The promise of the new express-entry permanent residence (PR) program, launched on Jan. 1, was that it would be a “faster and more effective way for Canada to welcome skilled immigrants,” to quote the government news release. Express entry is an online application system that determines eligibility of workers based on a calculation of points, and was expected to be flexible, efficient and responsive to changing immigration priorities as set by the Canadian government. But after the first five months it’s clear the new PR process has missed the mark on all three of its goals. Worse, the new program has created some unintended consequences. First, the application system is restrictive and leaves little room for discretion. With only an e-mail address for inquiries, no one is available to talk to throughout the process. Second, it reduces the independence of PR applicants. They must wait for an “invitation to apply” (ITA) along with tens of thousands of other applicants, based on a points threshold set by the government which can change week to week.
Third, the program also seems to miss the mark by assigning 600 additional points to those who have labour market impact assessments (LMIA) or provincial nomination certificates under the provincial nominee program (PNP). This could result in applicants who have less experience or education being chosen for PR status ahead of more experienced or senior executive skilled professionals. This unfairly penalizes foreign workers who entered Canada under NAFTA or by intra-company transfer and who don’t have an LMIA. Express entry is based on a comprehensive ranking system of factors such as age, education, language ability (English and French), Canadian work experience and skills transferability that assigns points to a maximum of 1200. Canadian Immigration
and Citizenship can determine the point score they require in order to accept an application and issue an ITA for PR. When the program was initially launched, the criteria was nearly 900 points of out 1200, meaning that only those with LMIAs or PNP certificates would be selected. It has become increasingly challenging to obtain LMIAs or PNP nominations. Since launching, the selection points required have been reduced significantly and most recently was set at 453 points, as the government realized very few people would qualify for PR without having an LMIA or PNP certificate. The first three months of the year negatively affected those without LMIAs or PNP certificates and the government has made further adjustments by reducing the selection criteria by almost 400 points in order to increase the number of qualified applicants. During the past five years, Canada has accepted about 250,000 PRs. Since Jan. 1, about 10,000 applicants have received an ITA. However, many of them will not have their applications advanced successfully to PR because they only have 60 days to provide all the required documentation, including proof of medicals, police checks, work experience, travel history and financial ability. Certain countries may not be able to provide police certificates within such a short period of time, and wait times to obtain medical exams by designated panel physicians have increased. In the past, it was possible to request an extension to gather the necessary documentation. However, the express-entry system removes the human element completely and extensions are no longer permitted. Applicants who cannot complete their applications in 60 days will lose their
ITA and return to the expressentry pool to wait to be ranked and selected all over again. There are also major technological problems. For example,
information sometimes has to be entered several times before it will be accepted. The portal will only allow you to be logged into the system for a short period of time, at which point it will kick you out. Because the application process is all online, it is challenging to review your application to ensure accuracy,
which raises issues of potential misrepresentation. Five months after launch, these technological bugs have yet to be fixed and no comprehensive user manual exists for reference purposes. Although the idea of an expressentry system for PR sounds great, it has clearly failed to launch successfully and fulfil expectations. One can only hope these problems will be resolved quickly so that immigration lawyers can get back to practising law and not fighting with technology and tight timelines. It will be interesting to see how express entry is working a year after implementation and if the government meets its annual
target of welcoming 250,000 PRs to Canada, or if applicants will become frustrated and choose to immigrate elsewhere.
Evelyn Ackah, founder and managing lawyer of Ackah Business Immigration Law. She advises clients on bringing workers with needed talent and skills to Canada, including permanent residence and NAFTA professional work permits. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (403) 452-9515, ext. 100.