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Express Entry positive for some applicants, penalizes others

While recent changes to the intake system for federal applications from professionals wishing to immigrate as permanent residents has benefited applicants in a number of occupations, it has also penalized many talented individuals and employers, Toronto immigration lawyer Andrew Carvajal writes in Lawyers Weekly.   

“Prior to Express Entry, applications were subject to a first-come, first-served intake system, constrained by application quotas and lists of eligible professions. On Jan. 1, 2015, this was replaced by an online system where eligible individuals are ranked based on their age, education, English/French skills and work experience. They then compete against each other for an Invitation to Apply for permanent residence,” explains Carvajal, a partner with Desloges Law Group.

Applicants that have a nomination from a province or a “qualified” Canadian job offer will receive additional points that will guarantee an invitation, if the offer is supported by a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), he adds.

As Carvajal writes, those that have benefited most from the changes include university lecturers, cooks and retail sales supervisors, who were previously prevented from submitting an application due to occupation lists.

“Canadian provinces, particularly smaller provinces, have also benefited significantly. Most provinces have opened programs to select candidates from the Express Entry pool, offering immigration options to those who fall short of the minimum score necessary to receive a federal invitation,” he adds.

Processing times for permanent residence applications have also improved for those with an invitation, with 80 per cent of last year’s applications finalized in 4.4 months or less, compared with one to three years under the old system, says Carvajal.

For those without a job offer or provincial nomination, Carvajal says a competitive candidate is under 35 years old, has excellent English or French, at least a bachelor’s degree, and often one year of Canadian work experience.

As Carvajal tells, bilingual candidates (English/French) have a mathematical advantage, given that they can boost their score if they are competent in both official languages.

“Ontario in fact has its own Express Entry provincial stream dedicated to professional with a high level of competency in French and intermediate/high English competency. That being said, one of the limiting factors of the programs that fall under Express Entry is that people invited under this system cannot immigrate to Quebec, since the province has its own selection process totally independent from the Federal programs,” says Carvajal.

He also explains that the scoring system can hurt older candidates, including senior executives and experienced workers.

"Despite advanced language skills, education and ample work experience, if they are over 45 years old, they will lose one-sixth of their core points.” 

For the many individuals who are shy of competitive scores but are already established and working in Canada, Carvajal says if their employers are unable to effectively navigate the bureaucratic hurdles of an LMIA application and demonstrate that there are no qualified Canadians in their industry, they will not be able to boost their score with a job offer.

He also warns that there are plenty of examples of the pitfalls of being self represented or poorly represented when using the system. Of the 191,279 profiles submitted last year, 46 per cent were found to be ineligible right from the start. 

Carvajal tells that there have also been a number of technical glitches with the Express Entry system that have made it difficult to navigate — from non- intuitive ways in which you must declare clients’ information for the system to award them the proper points, to often losing information in online forms that have already been filled out.

Overall, as an intake system, “Express Entry is certainly more flexible than the old occupations lists and discouraging quotas. It has also been responsive to provincial needs and the processing times have been stellar," says Carvajal.

“Where the system is lacking is in its responsiveness to the needs of the labour market. Proposed alternatives include recognizing job offers that are screened through mechanisms less complex than the LMIA and awarding points to individuals with family or post-secondary education in Canada. These factors certainly influence the potential for successful integration into the economy," he adds.

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