As the new year began, so too did Canada’s new “Express Entry” immigration program. Though they don’t agree about many things, both critics and supporters of the Conservative government agree that Express Entry is one of the most significant changes to Canada’s immigration system in the last few decades.
For its part, the Canadian government sees Express Entry as a modern, technology-based method to link Canadian immigration to the country’s specific labor needs. On the other side, critics charge that the program is a seismic shift in priorities for Canadian immigration and changes the country’s immigration focus from ‘people to profits’.
With a federal election all but certain to take place before the end of the year, the Conservative government has a great deal riding on the success of its new immigration program.
Regardless of its merits, the fact is that Express Entry is now the law of the land and represents an unquestionable change to Canada’s method of accepting new immigrants.
So, what exactly is Express Entry? As with any new government program, Express Entry will certainly evolve and be ‘tweaked’ over time.
But for now, here are the five most important facts to know about Canada’s newest immigration law:
- Express Entry Is An Electronic, Online System: The Canadian government defines Express Entry as “a new electronic system to manage applications for permanent residence under certain economic immigration programs.” Express Entry is designed to be the first of several steps en route to a successful immigration to Canada. Potential candidates for permanent residency in Canada have to complete an online profile in order for their names to be entered into a ‘pool’ of candidates for consideration. The program is done entirely online, thereby eliminating any hard copy paperwork.
- There Are No Deadlines And No Caps On The Number of Candidates: Unlike its predecessors, the Express Entry program does not have any deadlines for submission of an online application. In addition, and again unlike other immigration programs, there are no caps on the number of candidates accepted into the Express Entry pool.
- Express Entry Will Be Used To Manage Applications For Specific Federal/Provincial Immigration Programs: The Express Entry program is being used to manage applications for permanent residence under the three most prominent federal immigration programs:
- the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP),
- the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP),
- the Canadian Experience Class (CEC),
- Express Entry can also be used by provinces and territories to process applications under their Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP).
- The Express Entry Program Is Based Upon A Point System: Candidates for permanent residency in Canada under Express Entry are awarded ‘points’, which ultimately determines the success of their applications. Points are awarded (up to a maximum of 1,200) based on several criteria including:
- level of education,
- proficiency in Canada’s official languages,
- Canadian work experience, and a
- positive Labor Market Impact Assessment.
- Express Entry Might Not Be Permanent: Although a great deal of time and effort has been invested in the implementation of the new Express Entry program, there are reasons to doubt its longevity, at least in its current form. Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has said that the government will examine the program’s success and may be willing to change it if need be. More significantly, Canada’s two opposition parties (the Liberals and the New Democratic Party) have both expressed their respective opposition to the entire program.
With a federal election likely only months away, and the government’s re-election far from certain, the future of the entire Express Entry program remains tenuous.
That’s the assessment of Elizabeth May, leader of Canada’s Green Party. May has stated that more than 80 percent of the complaints she receives in her British Columbia office are immigration-related; according to May, at the heart of these problems has been a shift in Canadian immigration policy from focusing on family reunification to recruiting immigrants with a specific skill set.
Describing many of the immigration problems brought to her office as both “terrible” and “heartbreaking”, May said that Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) should either receive more funding–or personnel–in order to rectify the problem. Among the most troubling cases, she said, are the delays in adoptions by Canadian couples of babies from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
May added that, as a result of simple bureaucratic complications, many Congolese children are being prevented from joining their adopted families in Canada. She explained that the Congolese government demands that Canada provide visas for the children to for them to receive their ‘exit letters’, while conversely Canadian immigration officials demand Congolese exit letters prior to issuing Canadian visas.
However, CIC officials push back against the idea that any policy change is behind the challenges faced by some immigrants, such as the Congolese children.
CIC spokesperson Jean-Bruno Villeneuve said that the CIC’s mandate is unchanged, and that the number of inter-country adoptions that CIC processes annually isn’t related to Canada’s economic immigration or family reunification policies.
For his part, a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Chris Alexander also rejected the ideas put forth by May regarding immigration backlogs; the Immigration Minister’s spokesperson cited a decrease in application backlogs, and improvements in the processing time for family unification visas.
CIC spokesperson Codie Taylor also pointed out that opposition parties—including May’s—have chosen not to vote to support the government’s “investments” in Canada’s immigration system, which she claimed have resulted in “improved waiting times and client service.”
