Better predictability for Express Entry applicants

  • February 27, 2024

The Immigration Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association, in a letter, says Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is to be commended for how it drew Express Entry candidates for category-based rounds of invitations since 2023. It also offers suggestions to stabilize and increase the predictability of Canada’s mainstay intake system for economic immigration applicants.

The new approach, targeting applicants in health care professions, in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) occupations and for those with French-language proficiency, responds well to Canada’s labour market needs.

One of the most attractive features of the Express Entry system is that it gives a reasonably high level of certainty to applicants as well as their families and Canadian employers, but it could be strengthened by “standardizing minimum eligibility criteria for Canadian Experience Class (CEC), Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) and Federal Skilled Trades (FST) to allow candidates to enter the Express Entry pool on meeting minimum eligibility for any one of these classes.”

As well, IRCC should restart its rounds of invitations to apply, or ITA, for Canadian Experience Class applicants, which used to take place every other week until they stopped in September 2021. This predictability allowed applicants – particularly international students and foreign nationals on post-graduation work permits – to create or update their profiles with a reasonable belief that invitation rounds would take place regularly.

“Candidates and their Canadian employers need to know how long PR applications take and cost, and what additional steps will be required to maintain temporary status in Canada,” the letter states.

While the CBA Section applauds the success of category-based Express Entry draws, they should “not erode the ability of lower Training, Education, Experience and Responsibilities (TEER) candidates to get an ITA.” This is particularly true in the field of health care where applicants who are in professions such as lab assistants or nurse aides typically have lower education scores than surgeons or dentists and thus have difficulty being drawn. But they still meet a significant labour need in Canada.

The CBA Section recommends that IRCC continues to publish its list of targeted occupations and work with lawyers and stakeholders to establish what those should be. As well, it should establish a mechanism other than comprehensive ranking scores, or CRS, to enable certain candidates with lower education scores to receive invitations to apply.

International students are also overlooked in the Express Entry system. Once they are in the post-graduate work permit holder status, they rely on obtaining Canadian work experience to increase their CRS points so they can become competitive in the Canadian experience class. Under the new category system, the CRS cutoff remains too high for many post-graduate work permit holders who are not in health care occupations or who don’t have French proficiency.

“Further,” the CBA letter reads, “the unpredictability of ongoing general and CEC rounds of invitations creates uncertainty for the international student and post-graduate work permit population, who have invested significant funds to study in Canada, and contribute to the economy as working foreign nationals who have gained over one year of full-time work experience in Canada.”