Express Entry to Canada:
Controlling input or wasting time?
BURLINGTON, Ont. – The immigration problems we are having today may not be found in a year’s time. “The new Minister of Immigration John McCallum is an articulate minister and it’s the first time in 15 years that I’m optimistic about the process,” Rob Young, a partner at Eisenberg & Young LLP*, told an audience of approximately 70 people at The Centre for Skills Development & Training in an event held last month on immigration law updates.
According to Young, the immigration system witnessed many more changes in the last four years than in the previous 20 and became more complicated. A lot of decision-making has been off loaded from the immigration staff. In addition, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) refunded $350 million that led to cut backs in personnel. As a result, applicants suffered because there are fewer people to read their files.
One of the challenges that face immigrants accessing the Express Entry System is getting their educational assessment. “If someone has a foreign degree, they must send it to 3-5 assessment centres in Toronto where we see delays of up to 5-6 months depending on the degree,” said Young. “Everything is pushed long distance.”Another challenge is undergoing language tests such as CELPIP and /or ILS which also take a long time.
People who come to Canada for a work permit have to go through the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process. The work permit regime has changed seven times since April 2011 and every change made it harder. Because of the changes, applicants have to deal with two ministries: CIC and Employment Social Development Canada (ESDC). A lack of communication often results in inconsistencies and contradictions.
If an LMIA is being used to support an Express Entry application, an employer must offer a permanent, non-seasonal, full-time job to the foreign applicant. The employer must advertise a job for four weeks for a Canadian to fill it before submitting the LMIA application and must continue to advertise for a Canadian until they receive an answer to the LMIA application. According to Young, the cost of advertising can be significant.
“The employer must advertise in three places – the Job Bank, a countrywide website such as Workopolis and one other site or advertising media excluding ones like Kijiji and Facebook.”
Additionally, there is a distinction between “high-skilled” and “low-skilled” LMIA streams. Young said that the emphasis is on getting high-skilled applicants and that there is a restriction on the number of low-skilled LMIAs granted to a particular employer. If the median wage for an occupation falls below a figure selected by ESDC, the occupation is deemed to be low-skilled.
Young stated that pay rates must be advertised as the same or above the median rate set out in ESDC’s Working in Canada – Wages Report. The employer must keep all records of the search, all employment and pay records for the foreign employee and for similarly situated Canadian employees for at least six years from the time a foreign employee worked under the LMIA-supported work permit. The foreign employee’s wages cannot be altered from that described in the LMIA application and the employer may be subject to an unannounced search without a warrant from ESDC and/or CIC.
Employers hiring LMIA-exempt workers must pay a $230 fee and register the job offer with CIC before they may apply for a work permit. As well, some applicants for LMIA-exempt open work permits – permits that are not job specific – must pay $100 plus the standard $155 fee for a work permit.
The first step when an applicant starts an LMIA is to get their educational credential. Then they go to Express Entry. The system is completely computer-driven. The computer analyzes an applicant on all their information such as age, language testing results, education, Canadian experience, etc. and then awards the applicant a certain amount of points.
An applicant gets 600 points if they are on a Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) nomination or LMIA. There is no pass mark, so it’s unknown how many people will be accepted under Express Entry. “25,044 people were given permission to move on through the system in 10 months in a country with 35 million people!” Young exclaimed.
At the beginning of the year an applicant needed 800+ points to get past this system and without an LMIA or PNP, applicants’ weren’t accepted. Young advises people not to apply to Express Entry before getting all their information up-to-date including their assessed educational credentials, language test and proof of employment. “The last draw was on October 23 and only 1,502 got a letter that they are permitted to go further and only under a 100 got through the whole system.”
Young emphasized that applicants receiving an invitation have the right to apply within 60 days to file a complete application for permanent residence under one of four economic class categories – PNP, Canadian Experience Class, Federal Skilled Workers and Federal Skilled Trades.
However, Young said that the people who created these categories understood there are mechanisms in all categories to control access. For federal workers for example, the pass mark has been 67 since 2003. If they wanted to reduce the number of applicants they could have made it 90. “They didn’t have to create this horrible Express Entry time-wasting system,” said Young.
Young pointed to the PNP saying that each province is given several thousand spots to distribute them as they wish. Ontario this year was give 5,200 spots. 2,500 spots are handed to employers who go to LMIA applications, international students with job offers, master’s graduates and PhD graduates. “The student category sucks up three quarters of all these spots.”
They also have two new business categories opening that they just put up online recently, Corporate Stream and Entrepreneur Stream. “They are playing in the 2,500 spots available.”
On the bright side, Young is optimistic with what the liberals are planning to do. He said they promised to double the budget for family class immigration. That means that we will see the process in time for family members to drop and maybe cut in half. “I’m very happy about that.”
They are going to double the number of parents and grandparents sponsorships allowed each year to 10,000. They will put the maximum age of a sponsored child up to 22 instead of 19. They will also revoke the two-year condition on PR status of newly sponsored spouses. They will also grant additional points to people with Canadian siblings or applying for PR through Express Entry. “That one is not nice because it means they are going to keep Express Entry!”
“Once a few months will go by, we will see some of these restrictions lifted and some normality and common sense injected into the system.” Young concluded.
This article summarizes the speech of Robert Young to the audience of The Centre for Skills Development & Training on “Express Entry to Canada”. Information in this article is not to be considered as an alternative to legal advice. Questions about citizenship and/or immigration matters should be directed to a qualified professional.
*Robert W. Young, B.A., LLB, C.S., is a certified specialist in Citizenship & Immigration Law: Immigration/Refugee Protection at Eisenberg and Young LLP. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org