Still, May has not been alone in her criticisms of Canada’s immigration system and its related backlog. Danielle Smith, leader of Alberta’s provincial Wildrose Party, has also been critical of the bureaucratic complications delaying the Congolese adoptions; Smith said it would be “wonderful if CIC could resolve this problem through a quick change in policy.”
Canada has been and will remain a popular destination for immigrants the world over and their immigration system is designed to be welcoming to immigrants.
Many programs exist for getting people into Canada and once there to help them adjust to their new and exciting lives.
Ever since the 18th century, immigrants have been flooding into Canada to take advantage of its vast resources which have contributed greatly to its economic might and stability.
However, back then most immigrants were from Europe. Nowadays the cross section of new Canadians is primarily composed of folks from Asia.
Wherever you may be from, Canada, the Land of Immigrants, awaits you with open arms.
Deciding on a Pathway to Immigration
There are many different routes or pathways to immigration in Canada. Choosing the one best for you is an important part in starting the process.
Below are some example pathways that an aspiring Canadian might be interested in applying for:
- Canadian Experience Class. This program is the best for students or workers already in Canada, but who are looking for more permanent arrangements.
- Provincial Nominee Program. Some provinces have special need for people in certain professions and immigrants with those kinds of skills can apply directly through the province.
- Family immigration. Related to a Canadian citizen or permanent resident? You can immigrate to Canada if your relative is willing to sponsor you.
- The Federal Skilled Workers and Federal Skilled Trades programs are also great ways to immigrate to Canada for work
- Want to immigrate to Quebec? Quebec has a slightly different immigration program from the rest of Canada and requires special consideration.
Understanding Visa types
There are many different ways to come to Canada, but some are more permanent than others. Immigration programs are those that will eventually lead to permanent residency (an immigration status that lets an immigrant live and work in Canada for as long as they please).
Other pathways into Canada are only on a temporary basis, like student visas. People who come into Canada on these temporary visas are expected to leave Canada before applying for re-entry in another visa category.
Eligibility is a little different for each of the different immigration classes.
For work based immigration, eligibility is typically tied up in one’s qualifications to do a particular job in Canada. This also may include one’s education.
Family visas will require sponsorship from a qualified relative in Canada and that has to be somehow proved to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Look into Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s official website to get an idea what you need to apply for immigration programs in Canada.
Getting Ready to Move
Canada can be an expensive place, so it is important that one has the necessary funds to live in Canada before one starts getting work.
Beginning to save money before applying for immigration to Canada will help to make the transition process all the more easy.
In an effort to better help their clientele, the CIC established a service declaration and service standards. Below are some highlights of that policy.
The Service Declaration
The CIC’s service declaration describes the immigration departments interests and commitments to its clients and includes information on
- Who is the CIC?
- What does the CIC do?
- The CIC’s commitment to immigrants and stakeholders
- Service standards maintained for clients
- Processing times (the estimated time it takes to process and issue immigration benefits)
- A system that allows users to provide feedback to further improve the CIC and to help serve its clients better
- Third party assistance in the immigration process
The service declaration includes a number of frequently asked questions.
The CIC is committed to making decisions in immigrants’ applications that are fair and reasonable in light of relevant laws.
CIC will also explain decisions to immigrants, be courteous and respectful. Citizenship and Immigration Canada also works to protect the personal information of anyone who applies for benefits with the CIC.
The CIC’s service standards are similar to processing times as they are the estimated amount of time it will take to process and issue certain benefits.
What makes the service standards different from processing times is that service standards are what the CIC intends to accomplish. Processing times are more of an actual estimation of the amount of time it will take to process benefits.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada does fairly well in keeping the processing times very close to the service standards.
Below are some of the service standard for some of the more popular applications. Service standards are the amount of time in which 80% of the total applications that have been submitted have been processed.
- Permanent residency through family members: one year
- First permanent resident cards: two months after landing
- Work permit renewals: four months
- Study permits applied for outside of Canada: two months
- Study permit extensions: four months
Service Standard Review
In order to make CIC as helpful as it can possibly be, Citizenship and Immigration Canada regularly evaluates its own service standards in comparison to the actual processing times and publishes them online.
Labour Market Opinions (required documents for temporary immigrant employment) and family based immigration normally lag behind the target, but not by much.
One of the pathways by which immigrants can work on getting Permanent Residence is through the Live-in Caregiver program.
While becoming a Live-in Caregiver does not automatically give one permanent residence status, it can be used to eventually get a PR card.
Live-in Caregivers are a kind of temporary worker in Canada and need to apply for extensions on their visa from time to time.
