Canada’s Immigration Playing Field is About to Change: Apply Now if You Can!

In early 2015, the government will launch a new active recruitment model known as the "Express Entry" system.  This system will help switch from the passive processing of applications in the order that we get them, to one that prioritizes processing for people with the skills to succeed in Canada.

- Minister of Immigration, Chris Alexander

The new Express Entry program is going to completely transform Canada’s Immigration Program.  Historically Canada's economic immigration program was an applicant driven responsive program.  Individuals who decided that they wanted to immigrate to Canada, submitted an application and the government was bound to consider and assess that application.  The number of applications received was always far greater than the number of applications that the government could process and over time a considerable backlog developed of Skilled Worker, Entrepreneur and Investor applicants which ultimately led to the suspension of these categories.  The Skilled Worker program was eventually re-opened in 2013 with significant changes but the Investor and Entrepreneur categories have been formally terminated.  In order to avoid future backlogs the government has devised a new program entitled Express Entry which is still in the process of being finalized.  However, recent Ministers of Immigration have been publicizing CIC's newest immigration model which is set to be introduced by January 2015.  Here's what we know so far!

Express Entry will no longer be a responsive applicant driven model.  Rather it will transform Canada's immigration system to one that is "fast, flexible and focused on meeting Canada's economic and labour needs".  Formerly referred to as "Expression of Interest" this new process will allow skilled immigrants to electronically provide preliminary information to the government regarding their education, skills, work experience and language proficiency as well as other biographical data.   The information that applicants provide will be assessed on a "human capital grid" - which as of yet has not been established or published.  Based upon an applicant's human capital score, they will be invited to submit an electronic application for permanent residence.  Only the best applicants or those that match with a specific employer's requirements will be invited to submit an application. Express Entry will apply to the following economic categories of immigration:

  • Federal Skilled Worker Program
  • Federal Skilled Trades Program
  • Canadian Experience Class 
  • Provincial Nominee Programs

Express Entry will be a mandatory first step in the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) and the Canadian Experience Class (CEC).  In addition, provinces and territories will have the option to use Express Entry to identify additional provincial nominees for the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) over and above their provincial nomination allocations to an overall and by-jurisdiction limit.

Under the Express Entry system, qualified applicants can expect faster processing times of six months or less when they are invited to submit an application.  In addition, employers will have a key role in selecting economic immigrants and in providing input and advice about the program to the Canadian government. But only those people who are “invited” to make an application will be eligible to apply!

The Express Entry system will significantly change Canada's immigration program.  While economic immigration has had restrictions placed on it in recent years, (such as what occupations are eligible and caps on the number of applications to be accepted), if a person met the qualifications for the program, their application would be processed and they would be granted permanent resident status.  What is dramatically different is that not all eligible applicants will be invited to apply for permanent residence - only the very best applicants!  There is now a qualitative component to Canada's immigration program.  The positive trade off, however, is that applications will be processed in six months or less rather than over several years.

Express Entry promises to be a game changer for Canadian immigration and Canada's economy.  It will revolutionize the way we attract skilled immigrants and get them working here faster.  Our government is actively engaging with our provincial and territorial partners, and with employers, to make January's launch of Express Entry a success.

- Minister of Immigration, Chris Alexander

Given the uncertainty that Express Entry brings to Canadian Immigration program, persons who presently qualify are well advised to apply now!

This article appeared in the September 24, 2014 issue of the Asian Pacific Post.