Re-Balancing the Express Entry System – IRCC puts the focus on human capital, skills and experience

On November 19, 2016, Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) announced changes to the Express Entry system designed to put greater weight on human capital, skills, and experience.

Under the Express Entry system, those eligible to apply under the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program, and the Canadian Experience Class are put into the Express Entry pool of applicants. Those with the highest Comprehensive Ranking Scores (“CRS”) out of that pool are subsequently invited to apply for permanent residence at intervals throughout the year.

The CRS is a points system that assesses candidates based on skills, work experience, language ability, education and other factors. IRCC has found that these factors are a good predictor of the economic success of immigrants once they come to Canada.

Qualifying Job Offers

Job offers have never been necessary for a candidate to be placed in the pool or to receive an Invitation to Apply (“ITA”) for Express Entry; however, until the recent changes, applicants with qualifying job offers supported by a Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA”) were automatically awarded 600 CRS points. Effectively, those with such job offers were all but guaranteed an ITA.

After the November 19th changes, the amount of points associated with a qualifying job offer has been reduced significantly. Now, applicants in National Occupation Class 00 can receive 200 points for a qualifying job offer, and those in any other skilled position can receive 50.

In addition to these changes, some types of job offers are now being awarded points for the first time. For example, workers in Canada as Intra-Company transferees or on NAFTA work permits, which do not require LMIAs, will now receive points for their job offers. However, note that such workers must have been working in Canada for at least a year, and the job offer must come from the employer named on the work permit.

Over time, this is likely to result in fewer candidates in low wage occupations receiving ITAs simply because they have qualifying job offers supported by LMIAs. IRCC expects that more ITAs will be extended to applicants with higher human capital scores, which will improve outcomes for those immigrants, and provide a more highly skilled workforce for employers to draw upon.

Notably, the job offer duration is now required to be at least one year.

In the long run, it seems likely that applicants successful in securing ITAs will have lower CRS point scores on average due to the elimination of the 600 point score for qualifying job offers supported by an LMIA.

Other Changes

Applicants can now earn points for completing post-secondary education in Canada. Applicants can earn 15 points for a one or two-year diploma or certificate, and 30 points for a degree, diploma or certificate of three years or longer, or for a Master’s, professional or doctoral degree of at least one academic year.

Further, applicants who receive an ITA now have 90 days to apply for permanent residence, which will be a welcomed change from the quick turnaround required under the old 60 day time limit.

Who is affected, and what should they do?

These changes will not apply to individuals who have already received an ITA – those applications will be processed in accordance with the rules that were in place when the ITAs were issued. Unaffected individuals do not need to take action.

For those affected, IRCC advises that they log onto their online accounts and update their profiles; CRS scores will be recalculated as appropriate.

IRCC has advised that invitation rounds will begin in the weeks after the changes took place. As such, affected individuals are encouraged to update their profiles as soon as possible so that their CRS scores can be recalculated. Notably, some individuals will be able to claim points that were previously not available. Further, individuals without qualifying job offers may find themselves in a better position to receive an ITA after the changes

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