New Express Entry rules eliminate ‘pain points’: Expert

Changes around points allocated for job offers, education

New Express Entry rules eliminate ‘pain points’: Expert
Immigration minister John McCallum says the federal government is doing more to try and attract highly skilled immigrants to Canada, as well as have them become permanent residents. Credit: Chris Wattie (Reuters)

An easier and more balanced Express Entry system will eliminate some of the “pain points” that permeated the old system, according to an immigration expert.

“The government has heard from employers that this was a challenge and it’s tried to look at making a correction to make it easier for employers to fill their labour market shortages,” said Beth Clarke, director of employer programs at the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC).

First established by the federal government on Jan. 1, 2015, Express Entry was supposed to provide a fast-track to entry for foreign knowledge workers. The program is used to manage applications for permanent residence under the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program, and the Canadian Experience Class.

Provinces and territories can also recruit candidates from the Express Entry system through Provincial Nominee Programs to meet local labour market needs.

“We have committed to doing more to attract highly skilled immigrants to come to Canada and become permanent residents, because this is important to build our economy and strengthen our society,” said John McCallum, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship.

The changes, which took effect Nov. 19, were meant to provide “a more fair and responsive immigration system that will address emerging needs and ensure long-term economic growth for the middle class,” said the government. “The changes will help better attract some of the best minds in the world, including former international students, experienced professionals and talented workers who will strengthen Canada’s competitiveness in the global marketplace.”

Job offer details

On the job offer side, the Express Entry Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) previously awarded 600 points for a job that was permanent and supported by a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). Now, the points awarded for a job offer will change in three ways:

•Points are awarded for job offers of eligible candidates here on LMIA-exempt work permits: Many people in Canada temporarily on an employer specific LMIA-exempt work permit, but who want to stay in Canada permanently, will no longer need to get an LMIA to be awarded job offer points. This includes candidates who are here under the North America Free Trade Agreement, a federal-provincial agreement, Mobilité Francophone, or who are intra-company transferees. The candidates must meet certain criteria, such as having at least one year of work experience from the same employer providing the job offer.

•Job offers will only need to be a minimum of one year in duration once people receive permanent residence: Changing the job offer requirement from permanent to one year means more highly skilled candidates working in contract-based industries will have a higher likelihood of receiving an invitation to apply for permanent residence, said the government.

•Points awarded for job offers will be reduced: A total of 50 points will be awarded to candidates with a valid job offer in a National Occupational Classification (NOC) 0, A or B occupation, while 200 points will be awarded to candidates with a valid job offer in a NOC 00 occupation. The number of points awarded often made it hard for highly skilled candidates without job offers to get an invitation to apply, said the government. This change means Canada will now welcome more highly skilled candidates and will better recognize the skills and experience required for the job, together with the value it brings to the economy.

Before, the program allowed candidates to earn a maximum of 1,200 points, so those who were attached to an LMIA were given a massive advantage, said Clarke.

“The higher-skilled workers will do better through the new system by reducing the number of points that are given for a job offer — that will help even out the playing field a little bit,” she said.

“We’re looking at it as a positive piece. We are seeing a lot of benefits because it will make it easier to attract those who are going to be successful here in Canada.”

The changes should provide more of an influx of certain occupations such as information and communications technology (ICT) workers, said Clarke.

“These new rules will make it a little easier for them to come in and fill some gaps we have,” she said. “For folks who were highly skilled but weren’t able to get that job offer, this makes it easier for them to get in.”

As well, the new rules will place more emphasis on those who have better “human factors” such as skills and education instead of only a job offer, which will allow immigrants to better succeed in the future, even if they are not able to hold onto their current jobs permanently, said Clarke.

“What it does, by placing less emphasis on the job, it means we will be attracting more (people) that will have those factors that mean they are going to be successful not just this year, but next year and five years down the road.”

For large companies that had plenty of staff to perform the LMIA, it was routine to accomplish, but “it was a lot of paperwork for small and medium-sized companies,” said Clarke.

As part of the LMIA process, companies were required to advertise a job opening for three months to prove they’d done their due diligence in looking for that role in Canada. But in today’s gig economy, “projects come up overnight and they have to be delivered upon immediately,” she said.

“For a lot of employers, that’s just not realistic in terms of their ability to hire outside talent.”

By removing the permanent requirements, the government has made it better for those who work project-to-project, said Dharmendra Ramrakhiani, director of Career Abroad, an immigration consultancy in Toronto.

“They have revised that, which is especially good for those who work on a contractual basis,” she said. “These workers were the real assets and previously they were competing with everyone else, even those who had less skills and knowledge.”

Just because people scored higher in one particular factor, they were getting invitations to apply for permanent residence, said Ramrakhiani.

“Students lacked in so many things: They do not have experience and they cannot compete with the other professionals. They were not getting the opportunity to apply for permanent residency,” she said.

“Now, it is balanced because the overall (number of) points for having a Labour Market Impact Assessment has been reduced from 600 to 50.”

The implementation of the Express Entry program was not as successful as the Conservatives had hoped, said Chi-Young Lee, associate lawyer at Bellissimo Law Group in Toronto. Before, the system was based on first-in, first-out; then, with Express Entry, it became a “government selection model” that hoped to attract high-tech workers.

“The concept was quite a good idea, but some of the implementation and some of the points allocations ended up not actually resulting in what they wanted,” said Lee. “The (recent) change was necessary.”

“The composition of the type of people they traditionally would have tried to select through different category caps on certain NOC codes or occupations weren’t really being reflected by Express Entry.”

Education changes

On the education side, the old system only awarded points for education overall, as long as it had been assessed as equivalent to a Canadian standard. No additional benefit was awarded specifically to former international students who received an education in Canada.

Now, points are awarded for education obtained in Canada in the following way: The CRS will award 15 points for a one- or two-year diploma or certificate; 30 points for a degree, diploma or certificate of three years or longer, or for a master’s, professional or doctoral degree of at least one academic year.

Some students in the previous system felt they were being left behind, said Lee. When they came into the country and invested tens of thousands of dollars via the education system, suddenly they found themselves at a loss.

“International graduates were putting up a bit of a stink,” he said. “International students were sitting in the pool and not being selected... When Express Entry came into play, then it became a bit of a lottery in their minds.”

The new rules better reflect education over experience, according to Clarke.

“For folks who were highly skilled but weren’t able to get that job offer, this makes it easier for them to get in,” she said.

“Because the job offer was so heavily weighted, somebody who would have scored lower in those personal characteristics, those factors such as their age, their education and experience (were penalized).”

The minister really has focused more on those students, said Ramrakhiani.

“He believes that those are the real assets: They have the skills, they understand the work ethics of Canada really well, and they should be given more preference compared to other foreign nationals.”

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