On January 1, 2015, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is launching the new Express Entry program. Applications under the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) and Canadian Experience Class (CEC) will be processed under this new program. Applicants will no longer be able to apply directly for permanent residence through the FSWP, FSTP or CEC but will have to wait until CIC extends them an invitation to apply (ITA) based on CIC's assessment of the information the applicants will be required to enter in an online system.

Applications for permanent residence submitted to the FSWP, FSTP and CEC1 prior to January 1, 2015, will be processed under the current regime.

The first step applicants must take under the new Express Entry program is to create an online Express Entry profile, providing information about their skills, work experience, language ability, education and other details. Prior to completing the profile, applicants must take a language test recognized by CIC, and may also need to have their non-Canadian educational credentials assessed by a CIC-designated organization. Even though not all applicants are required to have their foreign education assessed to be eligible under Express Entry, they should still do so to increase their chances of receiving an ITA.

Applicants that meet the criteria of one of the Express Entry federal economic immigration programs will be placed in a pool of candidates and assigned a score according to their skills, education and experience. The maximum score that may be assigned is 1,200 points. Applicants with positive Labour Market Impact Assessments or Provincial Nominee Program Certificates will automatically receive 600 points.

Candidates in the Express Entry pool are ranked against one another according to their assigned scores. The highest-ranked candidates in the Express Entry pool will receive an ITA for permanent residence. CIC will make a draw for ITAs approximately every two weeks.

Since an applicant's ranking in the pool changes regularly as people enter and leave the pool, an applicant who does not receive an ITA in one draw may achieve a higher ranking and receive an ITA during the next draw. An applicant can remain in the pool for up to one year after which time he or she will need to re-apply. Profiles may be updated during the year. After an applicant receives an ITA, he or she will have 60 days to submit an electronic application for permanent residence through the FSWP, FSTP, CEC or a portion of the Provincial Nominee Programs. Those applications will be processed within six months of receiving completed documentation.

The author wishes to thank Ruoxi Wang, articling student, for her help in preparing this legal update.