Nearly 10 months after the introduction of the Express Entry Immigration system, businesses and prospective immigrants say it is not living up to its promise. Despite government claims that the system was designed to attract and quickly admit highly skilled workers from across the world to meet Canada’s labour needs, many claim that the system features an unbalanced points system, a poor job matching tool, and requirement for a mandatory LMIA which renders the system ‘unusable’.
The Conservatives launched the Express Entry System on January 1, with the federal government acting as the go-between for “the best and brightest” immigrants and Canadian employers looking to fill their job openings.
Speaking recently, former immigration Minister Jason Kenney said the Express Entry System is “a system that is fast and connects people to the labour market so they can realize their dreams and fulfil their potential upon arrival in Canada”.
He continues to claim that new economic immigrants are arriving in Canada in months rather than years. He also asserts that a growing percentage of applicants have jobs lined up before they arrive in Canada and this helps them avoid being stuck in survival jobs for years following their arrival.
However, critics point to figures that show that the Express Entry system has opened the door to very few new economic immigrants, with the majority of accepted applicants being temporary foreign workers and other foreign nationals already in the country.
According to a report published by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, over 85 per cent of the applicants who were sent Invitations to Apply (ITAs) under Express Entry in the first half of the year were already in Canada.
Critics say the system’s biggest flaw is that it is not enough for immigrants to have a job offer before applying to come to Canada, but that they must get a hard-to-obtain positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) as well.
“If it weren’t for that LMIA requirement, I think we might see more opportunity for employers to feel like this is a system that actually would facilitate the entry of some highly skilled individuals that they’ve identified.” says one analyst.
The Express Entry points system is heavily weighted towards the LMIA requirement, giving applicants with a permanent job offer backed by an LMIA an automatic 600 points out of the maximum of 1,200. The remaining 600 points are awarded based on factors such as age, education level, language proficiency and work experience.
“You could be a food-service supervisor with an LMIA-supported job offer and you would rank higher than the rocket scientist from abroad,” says one expert.
Additionally, the heavily promoted job-matching tool that matches registered candidates with employers looking for workers is said to be ineffective and “quite poor”, with many job postings reportedly being out of date.
Despite the problems with the system, the government is confident that it will prove to be a success.
“We wanted to get this right and what we’re seeing so far in 2015 is that it is going well. The pool is populated by lots of very qualified people. The processing times for the first successful applicants have been much faster than predicted, and news is getting out that this is a new beginning for Canadian immigration that is faster and more effective,” said Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.