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A Quick Glance at Express Entry

| Dec 22, 2014
Photo of Kareem El-Assal
Kareem El-Assal
Research Associate, Education & Immigration
Industry & Business Strategy

Express Entry is a new immigration selection system set to launch on January 1, 2015. Modelled after similar systems in Australia (“SkillSelect”) and New Zealand (“Expression of Interest”), Express Entry aims to:

  • address labour shortages;
  • provide easier job matching between employers and immigrants;
  • reduce and prevent application backlogs;
  • offer a processing service standard of six months or less.

These objectives are designed to tackle some of the pressing ailments of Canada’s immigration system. This brief provides an overview of what you can expect from Express Entry.

Express Entry is a two-step electronic system that will manage permanent residence applications for three federal economic immigration programs.1

Step 1 has prospective immigrants to Canada creating online profiles, which are then awarded points and assigned scores by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) based on a range of criteria, including skills, language abilities, work experience, and educational attainment. Candidates without an existing job offer in Canada or a nomination from a province or territory2 must register with Employment Skills and Development Canada’s Job Bank, which will help candidates connect with Canadian employers.

Step 2 places candidates in a pool. Based on their scores, CIC will subsequently extend Invitations to Apply to the highest-scoring candidates—those who score well due to their credentials and/or because they received a job offer or were nominated by a province. According to CIC, 80 per cent of successful candidates who accept invitations3 will have their permanent residence applications processed within just six months—down from current processing times that can often take years.

What makes Express Entry unique is that it represents a marked departure from Canada’s existing “first come, first served” immigration system, whereby CIC processes immigration applications based on order of receipt.

Express Entry is poised to yield strong outcomes for employers, immigrants, and Canada, as the selection process favours candidates who best meet Canada’s labour market needs. Enabling employers to connect with candidates through the Job Bank allows employers to meet their operational requirements quickly. Skilled immigrants are expected to achieve higher long-term outcomes from having pre-arranged—and well-paid—employment upon arrival in Canada. This will address one of the greatest challenges skilled immigrants often face in Canada— finding gainful employment. Canada stands to gain by attracting high-calibre immigrants who help fill labour market gaps and boost the nation’s economic competitiveness. The Conference Board of Canada has conducted ample research that demonstrates this case. Quicker processing standards should also enhance Canada’s appeal to high-quality immigrants who might otherwise be dissuaded from applying for immigration to Canada due to long processing times and choose other immigration destinations instead. Also, because many immigrants will arrive with well-paying jobs already in place, and will arrive as permanent residents with a path to citizenship, Canada stands to gain from a larger, more lucrative tax base.

CIC needs to do a lot of heavy lifting to ensure Express Entry becomes a hit. Effective marketing and communication is crucial to its success, as stakeholders across Canada are eager to understand how the new system works. To its credit, CIC is currently pursuing an aggressive Express Entry promotional campaign. It will need to continue these efforts throughout 2015.

Much of Express Entry’s success also hinges upon CIC’s ability to meet its promise of processing applications in six months or less. This is the system’s single most compelling feature. Should CIC deliver on this promise, Express Entry will quiet complaints that Canada’s immigration system is not responsive enough.

A significant uncertainty is employer engagement. While many Canadian employers suffer from labour shortages, it is unknown just how enthusiastic they will be about hiring candidates without “Canadian experience.” Similarly, immigrants who arrive via Express Entry without pre-arranged employment may face the same hurdles in finding gainful employment as other Canadian immigrants due to their lack of Canadian experience, credential recognition issues, or employer discrimination, among other reasons. The new system is designed to avoid such problems, with the scoring criteria set up to assess candidates based on the likelihood that they will successfully adapt to Canada’s labour market. It will probably take some time, however, before enough data become available to assess the economic outcomes of immigrants arriving via Express Entry.

Despite these uncertainties, Express Entry offers much room for optimism. If properly executed, it will help address major ailments surrounding our immigration system and boost Canada’s economic competitiveness.

The one certainty is that Express Entry will be subject to much interest in 2015. With the recent launch of our National Immigration Centre, the Conference Board will look to provide evidence-based analysis of Express Entry—and Canada’s immigration system as whole—as we build toward our National Immigration Action Plan for Canada. In April 2015, the Conference Board will host a major two-day Canadian Immigration Summit in Ottawa to explore the future of Canada’s immigration system.

1    The three programs are the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program, and the Canadian Experience Class. See Citizenship and Immigration Canada, How Express Entry Works (Ottawa: CIC, 2014). (accessed December 16, 2014).

2    The Provincial Nominee Program allows provinces and territories to select (“nominate”) immigrants that possess credentials they deem to be beneficial to their economies.

3    Candidates that receive “Invitations to Apply” will have 60 days to submit completed permanent residence applications.

Related Webinar

Express Entry—What does it mean for you? Join Citizenship and Immigration Canada for this 60 minute live overview of the Express Entry system on February 2, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. EST

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