Express Entry: Part Four
Provincial nominations can be both attractive for many applicants, due to the large number of points they provide in Express Entry, while also being difficult to acquire. Some Provincial Nominees are both a subset of Express Entry, while also being separate from the program and applying for PR outside the process entirely. This blog post is about the former.
A nomination is awarded to applicants as an incentive for settlement or commitment to settle in specific provinces; unlike the other Express Entry categories, the province one will live in as a permanent resident isn’t particularly important for IRCC. A province, however, is attempting to attract educated and experienced people, and wants some guarantees that they will contribute to the local economy in exchange for being assisted in the PR process.
Part of the difficulty is the fundamental need to prove that one of Canada’s provinces is going to be an applicant’s place of settlement. Each province has its own programs and subcategories, with oftentimes different requirements from federal immigration (though the latter is still mandatory and IRCC will make the final decision on PR regardless of nomination).
As there are 9 provinces excluding Quebec, each with their own Provincial Nominee Program, an applicant will need to explore their options if they haven’t already settled on one in particular. Sometimes the choice is self-evident; someone working or studying in Canada is already in a province, and may meet the requirements of one of the PNP programs, such as work experience or recently graduating from a school in that province, or being skilled in a specific occupation that the province is trying to fill in its economy. The connection to the province will be the factor that gives the nomination, and the applicant can apply through the provincial system to receive the PNP Certificate.
This certificate is what gives the large number of Express Entry points; it is valid for a limited time, but usually an ITA is received very soon after a profile is updated. More important is ensuring that the conditions of the nomination are maintained; if a specific employer gave a job offer, the applicant should continue to work there, and they must especially continue to live in that province throughout the processing of their application. A province can otherwise withdraw a nomination, the applicant can lose the extra points from the profile, and their PR application will be refused.
If a person has never visited Canada before as a student or worker, many PNPs are out of reach, as they cannot easily prove they will be moving to a particular province. One exception is having a job offer from a Canadian employer; most provinces have subcategories for applicants in those situations. They still need to provide many details about the offer, such as the salary, duties, information about the employer (i.e. registered and actually running a business in the province), etc., in order to combat fraudulent job offers. There is still waiting time for the provincial agency to process the PNP application, but at the end, they are well-suited to receiving an ITA much faster.
Because PNP profiles have so many extra points, they are usually drawn in separate rounds of invitations by IRCC. However, this is still a far greater chance of being drawn than with a ‘regular’ score in one of the other categories. The point cut-offs, and the patterns in draws fluctuate constantly with IRCC’s processing capacity and their annual goals, so to have a better idea of whether PNP is right for you, you should speak with an experienced immigration lawyer.
Express Entry: Part Three
The Express Entry program is so broad in its attraction of candidates, that IRCC’s system sorts every profile into 4 subcategories. Although the end result of each is the same (permanent residency), each one has substantial differences despite some overlap overall. This post details all 4 of them at a basic level.
The Canadian Experience Class is for applicants with at least 1 year of skilled work experience in Canada. It is the main category for work permit holders who have spent enough time in Canada to acquire such experience within the last 3 years before applying (so it can include candidates who completed work and then returned to their countries of origin recently). An applicant may have this work experience in part-time or full-time form, but they must have been physically present in Canada (i.e. not remote work done at a distance). The applicant must have higher language skills, if the skill level of the work was higher, but they do not need to have had secondary or post-secondary education, or a job offer from their current or former Canadian employer (though both of these help with points).
The Federal Skilled Worker Program covers all applicants with at least one year of skilled foreign work experience within the last 10 years. It must have been accumulated all at once (continuous). All FSW applicants must have higher language skills, regarding of their main chosen occupation. A secondary education is also required, and since the majority of foreign workers did not study in Canada, a credential assessment is required for this to be recognized. Unlike CEC, FSW applicants must also show they have the funds needed to settle in Canada; a requirement waived if they have a valid job offer or are already working in Canada.
Applicants may be qualified for both the FSW and CEC program, but those qualified for both will be preferentially invited in the CEC program, since its requirements are slightly easier to meet.
The Federal Skilled Trades Program is much more narrowly-tailored than the first two categories. As the name suggests, it is for those with experience in skilled trades, as defined by the National Occupation Classification codes. There are too many to list here, but they broadly cover the various technical and general trades, natural resource production, and some other special types of work that IRCC defines as a trade. They need experience for 2 of the last 5 years (again, either part or full-time), and their language requirements are somewhat lower than the first two categories (and there is no higher education requirement). Importantly, the work experience must not be as an apprentice under someone else; they must be fully qualified to work in whichever country their experience is in.
The most difficult aspect of this program to meet is the mandatory requirement to have either a job offer from a Canadian employer, or a certificate of qualification for the skilled trade in question. Both of these can be difficult to obtain without having prior work experience in Canada or taking exams. Each Canadian province has its own requirements for qualification, so the choice of where to live in Canada is much more important than the other two categories as well.
