On January 1, 2015, Canada’s government launched its new “Express Entry” Canadian immigration system. A key goal of the Express Entry system is to more efficiently select qualified skilled foreign workers so they can fill high-demand jobs in Canada and more quickly contribute to the Canadian economy.
To be eligible for Express Entry to Canada, a skilled foreign worker must qualify for one of the following Canadian “economic immigration” programs and also meet other requirements:
- Federal Skilled Workers Program
- Federal Skilled Trades Program
- Canadian Experience Class Program
Skilled foreign workers who are nominated/sponsored by a province or territory in Canada for their particular Provincial Nominees Program may also be able to qualify for Express Entry to Canada.
In order to apply for Express Entry immigration to Canada, a skilled foreign worker must correctly complete and submit their online Express Entry profile. The Express Entry profile includes details about the applicant’s background, including their age, education, work experience, English and French language abilities and other information used to determine whether an applicant is likely to be a good candidate for Canadian immigration through the Express Entry system.
It is recommended that before an applicant files their Express Entry profile, that they first get their English and/or French language abilities evaluated by preparing for and taking the IELTS exam (for English) or TEF (for French), since they will need to provide their English and/or French language assessment scores in their Express Entry profile.
An Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) is also required for people applying for Express Entry to Canada through the Federal Skilled Workers Program, plus the Canadian government suggests that applicants for the Federal Skilled Trades Program also obtain the ECA. The purpose of the Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) is to evaluate to what extent the education/training received by a skilled foreign worker outside of Canada is similar to the education/training obtained inside Canada for a particular qualifying occupation. The Educational Credential Assessment must be conducted by one of the agencies in Canada authorized by the Canadian government to perform the ECA.
When an applicant submits their Express Entry profile, if they have not already received a qualifying offer for Canadian employment (i.e., a job offer in Canada with a favorable Labor Market Impact Assessment), they will also be urged to sign up for Canada’s Job Bank. This is important because the Express Entry Canadian immigration system places emphasis on skilled foreign workers finding jobs in Canada in their occupation as soon as possible. Canada’s Job Bank is an online database that allows Canadian employers to search for potential employees in a range of occupations. Skilled foreign workers who are looking for jobs in Canada can also use the Job Bank database to look for employment in their occupation and can search for Canadian employment by occupation, location and other helpful categories. Canadian provinces and territories will also be able to search the Job Bank to look for skilled foreign workers whose occupations are in high-demand in their area of the country and may issue them a nomination to apply for Canadian immigration through the Provincial Nominees Program (which could then allow them to apply for Express Entry to Canada).
After the Express Entry profile is submitted online, a Canadian government official will review the information contained in the file. If they determine that the applicant seems to meet the criteria for one of the qualifying “economic immigrant” programs, the skilled foreign worker may then be placed into the Express Entry “pool” of potential Canadian immigration candidates for up to 12 months. Candidates in the Express Entry pool will be given a score on the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS), which is based on various factors, such as their age, education level, English and/or French language abilities, Canadian work experience (if applicable), and other attributes.
Under the Express Entry system, immigration to Canada is by invitation only. Thus, in order to leave the Express Entry pool of potential Canadian immigration candidates and receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for a Permanent Resident (PR) Visa to Canada, one of the following three events must occur:
- A candidate in the Express Entry pool must receive a qualifying Canadian job offer; OR
- A candidate in the Express Entry pool must be nominated for the Provincial Nominees Program; OR
- A candidate in the Express Entry pool must have one of the highest CRS scores when the ITAs are issued.
Once the Invitation to Apply (ITA) for a PR Visa to Canada is received, the skilled foreign worker will have up to 90 days to correctly submit their official visa application, all of the supporting documents and pay any required fees. The Canadian government has stated that the majority of people who receive an ITA and submit a complete PR Visa application within the 90-day time period should receive an official response regarding their visa application within only six months. If all goes well, the skilled foreign worker and their eligible family members (if applicable) will be approved for Canadian immigration and be granted a Permanent Resident (PR) Visa to Canada!