Express Entry: Canada’s Application System for Permanent Residence
If you are thinking of immigrating to Canada, you may have already heard or encountered the words “Express Entry,” and may be wondering what it is and how it works.
Most prospective immigrants to Canada will go through the Express Entry (EE) system to begin their process. A person must meet the requirements of at least one of three categories - Federal Skilled Worker (FSW), Canadian Experience Class (CEC), or Federal Skilled Trades (FST) - in order to create an EE profile and be accepted in the EE pool of candidates.
Express Entry – What It Is and Is NOT
EE was implemented by the Canadian government in January 2015. At the time, it drastically changed the way applications for permanent residence were received and processed.
For many years, Canada’s permanent residence (PR) application system was based on a first-come, first-served basis. If a person meets the requirements for a PR category, then all they need to do is submit the paper application forms along with the required documents and processing fees. If all requirements are met and medical and security checks are cleared, the applicant will be granted PR status.
As you can imagine, this caused a large backlog and approving an individual file took many years. As a result, the government decided to eliminate the backlog by closing all non-finalized applications under the FSW category and refunding the processing fees. They also stopped accepting paper applications for the FSW and CEC categories.
To replace the old system, EE was introduced. It was meant to make the immigration selection system more responsive to economic needs, shorten processing times, and give provinces another avenue to select their own immigrants.
EE is a system used by the government to select or invite prospective applicants. It is important to note that EE is not an application to immigrate to Canada. Rather, it is how the government manages and accepts PR applications for the categories mentioned above. Creating an EE profile does not mean you have already submitted an application for PR. Your EE profile is your message to Canada that you are interested in immigrating and that you have certain characteristics that make you a good candidate. Since the EE is not an application, the government does not charge fees to create an EE profile.
How it Works
In EE, you create your individual profile, which is entered in a pool with other candidates. Your profile is given a score based on characteristics such as age, language proficiency, work experience, and previous education. The government then undertakes “rounds of invitations” throughout the year to invite candidates from the pool to apply for permanent residence. The government sets an “invitation score” for each round. A candidate will receive an invitation if he or she meets or exceeds the invitation score set by the government for that particular round. Once invited, the candidate is given 90 days to submit a PR application. Once the PR application is submitted, the candidate becomes an “applicant” and is taken out of the EE pool.
Both the EE profile and permanent residence application are done electronically. All information is entered online and supporting documents are uploaded on the system. Similarly, correspondences, updates, and the decision are sent and received through the EE system. Once the application is approved, the applicant will be requested to submit his or her passport to the responsible visa office for issuance of the visa and/or Confirmation of Permanent Residence. The applicant can then formally obtain his or her status at a Canadian port of entry (e.g. airport or land border).
You will need to declare pertinent details about yourself, such as your date of birth, marital status, years of international work experience, previous Canadian study and work experience, funds available, and whether you have any Canadian siblings.
You also need to provide objective information regarding your language proficiency and international education. For language proficiency, you are required to declare results from an accredited language test (IELTS / CELPIP / TEF). For education, you will require an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) from an accredited agency; there are several agencies you can choose from and the IRCC website has a comprehensive list of these. Candidates who are married or in a common-law relationship can also have their spouse take a language test and ECA to gain more points.
This is where a candidate might get confused. Some may think that they are already submitting a PR application since they have already paid for and obtained these documents. Or they might hold off on doing the language test and ECA as they would first like to know their EE score. Although assumptions can be made regarding potential EE scores and whether EE is the right choice, no one can definitively say what your EE score will be until you get your language result and ECA; you cannot even create an EE profile until you get your language result. Each PR category also requires a minimum language score. For example, FSW requires the equivalent of CLB 7. A lower language score will make you ineligible for this PR category and may result in an “Ineligible Profile” in EE, if you are not qualified in the other two PR categories.
Under the EE system it is no longer enough to be qualified for either FSW, CEC, or FST. A candidate must also obtain a high enough score to be invited to apply for PR.
Think of EE as similar to applying for a job. The government has a certain number of openings they must fill. Your EE profile acts as your resume and you compete with other candidates in the pool. If your resume looks better than others, you get invited for an interview (apply for PR). You are not hired yet, but if your interview goes well, then you will get the job (your PR).
Your EE profile must always be accurate, especially once you get invited, as the information entered there will form part of your PR application. You will also need to submit supporting evidence for such information. These documents will show the officer how you obtained your EE score and will confirm the validity of your invitation. You cannot enter a higher language score, for instance, in the hopes of being invited, and then submit a different language test result in your PR application. This will result in refusal and possible finding of misrepresentation.
Furthermore, it is very important to make your EE profile as competitive as possible. It might not be sufficient to meet the minimum language score and you may need to re-take the test to get a higher mark. You can also find other ways to increase your score such as exploring provincial nomination options or upgrading your education. Additional points are also awarded for Canadian study, Canadian work experience, French language skills, provincial nomination, and a valid job offer. A candidate who may be qualified under FSW but has a low EE score may consider applying for a student or work visa first to gain more points and be more competitive in EE before reaching the ultimate goal of permanent residence.
Advanced planning and an overall immigration strategy is more crucial than ever with EE. I highly recommend seeking advice from an authorized and licensed immigration consultant who can assess your qualifications, recommend the best pathway, suggest ways to improve your EE score, and represent you in all stages of the immigration process. The matters discussed here are for general information only and do not constitute legal advice.