Canada: Improvements To Express Entry Permanent Residency Requirements

Introduction

Effective November 19, 2016, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) significantly overhauled the points allocation under the Express Entry Comprehensive Ranking System (the 2016 Amendments) and subsequently made further improvements in March 2017 (the 2017 Amendments). The Express Entry system was implemented in 2015 as a system to fast-track applicants for permanent residence for certain economic immigration programs (Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program and the Canadian Experience Class). The fast-tracking was based on such factors as age, language ability, education and work experience.

2016 Amendments

The key changes in the 2016 Amendments are as follows:

  • Clarification and recognition of arranged employment outside of the Labour Market and Impact Assessment (LMIA);
  • Facilitation of Express Entry for International students with Canadian credentials; and
  • Changes in the deadline for responding to an Invitation to Apply (ITA).

Changes to Qualifying Offers of Arranged Employment

Under the prior Express Entry System, a foreign national with a "qualifying offer of arranged employment" automatically received 600 Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points which was more than enough to guarantee immediate receipt of an ITA. However, only a permanent, full-time offer of employment that was based on a LMIA issued by Employment and Social Development Canada would qualify as a "qualifying offer of arranged employment." The 2016 Amendments reduced the number of points a candidate will be given for a qualifying job offer supported by a LMIA from 600 to 50 points with the exception of executive senior managers (NOC 00) who will now receive 200 points. This change is intended to level the playing field.

The 2017 Amendments provide that Express Entry candidates with strong French language skills, with or without English language skills, will be awarded additional points by the CRS as of June 6, 2017.

Those in executive-level positions (i.e. those working in NOC 00 level positions) will no longer need an LMIA to be recognized as an Offer of Employment. They will instead be awarded 200 points with an employer specific work permit and at least one year of work experience with the employer. The change in points for job offers now arguably more appropriately recognizes the skills and experience of candidates, together with the value the senior positions bring to the economy.

The drop in CRS points will severely disadvantage foreign nationals holding LMIA-based work permits in non-executive positions, who would have received 600 CRS points under the previous Express Entry System. Most will now receive only 50 CRS points. As a result, all workers will need to make every effort to maximize their CRS points eligibility under the education, language and work experience categories in order to ensure the highest score possible.

The 2016 Amendments provide that workers in Canada on skilled work permits with named employers (i.e. NAFTA professional, intra-company transferees, federal-provincial agreement, or Mobilité Francophone professional) can obtain 50 points for a qualifying job offer. This will allow individuals to obtain points for a qualifying job offer without the need to obtain an LMIA. However, the permanent offer of employment must be made by the employer listed on the work permit, the foreign national must be working for that employer and the foreign worker must have accumulated at least one continuous year of full-time work experience (or the equivalent in part-time work) with that employer. In providing the supporting documentation for the Express Entry application, the employer's offer of employment must be at least one year from the date the employee becomes a permanent resident.

Changes to Points for Canadian Educational Credits

In response to concerns that the previous Express Entry system disadvantaged international students graduating from Canadian post-secondary educational institutions, the 2016 Amendments attempt to address this problem by awarding additional CRS points for Canadian educational credentials. Candidates will be given additional points for completing a study program in Canada.

Under the 2016 Amendments, foreign nationals with Canadian educational credentials will now receive additional CRS points as follows:

  • 15 points for an eligible credential from a one-year or two-year post-secondary program in Canada; and
  • 30 points, for:An eligible credential from a post-secondary program of three years or more;
  • An eligible credential from a university-level program at the master's level or at the level of an entry-to-practice professional degree (i.e. a law degree, engineering degree, etc.) for an occupation listed in the NOC at Skill Level A, for which licensing by a provincial regulatory body is required; or
  • An eligible credential from a university-level program at a doctoral level.

We expect that international students may still require an LMIA to provide needed points for Arranged Employment to ensure an invitation will be issued.

Change in Deadline for Responding to an ITA

The 2016 Amendments increase the period of time that applicants will have to respond to an ITA. Under the previous Express Entry System, applicants had only 60 days to complete an online Application for Permanent Residence. The 2016 Amendments provide that applicants now have 90 days after receiving an ITA to submit an online Application for Permanent Residence. This is an important change because concurrent with the Invitation to Apply is a request of the applicant for a list of required documents. The previous time requirement of 60 days for the gathering of documents of substantiation for most items in the application form was often challenging.

2017 Amendments

The key changes in the 2017 Amendments are as follows"

  • change in points for language skills;
  • change in points for existing siblings in Canada; and
  • change in job bank registration requirement.

As part of the 2017 Amendments, the Express Entry system will now award 15 points to candidates with siblings in Canada.

Change in Points for Language Skills

Before June 16, 2017 candidates can get up to 136 points for their first official language and up to 24 points for their second official language. The 2017 Amendments provide that Express Entry candidates with strong French language skills, with or without English language skills, will be awarded additional points by the CRS as of June 6, 2017. A total of 15 additional points will be awarded for test results of the Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens (NLC) at level 7 in all four language skills in French (listening, speaking, reading and writing) and an English test result of Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) at level 4 or lower. A total of 30 additional points will be awarded for test results of the NLC at level 7 in all four skills in French and English test results of CLB at level 5 or higher. The stated rationale for the change is that French-speaking newcomers contribute to the growth, vitality and prosperity of Francophone minority communities across Canada.

Change in Points for Candidates with Siblings in Canada

As part of the 2017 Amendments, the Express Entry system will now award 15 points to candidates with siblings in Canada. This is a change from the existing Express Entry system that does not award any points to candidates with siblings in Canada. To get these points, candidates will need to show that the sibling is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident who is living in Canada and is 18 years of age or older. The sibling in Canada must share a mother or father with the principal Express Entry applicant or their spouse or common-law partner. This relationship can be through blood, marriage, common-law partnership or adoption. These points will be awarded starting on June 6, 2017. The stated rationale for the changes is that having a sibling in Canada has been shown to improve health and social outcomes by accelerating a newcomer's integration into his or her new life in Canada.

Job Bank Registration is Now Voluntary

Currently, after completing an Express Entry profile, a candidate must create a Job Bank account if he/she does not have a valid job offer or a provincial or territorial nomination before the candidate is placed in the pool and becomes eligible for an invitation round. The 2017 Amendments remove this requirement. Starting on June 6, 2017, Job Bank registration for Express Entry candidates is voluntary for all candidates. Candidates who meet the minimum entry criteria for Express Entry will be automatically placed into the pool and immediately eligible for invitation rounds. If candidates do not currently have a job in Canada and would like to start their job search, they will still be able to register for Job Bank. Upon the implementation of the 2017 Amendments, employers remain able to use all of their existing recruiting methods, including Job Bank, to find Express Entry candidates.

What Do the 2016 and 2017 Amendments Mean for Applicants?

We expect that there will be a continued drop in the CRS points required for a candidate to receive an ITA, and in turn, an increased number of invitations. We are starting to see this now. The last few draws reflect the following statistics (see figure 1).

As with the system prior to the 2016 and 2017 Amendments, all applicants must take an English test when applying through the Express Entry program. It is advisable for applicants to prepare for the English and French tests well in advance to maximum points. The education and English test results of a spouse of an applicant also help to maximize the applicant's points.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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