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:
It is said that every cloud has a silver lining, and in times like these, it is no exception. Beginning on May 6th, qualified individuals in Canada temporarily can apply for permanent residency, an important step to remaining in Canada long term and getting citizenship.
The new policy offers permanent residency to essential workers with Canadian work and education experience, in a faster program than in normal times for those who qualify. It reflects the government's recognition that such people deserve a faster and simpler path to citizenship, due to their work and education and ability to easily integrate into Canadian society through their language skills and other connections to Canada.
Ordinarily, permanent residency can be achieved through sponsorship by a family member, the Express Entry program (which uses points), running a business, and being given asylum (among other methods).
In this new program, however, temporary workers in 40 health care professions, 95 other selected essential occupations, and international students who graduated from a Canadian institution in recent years, are all eligible to apply between May 6th and November 5 of 2021. Importantly, they must not be inadmissible to Canada and be currently working with authorization in one of the designated professions, or have graduated with a recognized Canadian degree.
As well as the November deadline, there is a cap for applications (total of 90,000 for all the programs); any received afterward are not processed. This is why speed is important, as well as accuracy in meeting the requirements.
As the requirements are lengthy and the forms can be quite complex, filling out an application by yourself can be risky. Rejected application can make future applications more difficult, or even cause a loss of status with strongly negative consequences.
Even unintentional mistakes can be seen as ‘misrepresentation’ i.e. falsehoods that could ban someone from applying for many years. This is especially true with programs limited in time and amount as the currently opened stream is.
It is more important than ever to have an experienced representative that can advocate on your behalf, including writing letters, replying to immigration officer questions, and researching cases similar to your own.
Temporary Travel to Canada
Disclaimer: this information is about entering Canada in normal situations; there are currently a number of restrictions related to the current pandemic (quarantine, test requirements), in addition to the below. These may change quickly and without warning. Visit CBSA, and Transport Canada, websites for the latest up-to-date info.
In ordinary circumstances, Canada welcomes millions of visitors every year, for business, tourism, or transit to another destination. Just as with permanent immigration, however, there are strict IRCC guidelines that have to be followed from an application, to actual entry and time spent in Canada.
Some travelers do not need a visa to enter Canada, as their countries are permitted to use electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). These are non-paper, web-based applications, used by routine and regular travelers who need to enter or leave Canada repeatedly for air travel. Depending on the expiration date of the travelers passport, they may last up to five years before renewal. Note that even these trusted travelers have to satisfy CBSA requirements to be allowed entry (for more details, see this blog post.)
Ordinarily, eTAs and visas are granted for a maximum 6 month stay in Canada at a time, though a longer request may be granted if there is no reason to deny it (and with special exceptions such as super visas, which are a topic for a different post). Passport expiration is an important limitation; IRCC will not grant stays longer than a passport remains valid, which is why it is important to check the date and renew it if necessary.
When examining an application, IRCC examines for admissibility, the purpose of travel, and ties to the home country. (The below are just broad guidelines: speak to a lawyer before making an application!)
Immigration cases can be long and complex, but there are many ways to make a matter easier and faster, both for yourself, your lawyer, and your file. In this post, I will go over several DOs and DON'TS when it comes to making your matter go as smoothly as possible.
canadian border entry
Canada shares a land border with one other country: the United States, as well as links to the rest of the world via ships and planes. Points of Entry into Canada, whether at the land border or in other countries, are governed by the Canada Border Services Agency, for both people and cargo (i.e prohibited items). In this post, I will overview the process, because entering Canada is an inevitable step for any immigrant, yet is separate from and apart from IRCC (Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada)'s purview.
When someone arrives at a border, CBSA officials can ask questions of them, search their vehicles, luggage, or electronic devices, in order to look for any inconsistencies in a person's story. As they have the discretion to deny a person entry irrespective of whether they were given permission by IRCC, the importance of telling them the truth is absolutely vital. Although regular travelers to Canada, and those entering from the United States, can bypass much of this process upon certain applications, entering Canada is never a casual matter.
For non-citizens, entry is generally more stringent than for citizens, as a Canadian passport gives . Temporary visitors have to convince an officer that the reasons for their entry match their approved visa. Someone entering Canada on a study permit, for example, has to convince the border agent that they are in fact going to study, with evidence such an invitation from the school, proof of tuition payment, housing papers, etc. Much of this information should already be available from the original application, but having it at in an organized package during a crossing will make the process much simpler and easier.
