Last month saw 779 applicants qualify under Canada’s newly introduced Express Entry immigration program, accounting for 26% of the total 3,000 applicants who entered the draw for the scheme. The successful candidates are said to have achieved 886 points or more out of a maximum of 1,200. A second draw held earlier this month also selected 779 candidates, all of whom had scored 818 points or more.
While Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander is pleased with the numbers, critics of the program are calling for a revision of certain conditions under the program, especially the Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) requirement worth 600 points, which they say is very difficult to acquire.
Prospective employers are now required to secure a positive LMIA to prove that the foreign applicants they have chosen have skills that are in high demand, and unavailable to them locally. While an LMIA is worth 600 points alone, candidates can score another 600 points through categories like age, education, work experience and language skills.
Critics have pointed out that the LMIA requirement is unfair because it has become too difficult to secure one as the screening process has been tightened further recently.
The Express Entry system has a two-step selection process where selected applicants are put in one pool and then the highest scorers are invited to apply for permanent residency. There were about 10,000 applications for the first draw, out of which 3,000 were entered into the pool. According to experts, the pool of applicants should be widened and some people must be exempted from the LMIA requirement. This is especially the case for those who have graduated from study programs in Canada and currently hold postgraduate work permits and those who are here under exempt categories, such as NAFTA professionals and intracompany transferees.
Under the new system, the government matches employers with prospective candidates through the Canadian job bank, a move that has discomforted several employers who now have to advertise the positions in a job bank to fulfil the LMIA requirement, even after already having made a job offer to a prospect.
Another issue with the system is its apparent lack of transparency, with no explanation being provided on how cut-offs are set.
The selected candidates have 60 days within which they must apply for permanent residency. If they fail to do so, their applications will remain in the pool for another six months for future draws. The government has planned between 15 and 25 draws for this year.