As with the FSW program, applicants must also meet financial requirements by showing they have the money to cover the costs of their settlement (and that of their accompanying family) in Canada, unless they have a job offer or already have a work permit.
Provincial Nominee Program
This is a subcategory of all of the above; when an applicant is qualified for any of the above programs, they can also be nominated by a province, which gives them a large number of points, enough to guarantee being chosen in the next round of invitations. This is a more complicated program, however, and will be discussed in greater detail in part four of this series.
Express Entry: Part Two
The second blog post of this series details the preparation needed to create an Express Entry profile, and then use the time waiting for an invitation wisely.
Every candidate, regardless of their country of origin, must obtain mandatory documents before they can create a profile. These are a travel document (usually a passport), language test results (English and/or French), and work experience, (in either high or mid-level skills positions). Most will also have a post-secondary education credentials at various levels, which, if it was not obtained in Canada, must have an assessment completed by an organization IRCC has recognized. Passports, language tests, and education credential assessments (ECAs) are all 3rd party expenses that an applicant must be prepared to spend time and money collecting. For language tests in particular, where a higher or lower score results in more or less profile points,
doing the test multiple times is sometimes advisable.
Because education gives a large number of points, and is a minimum requirement for one of the Express Entry subprograms, prospective candidates can receive an unpleasant surprise when they receive the assessment and discover that there is either no Canadian equivalent for their foreign degree, or that the equivalent is lower than they expected. In such cases, the Express Entry program can be cut off as a plausible path even before it began, and clients must choose either another way of entering Canada, or obtaining new education that does have a Canadian equivalency.
Those candidates who completed a Canadian education, such as study permit holders at a recognized college or university, will have an easier time in these cases; they need provide nothing more than their Canadian diploma and transcripts to meet the education requirement.
Similarly, candidates fluent in English, French, or both will have an advantage on the language test, and should easily be able to meet the 4 benchmarks the tests measure (speaking, listening, reading, and writing).
Another early point you should know is the importance of obtaining proof of prior work experience. Those with many previous employers will have a harder time of this, especially since IRCC requires a specific format for work experience letters. Speaking with an experienced immigration lawyer can allay many of these concerns.
Age is a factor naturally out of control for any applicant; maximum points are awarded for the ages of 20-29, with applicants 30 and above gradually lowering to zero points for those 45 and above. For the vast majority of applicants, it is generally a non-factor, with strong profiles being picked quickly enough that points rarely drop below the minimum. Moreover, once an ITA is received, a candidate’s score is ‘locked-in’, and a future birthday will not have any negative effects on the processing.
The Express Entry system calculates scores every day based on a profile’s characteristics; when a birthday comes, the score will change appropriately, while if the anniversary of work experience comes, the score will go up to show that experience requirements have been met. The Canadian Experience Class category has a particularly important milestone when a candidate, usually on a work permit, reaches 1 year of experience in Canada.
However, many aspects of a profile will need to be edited manually after submission. Finishing a degree, completing a newer language test, or starting a new job, as well as changes in marital status is particularly important to keep up to date. Receiving an invitation based on points that are no longer valid is an easy way to be rejected in the final application.
When to obtain documents is a question of strategy as well; if an applicant is relying on past work experience for their points, they are advised to obtain their experience letters even before receiving an ITA, rather than waiting. For current work, it makes more sense to wait until the ITA, since it would otherwise fall out of date as they continue working.
Similarly, documents with expiration dates should be obtained at the right time, to avoid having to re-obtain them later. Since police services throughout the world differ in their procedures and requirements, it is advisable to inquire with them at an early stage about processing times, fees, etc.
Some of the documents required for a profile have expiration dates too. 2 years for the language tests, and 5 years for ECAs. A profile may be removed automatically from the pool if those dates come and go with no update, forcing the applicant to recreate it from scratch. However, as with age, once an ITA is received, they are ‘locked in’ and an applicant no longer needs to worry about obtaining them a second time.
Keeping track of all of the above can be complicated, which is why an experience immigration lawyer is your best ally for avoiding the seemingly small bureaucratic pitfalls that can doom an otherwise perfect application.
Express Entry: Part One
Canada’s most well-known permanent immigration program is Express Entry; it welcomes qualified applicants, along with any close family, from across the world, to this country, giving them permanent residency; a highly sought after status, almost as good as citizenship. But what is a qualified applicant? How do you navigate the points-based system that often has significant complexities around it? This blog post is a high level overview so that you can see if this path to Canada is the best for you, or whether another is more suitable. It is a complex topic, with multiple parts needed in order to fully explore Express Entry at a serious level.
Express Entry is based on the principle of ranking candidates based not on country of origin, background, or time an application is received, but on points. To that end, there is a two-stage process for anyone using Express Entry; the first is creating a profile to enter the candidate pool, and the second is being selected to submit an application (an Invitation to Apply, or ITA, in IRCC terms). No one can apply directly for Express Entry until they are invited, and invitations are given on a very limited basis; this make the first stage (entering the pool), critical to success.
