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.
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.