As your lawyer, I will create a Port of Entry package tailored to your specific needs. For people in more complex situations, such as asylum seekers, those who have been previously refused entry to Canada, or with a criminal conviction in their past, the legal ramifications of anything they disclose at the border can be very serious, and it is especially important to have the backing of experienced counsel, both in preparing for any interview with CBSA officers, and to provide relevant legal authorities, including guidelines, regulations, and laws, to increase their chances of being allowed in.
Citizenship is the final status obtained after an (often very long) process. With it come the rights and privileges of voting in Canadian elections, coming and going from Canada at will with a Canadian passport, and being able to work in certain government/classified positions, as well as being able to sponsor others to come to Canada. Unlike in many other countries, citizenship can be granted by no more than being born within the country's borders (with certain exceptions, such as diplomatic missions). Nearly a quarter of the Canadian population is foreign born, and they acquired citizenship after a thorough process of evaluation by the government.
A key portion of the application is the residency requirement, derived from Citizenship Act regulations. The requirement is that an application maintain their residency in Canada for a total of three years (1095) days minimum in the five years before applying. Importantly, these are not required to be consecutive times, only total. There are exceptions to strict physical presence, such as children going on a trip with parents, travel as part of employment, or visiting relatives. However, determining whether an exception applies in certain situations can be tricky, which is why having a lawyer's assistance for citizenship applications is vital.
A permanent resident must show evidence of their living in Canada, including old addresses, proof of any travel history outside Canada (from passports), references from landlords, former employers, or others who can verify the information in the application. Contradictory information could result in delays, or even a rejection at worst. This is why it is important to gather and retain information, to save time during the application process. It can then be a simple matter of adding up the days and knowing for certain you are eligible at the time you apply.
Rejected citizenship applications can only be challenged in Federal Court, which is both time-consuming and expensive; this is why it is so important to have a strong application to start with.
Even after all of the above, and the application is approved, an applicant needs to pass the citizenship test (on subjects including Canadian history, geography, and politics), before their citizenship certificate is approved (and with it the ability to obtain a Canadian passport or register to vote).
This is just a brief overview of the complexities of citizenship law. Adopted children, residents outside Canada with parents born before certain dates, and other exceptions have been the subject of litigation too detailed to go over in this space. In future posts, I will discuss some of these issues further.
the basics of Canadian immigration
In this post, I will discuss the basic tenets of Canadian immigration law, specifically the basic tenets of the current system.
Although Canada has a reputation for being an open and welcoming country to immigrants from all over the world, as anyone who attempts to navigate the system soon discovers, the reality is far more complex. Historically, Canada has been open to immigration from some regions and closed to others, although the system is nominally more equitable today. Because the federal government is given purview over immigration by the Canadian constitution (primarily through two agencies, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), its policy priorities determine how easy or difficult any potential immigration route will be. As these priorities change with different elected governments, as well, making immigration policies to satisfy their political constituents, and even from month to month or week to week, in programs such as Express Entry, making any predictions about whether an application will be accepted or rejected is never a good idea.
One of the foundations of modern immigration is the concept of status. Everyone on Earth is divided, by immigration authorities, into various groups. These include Canadian citizens, permanent residents and foreign nationals (such as visitors, workers, diplomats, refugee claimants, asylum seekers, and others). Status is gained both by simple chance (where you are born and who your parents are) as well as active work to fulfill certain requirements. Different statuses give different rights and privileges, and some can be lost depending on personal conduct, government policy, or court decisions.
Anyone who enters Canada has a status, based on the evidence provided to the government. Sometimes this is permanent, based on employment (such as foreign diplomats, who are treated differently from other foreign nationals), other times it is temporary, with a set expiration date, for foreign workers or students
These statuses can be confusing, especially when they overlap with dates such as passport expirations, work or study terms, or urgent travel needs. Government requirements can change without warning, processing fees can be increased (or occasionally decreased), forms can be updated, and new court decisions can make a case easier or more difficult to meet. Communications from IRCC may be lacking or ambiguous, with requests for additional information catching applicants off guard. Finally, external factors out of any government's control can shut borders down, such as the health crisis currently affecting the world as of the time of this writing.
All of these potential pitfalls highlight the need for a lawyer or other immigration professional to assist you. When it comes to immigration, even a seemingly 'simple' application or request can be rejected, causing problems later on. As a lawyer, I can assist with an immigration matter in the following ways:
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.