Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is expected to launch a new economic immigration system known as Express Entry (EE) on January 1, 2015.  Billed as a new system of managing applications under the existing economic permanent residency programs (namely Federal Skilled Worker Program, Federal Skilled Trades Program, Canadian Experience Class, and to a certain extent, Provincial Nominee Programs) EE promises to better meet the current needs of Canadian employers and faster processing for prospective skilled immigrants.   Through EE, CIC will select candidates that it considers most likely to succeed economically in Canada (by first ranking them under a series of factors) rather than those first in line.

On December 1, 2014, Department of Citizenship and Immigration released the Ministerial Instructions (MI) respecting the EE system, coming into force on January 1, 2015. The MI provide directives on how EE will operate, and in particular, how candidates will be assessed and scored.

EE will function as a two-step system. EE will be an online portal where potential candidates wishing to immigrate to Canada can create an EE online profile and provide information about their skills, work experience, language ability, education, and other details that may contribute to their ability to establish economically in Canada. If the potential candidates meet the criteria, they will be put into the EE pool of candidates and the candidates with the highest scores in the pool will be issued an Invitation to Apply (ITA).  It is anticipated that candidates who accept their ITAs and submit the remainder of their outstanding documentation will have their applications for permanent residency processed within 6 months.

The candidates will be assessed, scored and ultimately ranked (relative to others within the pool) based on a new system called Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). The CRS consists of components such as (but not restricted to): age, level of education (including trade certifications), proficiency in one or both official languages, past work experience and whether the candidate is in possession of a nomination certificate from a Provincial/Territorial Nomination Program (PNP) or a “Qualifying Offer of Arranged Employment” (which must meet very specific requirements). A candidate who has no accompanying spouse or common-law partner has the potential to be given higher scores for age, education, language, and Canadian work experience compared to a candidate who has an accompanying spouse or common-law partner. However, there is the potential to obtain a higher ranking where the candidate has an accompanying spouse who also may score high under the same categories.

While almost all of the above-noted categories have a range of points which can be acquired (towards a maximum of 1200 points), it is clear that candidates who are possession of a PNP nomination certificate or a “Qualifying Offer of Arranged Employment” will be placed at a distinct advantage as either of these will provide the candidate with an additional 600 points—thus allowing the candidate to potentially vault over a large number of candidates in the pool and bettering his/her chances for being selected for an ITA..

As January 2015 approaches, CIC continues to announce the filling of select quotas under the current economic immigration programs (including those under the Canadian Experience Class and Federal Skilled Worker programs) – thereby leaving many potential applicants no option but to apply under EE when it is launched.  It is therefore imperative for temporary foreign workers,  Canadian employers and other intending immigrants to Canada alike to not only maintain their knowledge of which programs may still be available before the end of the year, but also learn about how certain immigration applications might rank under the new EE system and how a candidate might best position him/herself under the CRS.