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IMMIGRATION ISSUES 025: Changes to Express Entry will benefit better candidates

When it comes to immigration, the only thing we can be certain of is that things will change —and the latest set of changes to Express Entry came into effect last month.  These major changes give a larger advantage to international students and take away part of the benefits that came from having an offer of skilled employment supported by a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).

The Express Entry system is based on a 1,200-point ranking system. Prior to the changes taking place, 600 of these points were assigned for an applicant’s personal attributes such as work experience, education, and English or French language ability.

The remaining 600 points were granted for people with a job offer from a Canadian employer that had an LMIA for a job considered “skilled” by the Canadian government. An LMIA is a document from Employment and Social Development Canada confirming that a labour shortage exists for a specific set of job skills in a particular region of Canada. Once a score is assigned, the potential immigrant enters a database called a “pool of candidates.”

Every two weeks or so, the Canadian government selects the highest scoring people from the pool. The lowest scores of the people being selected have been in the 450-490 range, meaning that these candidates were highly qualified people without pre-arranged employment in Canada.

The problem was that anyone with a score over 600 points was getting 600 of those points from the LMIA based job offer. This meant that someone with virtually no skills, say someone who would score 100 points for their personal characteristics, would be offered permanent residence based on a score of 700 points. The government recognized that a problem was developing and made the November 2016 changes to stop people from being invited to apply for permanent residence just because they had a job offer.

The biggest change was to reduce the 600 points awarded for arranged employment to 200 points for people with job offers in senior management positions and 50 points for every other type of skilled job offer. This immediately eliminated candidates without strong personal characteristics, leveling the playing field for everyone else. Another change was to allow the 50-200 points for arranged employment to also apply to people with a non-LMIA based work permit issued under several agreements such as NAFTA.

An additional benefit for workers is that their employer now only needs to offer them a job for a year after the worker becomes a permanent resident, instead of an offer of permanent employment that was required under the old rules.

The government also decided to give 15 extra points to people who had earned a Canadian educational credential for a program lasting 1-2 years, and 30 extra points for those who had earned a Canadian credential lasting three years or more. This results in a significant advantage for international students who had invested a great deal of money, time and effort obtaining a Canadian education.

Finally, once someone is drawn from the pool of candidates they now have 90 days to submit a complete application instead of the previous deadline of 60 days. This change addresses a problem that arose previously when people were unable to obtain police clearances within the 60-day deadline because of delays with foreign governments.

The Express Entry program has a six-month processing time target, and when people cannot get police certificates in time their file must be put on hold until the certificates arrive. This delays the Canadian government’s attempt to process files for reasons that are outside their control, therefore affecting the average time it takes to finalize an application.

The latest changes will be beneficial to international students and people with qualifying arranged employment. It will also eliminate the possibility that people without the personal characteristics that will help them succeed in Canada are accepted solely because they have a job offer with a Canadian employer.


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