Citizenship and immigration minister Chris Alexander says Canadian employers should use the Express Entry program to fill jobs for which no suitable local candidates have been found, and that they should include Express Entry in their HR strategies.
The Express Entry Program is Canada’s new immigration system that provides highly skilled immigrants an accelerated path to permanent Canadian residency.
Alexander also pointed out that through Express Entry, employers would be able to get a “higher calibre of immigrant” even if it means going through the tedious process of getting a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), which is required to prove to the authorities that no Canadian citizen was available for the job.
The Express Entry immigration system was launched by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) in January, and accepts online applications from candidates who are ranked on the basis of points achieved in areas like education, age, work experience, and language skills.
The highest ranking candidates qualify under one of the federal economic immigration programs and are sent invitations to apply for permanent residence by CIC. About 11,000 such invitations have been sent out since Express Entry’s launch in January.
The CIC claims that in 80% cases, it will take a maximum of six months to process applications for permanent residence under the new system, compared to traditional permanent residence applications which take 12-14 months to process. It is estimated that most skilled immigrants will enter Canada through Express Entry by the year 2017.
However, the Express Entry program has been criticised for reducing the prospects of foreign students studying in Canada. The new system does not give sufficient credit for their Canadian qualifications and work experience, forcing them to obtain a LMIA in order to get selected under the Express Entry pool. The LMIA almost guarantees a candidate’s selection for an invitation to apply since it is worth 600 points – half the maximum of 1,200 points.
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.