’t see this is going to change things much for the average foreign worker or employer. Sure, maybe some employers that bring in temporary foreign workers will begin to consider this “matching” process for positions they can’t fill, but in reality, this isn’t how most multinational companies find the temporary foreign workers they seek to hire.

Employers have used the Internet, recruiters, and other mechanisms to fill these types of roles for many years and have depended on the flexibility of the temporary foreign worker program to bring in workers in a fast and efficient manner (even when the program has failed to provide fast or efficient service).

The aim of the express-entry program is laudable, and it will be interesting to watch it roll out. It remains to be seen whether it will offer the benefits identified by CIC and whether employers and foreign nationals will embrace this type of matching system. I look forward to working with my clients on continuing to find the best immigration methods utilizing the many options now available to them.

  • 6 months processing is too long

    Goutham G
    Jennifer has made some good observations. In IT projects we get contract of 6 months and hiring is completed in days or weeks. It is unlikely employer will wait for 6 months. Also most hiring is done through recruiters or other agencies. Will these agencies be treated as employers? What is the criteria for a eligible employers?
  • T.F.P...

    Shawn Dalton
    Ms. Jennifer; Canada needs some standards. There are too many people migrating here and not enough jobs to absorb 250,000 immigrants...339,000 guest workers and the 200,000 foreign students that are also going to want to get work permits. Shut down the T.F.P...Slash immigration by 200,000/year down to around 50,000 and possibly keep the students at 200,000 levels. They will get a 4 year study permit and then they will leave or ally to residency.

    There are 1.4 million citizens out of work in Canada. Immigration levels have to match current economic realities. They don't.

    I blog about it on my research website ==>
  • Missing the point

    J Khan
    Dear Shawn:

    The article is not about how many people are coming in, it is whether the new system will do anything to improve the process. Your post is completely off-topic. However, if you want to discuss numbers, perhaps we should consider the 20 billion dollars (by conservative estimates) that foreign students bring into Canada each year, and the tens of thousands of Canadian jobs that they help maintain (academic, financial, services, etc.) through their capital inflows. The fact is that these students were promised a direct and clear way to permanent residency after making a major investment in Canada. Now that they are here, the government is saying "thank you for your investment, but now you will have the same chances to apply as someone who invested absolutely nothing". Are people who invested nothing in our country the immigrants we want to attract here? I think not. These rules should NOT apply retroactively to those students already here before January 01, 2015.
  • Cheated!

    Salvatore Denison
    To say that many of us students feel cheated and taken advantage of does jot describe the anger we feel. Canada will lose much credibility over this. In business practice this is called "bait and switch", you promise one thing and then after the customer (students) pay, you change the rules of the game. I can see a class-lawsuit in the horizon. Students left their families, friends, jobs and homes to come to Canada, pay TRIPLE the local rate for a degree/diploma, with the promise that we could apply directly for a PR after 12 months of Canadian Experience. Now that we are here the govt is telling us that in exchange for our sacrafice we will get nothing but to wait in an endless cue with millions of others sitting at home abroad who have sacrificed nothing for Canada!!!! I can also see those eigh relatives or friends wuth businesses and factories in Canada cheating the system and "magically" being "picked" from the pool of candidates. I hope CIC reconsiders for Canada's own reputation.
  • Internation Students would not have a way to stay in Canada

    Lana Ferries
    To answer this part:
    Those applicants already in Canada on work permits or who are provincial nominees should be invited to apply for permanent residence immediately, and should ostensibly be given the benefit of the six-month processing time."

    I do not think this is correct, actually being in Canada already and having invested in Canada thousands of dollars would not make any difference. As you said "should be invited", but there is no guarantee at all that graduated students with Canadian experience WILL be invited, whereas before after the 1 year of experience you could effectively apply for the PR. Now, those who have invested in Canada's economy will go to the same waiting pull as someone sitting in their sofa overseas.
  • Is this true?

    Sunil M.
    I'm an international student and just checked this on the CIC website and cannot believe what I'm seeing! I feel so cheated! I am paying triple for my education because I was lured under the promise that I could apply for PR afterwards. Now all I get is a "thank you for spending your money in Canada, go and wait forever to see if we want you". This is not even misleading lady, this is plain FRAUD!
  • Internation Students would not have a way to stay in Canada

    Lana Ferries
    I'm actually talking about the thousands of current and former international students who are in difficult positions now. They have contributed to the Canadian economy by paying high fees to attend Canadian educational institutions (which is almost double the fee), as well as purchasing both goods and services during their studies. Most came to Canada hoping to stay – because they were told that after graduating and working 12 months they could apply for permanent residence but for them staying might not be an option anymore. In other words international students with Canadian job experience do not have a way stay in Canada permanently.
  • Misleading?

    Lana Ferries
    What about the international students who already invested a lot of money settling in Canada to study here? They were promised that after finding a job (on their field) and having worked for 12 months on a full time position, they could then apply for PR right away. Had they known the rules could change any time during the process without considering the harm this would cause and the risk this represented, I'm sure they would have not invested their time and savings in Canada. This is so unfair. Wouldn't this be consider misleading?
  • Mr.

    Rateb Ahmed
    Actually, it seems this will help those in Canada who already have Canadian work experience:

    "Those applicants already in Canada on work permits or who are provincial nominees should be invited to apply for permanent residence immediately, and should ostensibly be given the benefit of the six-month processing time."

    So it seems (hopefully) after graduating and getting one year experience it will take 6 months instead of a year to get PR.
  • good idea, but needs refining

    victor Massine
    I'm all for faster processing. It took me for years between applying and finally getting my visa. They should fast track workers on the express entry system and grant them an immediate work visa as soon as a company chooses them. They can now wait for the PR process in Canadian soil, already working and everything.
  • Senior Security Analyst

    Anderson Edison
    Ms. Jennifer,
    Your observations sound to be logical and I seem to agree with your initial assessments of the yet-to-be rolled out Express Entry plan. I am for one looking at Canada to be my home but I am confused now if I can fare well with the new scheme.

    I am a Application Security Expert and I'd like to immigrate to Canada with my family. But like you said, if I have been chosen by an employer and 4 months down the line if that employer's requirements have changed, would it impact my PR application? Even if it does not, I loose the benefit of working from Day #1 since I land in Canada or do I need to apply for new jobs after I arrive in Canada?

    I would like to take your advice.