On April 1, 2016, Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) released it’s Express Entry Year-End Report tracking the progress of its economic immigration management system, Express Entry, since its inception in 1 January 2015.
Acknowledging the program’s growing pains throughout the report, overall IRCC seems to insist that Express Entry has met its objectives so far. In the report, IRCC writes:
Express Entry was designed with three main objectives in mind: 1) flexibility in selection and application management, 2) responsiveness to labour market and regional needs and 3) speed in application processing. Although there have been adjustments to the system during its first year and policy concerns expressed by stakeholders, Express Entry has met its expectations.
This report, Express Entry Year-End Report (EN) is filled with very informative statistics as to how Express Entry has been operating so far.
In my mind there are (at least) three important takeaways that I will explore in this post:
#1 – English/French Language and Canadian Temporary Residency appear to be major assets for Express Entry
Currently, official language skills make their way into economic immigration in several ways.
First, as a baseline requirement, an individual who wishes to qualify for the Federal Skilled Worker program needs CLB 7+. Scores lower than this would make the applicant ineligible for assessment on the initial points grid. For the Canadian Experience Class. there is also a requirement that the Applicant meet the language requirements of CLB 5+ for NOC B and CLB 7+ fpr NOC 0, A positions.
As provided by IRCC:
If an applicant has work experience in both NOC 0, A or NOC B occupations, the applicant must satisfy the officer that they meet the minimum language proficiency threshold for the skill type/level in which they have obtained most (i.e., more than half) of their qualifying work experience [R87.1(2)(e)].
Once in Express Entry, language factors itself in up to 410 of the available 600 points (360 for most candidates). Those without strong language scores will inevitably be stuck in a Comprehensive Ranking Score (“CRS”) range currently not being invited to Apply for Permanent Residency.
The report seems to concur with this theory. Looking at the top 10 source countries of citizenship for Express Entry, one can adduce that English/French language skills poke its way into the selection process.
The report listed the top 10 countries of citizenship for those who receive Invitations to Apply (“ITA”) allowing them to apply for permanent residency via an electronic Application for Permanent Residency (“eAPR”). You will note that 8 of the 10 countries listed have English or French as an official language.
Countries of residence also appear to follow a similar trend, with the added fact that a large majority of those successful in obtaining an ITA reside in Canada. These are individuals who can we deduce have first come to Canada, likely as temporary resident workers or students.
I do wonder what percentage of these stats are skewed by the use of authorized representative portals but nonetheless it still suggests a key trend that language and Canadian residence matter.
Perhaps, the above stats change the way we as practitioners may want to advise those without Canadian temporary residency/work experience. Rather than suggesting that the client “do another language test and increase their scores”, there may be some benefit to crafting a short-term strategy (based on work or study) that could potentially lead to eligibility under the Canadian Experience Class. The added benefit is such a strategy would likely increase their possibility of obtaining a Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA”) based offer of arranged employment or a Provincial Nomination.
You can also see this reflected in the fact that final decision processing for Canadian Experience Class is 1.3 months faster than for Federal Skilled Worker presumably due to the scrutiny required with overseas-based qualify work experience.
#2 – Applications are being bounced more than refused and at a higher rate than one would expect
As I discussed in an earlier post commenting on the trends I was seeing with Express Entry incompleteness/refusals, the problem of bounced applications is a major barrier to applicants.
Express Entry applications can be bounced for a variety of factors. Some of the common ones are:
- Missing police certificates or certificates not yet received (very prevalent due to change in rule requiring police certificates for countries resided in cumulatively for 6 months or more and well-documented FBI police certificate delays);
- Insufficient letters of reference (often times challenge in getting references for old jobs or where old employers refuse to provide adequate letters);
- Failure in properly uploading complete documentation; and
- A11.2 findings where an applicant has had a birthday, a new child, forgotten/failed to submit a document or new evidence that has now decreased their points etc.
This is just to name a few.
The 2015 report seems to confirm that bounced applications are a big problem for Express Entry;
If we go back to our overall chart for final processing, we see that out of the 16,491 applications finalized, 14,058 were approved and 2,433 were refused. On the surface, this statistic does not look bad and accounts for a ratio of about 5.78 Approvals to 1 Refusal.
However, if we look at this other statistic from earlier in the report, the situation looks much more bleak.
This statistic tell us that out of the 37,424 applicants (21,562 applications received), 15,246 are in progress and 14, 058 have been approved. Doing simple math, we are left with 22, 178 applicants received of which only 16,491 were finalized as approvals/refusals. From this, we can deduce the bounce/incompleteness rate to be somewhere in the neighbourhood of ([22,178-16491]/22,178) or 25.64%.
The consequences of a system where 1 out of 4 eAPR applicants are not even making it to a final decision (some perhaps through abandonment) are staggering. It means the system is not as intuitive as it can be and there is much room for improvement. It also means that Applicants may need more legal advice than they are currently seeking out for Express Entry.
#3 – The Backlog from Pre-Express Entry Continues to Exist and Eat Up Cap Space
If we return to the Conservative Government’s 2015 immigration levels plan, we can see how much of that space appears to have been made up of Express Entry.
In 2015, the projections were:
Assuming, just the low for now the projection was for 68,000 economic applicants to be granted permanent residency.
We know the actual number of 2015 Express Entry Approvals were 14, 058.
There are two possible conclusions from this. Either a majority of processing (79%) is still occurring on backlogged Canadian Experience Class/Federal Skilled Worker files from before January 1, 2015 or the Government has grossly missed its economic immigration targets for 2015.
In 2016, it now seems somewhat more understandable that the Liberal Government would reduce its target to 58,400 by 25,600. Perhaps Express Entry is indeed a system where promising less and delivering more may be the best strategy.
Many applicants and their representatives around Canada have been expressing their frustration with Express Entry. It appears that those frustrations are understandable. The old, the non-English speaking, even the slightly imperfect applicant is subject to either a low score or a bounced application.
With even lower projections in 2016 and no sense that the scores will be raised to unattainable thresholds, the only logical consequence is more refusals and bounced applications.
Applicants through Express Entry may want to think of pursuing dual intent (concurrent permanent and temporary) options or seek assessment under a provincial nomination program while Express Entry figures itself out. One of the strategies IRCC should employ, in addition to further educating applicants, is a secondary review/reconsideration mechanism.
Counsel for these Applicants should also be reviewing refusals more closely. Several of my colleagues have seen their Judicial Review practice increase quite significantly and many of these refusals/incompleteness findings are being overturned prior to the case ever reaching the Courts.