How do you enter the pool of candidates? There are minimum criteria in the online system which prevents anyone with too low a score from even creating a profile in the first place. Thankfully, one can easily go through the online questionnaire provided by IRCC to see if one meets the minimum requirements. Their emphasis is on skilled work experience, language skills, and education, with a minimum of 67 out of 100 possible points being needed in order to create a profile.
Just because an Express Entry profile can be created doesn’t mean that it’s easy going to stage 2, receiving an ITA. A separate points system ranks all the candidates in the pool. It has no upper limit on points, which means the more points a candidate has, the better their chances in the periodic draws IRCC does. Each draw is publicized on the Express Entry website, listing the minimum scores for candidates, the total number of invitations sent, and which subprogram of the Express Entry system (there are currently 4) was invited.
This is where the candidate’s individual criteria come into play even more critically. Age, work experience and education inside or outside Canada (since both international students and workers can apply from inside the country), as well as language skills as determined by an objective test, all give either more or less points to the profile. Some of the criteria are yes/no questions, such as already having a close relative in Canada who is either a permanent resident or citizen at the time of the application. Others are on a spectrum, such as age or language skill, which points for age gradually decreasing for older candidates.
There are many other nuances to the points system, such as modifiers based on having a spouse or common-law partner included on the application, but they will be expanded on in a future blog post. An experienced immigration lawyer is aware of all of them, and will advise you on the best and most plausible ways to maximize your points.
Profile creation and entry into the pool is purely automated, and no decisions are made at this point. The second stage, after an invitation is received, is when the process advances to the point where an actual application is being prepared for viewing by immigration officers. This is when a candidate gathers all of the background information they stated in their profile for the IRCC officers to view, including language test scores, work experience letters, police background checks, as well as requirements for every traveler to Canada, such as passports and medical exams.
Unlike with profile creation, whose main time sensitivity is the expiration of documents such as language tests or passports (expired documents are not accepted by the system), an ITA must be responded to with an application within 60 days. This means that applicants would be well advised to start gathering some of them even before receiving the invitation. Old work experience letters, police background checks, and detailed travel histories are often difficult to provide on short notice, but these are required for a complete application.
An applicant can also choose, in those 60 days, to decline the invitation, in which case their profile will re-enter the pool until either a new round of invitations, or its 1 year term in the pool expires.
How long does all this take however? How long does it take to create a profile; when do these draw happened, and how should you prepare for them? How long does it take to process the application once submitted?
Express Entry can be either a short or lengthy process, depending on prior preparation, but also on some factors outside of your control. The Canadian government decides on the schedule of draws and the speed of processing, but you can make sure your profile is waiting in the pool for as short a time as possible, and that the application is also as strong as possible in a number of different ways. This will be detailed in the second blog post of this series.
If you’re interested in coming to Canada, whether for a short visit, long term work or study, or even permanently, a major part of planning one’s itinerary is the expectation of when you will be allowed to enter the country. Pre-authorization, whether with a visa or an eTA (Electronic Travel Authorization) is the best way to guarantee entry, keeping in mind that regardless of one’s permit from IRCC, the border officers have the final say on any entry. This article will give you a better idea of what to expect from wait times, and how they may be lengthened or shortened by your own actions.
For travelers from visa-free countries, such as those of the Schengen Agreement, all one needs is an eTA, which is usually processed within minutes online. There are some situations, however, in which it may take somewhat longer, often because something in the application requires IRCC to take more time to review it, and in those cases they may ask you for additional documents or even schedule an interview with you. If speed is of the essence, then providing whatever is requested as soon as possible will allow them to make their final decision, hopefully an approval, that much sooner.
Travellers who require a visa to enter Canada will need more time for their applications to be processed, and these periods vary greatly, depending on many different factors. The starting point for your planning should be the official IRCC processing website at https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/application/check-processing-times.html ; it gives estimates of times for all types of applications, whether temporary or permanent, and can also be specified to the country where the application is submitted.
Unfortunately, as the site itself proclaims, these are only estimates, and experience in many applications a country with a 70 day processing times may be returned within only 8 days, or take far longer than the estimate as well. The various visa offices of IRCC around the world may be above or below their capacity, depending on how many applications they receive, which is in turn dependant on all sorts of local, regional, or even global events. Some applications will always take longer than others. Permanent residency of any kind, whether Express Entry, sponsorship, or others, will usually take longer than temporary applications, simply because the number of documents required is greater, and applicant histories are more detailed and scrutinized more closely.
Despite all of the above, there are certain things you can do to maximize your chances of a reasonable processing time with minimal delays. In order of importance, they are:
This blog details the many legal issues among Luka's practice areas, for a general audience. None of this information is a substitute for legal advice.