Canada announces changes to the Express Entry System

Posted by Immigration Law Team|Canada Immigration
Nov 16

In brief

Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has released proposed instructions including several sweeping changes to the points allocation structure for permanent residence under the Express Entry program. Effective November 19, 2016, a new points system will be applied, impacting international students, senior executives, and certain LMIA-exempt work permit holders.

Based on the new points allocations which account for highly valued experience and skills not previously recognized by the CRS, foreign workers previously not meeting the cutoff score may, as of November 19, 2016, receive higher rankings in the pool of candidates, and be more likely to receive an ITA.


The launch of the Express Entry system on January 1, 2015 by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration represented a major shift in the way Canada selects and processes applications for permanent residence. Moving from a system of first in line to best in line, candidates are selected according to a ‘Comprehensive Ranking System’ (CRS) which allocates points based on metrics designed to reflect Canada’s economic immigration policy goals. While Express Entry has, so far, successfully decreased application processing times, early outcomes and stakeholder feedback have revealed areas for improvement.

In response, IRCC has published proposed ministerial instructions, including several significant changes to the Express Entry system, which will apply to all applications in the candidate pool as of November 19, 2016.

Overview and impact of changes

Invitation to apply – Validity period

Current Candidates issued an ‘Invitation to Apply’ (ITA) have 60 days to submit their electronic application for permanent residence (e-APR).
New Candidates issued an ITA will have 90 days to submit their e-APR application, commencing the day after their ITA is issued.
Impact The additional 30 days will provide applicants with more time to gather the extensive documentation required to submit their e-APR. However, applicants are still advised to begin gathering their documentation well in advance of receiving their ITA, keeping in mind that some documentation such as police records or medical examinations should be no more than twelve months old.


Skills transferability – Calculation of points for education

Current In order to obtain the maximum number of points available for education within the Skills Transferability matrix, individuals with more than one post-secondary education credential from a foreign institution would have to obtain Education Credential Assessments (ECAs) for all of their degrees.
New Going forward, individuals with a credential at the Master’s, Professional, or Doctoral level will only need to obtain an ECA for their highest level of education (if completed outside of Canada) in order to be awarded the maximum points available for education in the matrix.
Impact Awarding skills-transferability points based on the level of education and not the number of degrees held relieves candidates from having to obtain two ECAs, which previously increased both administrative costs and complexity for candidates. This change may also relieve pressures on designated organizations, and decrease the processing times for ECAs.


Additional factors

Current Up to 600 points may be issued to individuals for ‘additional factors’, having either a provincial nomination or a qualifying offer of employment based on a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).
New ‘Additional factors’ for which bonus points are awarded now include a provincial nomination or a newly defined qualifying offer of arranged employment; or Canadian education credentials.
Impact Broadening the category of additional factors for which bonus points will be awarded recognizes skills and values previously unaccounted for in the old system.


Arranged employment – “Qualifying job offer”

Current Only a LMIA will “validate” a job offer and provide an applicant with an increased points score and a candidate will automatically receive 600 bonus points for holding a qualifying job offer.
New A job offer in a skilled occupation will provide candidates with additional points if it is made pursuant to a positively issued LMIA; made to a skilled worker with a valid LMIA-based work permit, if the offer is made by the same employer that is currently specified on their work permit; or made to a skilled worker with a valid LMIA-exempt work permit issued under a Free Trade Agreement (e.g. NAFTA) or pursuant to the Significant Benefit or Reciprocal Employment category (e.g. Intra-Company Transferee), if the offer is made by the same employer that is currently specified on their work permit, once the candidate has at least one year of continuous full-time (or equivalent part-time) Canadian work experience with that employer.

Candidates holding one of the above qualifying job offers for employment in a position classified under the National Occupation Classification (NOC) matrix Major Group 00, including Senior Management occupations, will receive an increase of 200 additional points.

Candidates with a qualifying job offer for a NOC 0, A, or B position will receive an increase of 50 additional points

Impact The bonus points awarded to a candidate with a qualifying offer of employment virtually guarantee that they will receive an ITA, despite their human capital score. As such, candidates with high human capital scores not reaching the cutoff are excluded despite possessing characteristics highly valued by the CRS. The new system will address this issue and will allow candidates with high human capital scores but without an approved offer of employment a better chance of receiving an ITA. Removing employers’ obligation to obtain an LMIA prior to extending a qualifying job offer will facilitate their ability to permanently hire their current foreign worker employees, and simplify long-term strategic planning. Finally, candidates with approved job offers in low wage occupations will no longer be guaranteed an ITA which will leave more room for skilled candidates.

Candidates with an open work permit, such as those issued to accompanying spouses, International Experience Canada participants, or graduates of Canadian institutions won’t be eligible to receive bonus points unless their job offer is based on a positive LMIA.


Candidates with Canadian education credentials

Current Candidates having obtained an education credential in Canada do not have any advantage over those who studied outside of Canada and individuals with Canadian education credentials are not awarded any bonus points.
New Bonus points will be awarded in addition to those already awarded under the CRS to individuals who have studied at a Canadian educational institution in a full-time program of at least eight months, and were physically present in Canada for at least eight months.

If more than half of the program was comprised of learning English or French, or distance learning, or if the credential was obtained pursuant to a scholarship or fellowship which required the candidate to return to their home country upon graduation, then the additional points are not applicable.

15 bonus points awarded to individuals with an eligible credential from a Canadian post-secondary program of one or two years.

30 bonus points awarded to individuals with a credential from a post-secondary program of three years or more, or a Master’s, professional, or Doctoral degree obtained in Canada.

Impact Recognizing that candidates with Canadian education credentials are often well-suited to settle permanently in Canada, the award of these bonus points will give Canadian-educated candidates a competitive edge, and will increase the number of Canadian-educated candidates receiving ITAs. Specifically benefitting from this change will be those candidates holding a post-graduate work permit who may be ineligible to receive bonus points for a qualifying job offer, as they won’t hold an employer-specific work permit.



Employers should re-examine their foreign worker population, taking into account the new CRS structure, to determine whether any foreign workers who previously did not qualify could now benefit with a permanent job offer.

Accordingly, those employers who are considering making job offers to foreign workers, or who may do so in the future, are advised to incorporate these new changes into their long-term strategic outlook as they may now be able to capitalize upon this newly accessible section of the labour market.

For further details on the changes to the Express Entry system or any other permanent residence matter, please contact PwC Law LLP.

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