What is a Live-in Caregiver?
A live in Caregiver is a person privately employed by a person in Canada who is tasked with taking care of children, the elderly or the disabled.
Live-in caregivers must live in the home of the person or persons they are taking care of. They must also be able to do their job with little to no supervision.
Requirements for Entry into the Program
There are a number of conditions that must be met in order to become a Live-in Caregiver in Canada:
- The immigrant must obtain a good Labour Market Opinion. This is a decision from the Canadian government which effectively states that this immigrant is necessary in Canada
- A contractual agreement between the immigrant and their employer
- A high school education that is equivalent to a Canadian secondary education
- Six months of training as a live-in caregiver
- Alternatively, one can have one full year of employment in a similar job and fulfil the training requirement
- Live-in Caregivers must be reasonable capable in one of the official languages of Canada: English or French
- Immigrants must also apply for and receive a work permit.
Applying for Status
After an immigrant meets the above requirements for Live-in Caregiver status they can then apply for their visa.
Applications are to be sent to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, specifically to one of their foreign consulate offices.
The immigration officer will confirm or deny the completeness of the application and send it back if it is incomplete.
Complete applications will proceed and the immigration officer will call the immigrant in for an interview where their fingerprints will be taken.
If all goes well, the live-in caregiver will be granted an immigration visa and be allowed to go to a Canadian port of entry. There they will be examined again. If accepted they will enter Canada and begin their term of employment as caregiver.
Permanent Residency and Citizenship
Live in Caregivers can apply for Permanent Residency with Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Permanent Residency is a special status that lets a person live and work in Canada indefinitely. They can also switch jobs without applying for a Labour Market Opinion.
Only Permanent Residents of Canada are allowed to apply for citizenship (aside from people who are eligible for citizenship from birth or adoption of course).
Full citizenship gives immigrants full access to Canada’s rights and protections and also lets them use a Canadian passport.
Temporary Residents who have collected useful work experience while living in Canada have the opportunity to become Permanent Residents of Canada under the Canadian Experience Class Immigration Program.
Permanent Residency is an immigration status in Canada that allows an immigrant to live and work within the country for as long as they wish, provided they continue to meet certain eligibility requirements.
Becoming eligible for Permanent Residency can prove to be awfully tricky for some people, but the Canadian Experience Class Program makes it much easier to become a full resident.
Generally, two types of people can apply for this program: students who graduated from a Canadian university or temporary workers who have held a position for a required amount of time within Canada.
In either case, the applicant must be proficient in either of the official languages of Canada, English or French.
Eligibility for Canadian Experience Class includes not only the language requirement, but also three other requirements:
- Applicants cannot plan to live in Quebec (Quebec has different immigration policies than the rest of Canada)
- One full year of full time skilled work experience is required and this experience must have been received within the three years before the Canadian Experience Class application is submitted
- It is absolutely necessary that a proper work permit be granted to the applicant for the entire time of work experience. Applicants who were out of status at any time will have their application rejected
Skilled Work Experience Definition
Skilled workers accrue experience through professions of the following types:
- Management jobs
- Professional jobs
- Skilled Trades
- Technical Jobs
More detailed lists of jobs that fall under these categories can be found on the National Occupation Classification (NOC).
The NOC itself is a list of jobs and positions that have been extensively detailed and described to better match peoples’ skills with the profession that is best for them.
The NOC codes for the above job types are Skill Types 0, A and B.
Applying for CEC
Applying for the Canadian Experience Class follows the same format as many other immigration applications in Canada.
The application must be filled out, supporting documentation included, fees paid and the entire package mailed to the appropriate Citizenship and Immigration center for the application to be accepted.
Incomplete applications will be returned to the applicant so that they can try again.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada provides applicants with estimates of the amount of time it may take to approve and issue immigration visas. These estimates are commonly called processing times.
Processing times are estimates and whatever their value, a person’s application may be accepted or rejected before or after the official processing time.
The processing time for Canadian Experience Class is 12 months.
Quebec is a province of Canada that has somewhat different requirements for immigration than the rest of the country.
There are many great educational institutions located within Quebec and foreign nationals who follow the steps suggested by the government of Quebec can find themselves studying in no time.
The first step to studying in Quebec is getting a letter of acceptance to a school in Quebec. This letter is issued after a student is accepted into an academic program.
Applications for schools in Quebec are very similar to those in other parts of Canada. Schools will look at a person’s grades, their test scores and past educational experience.
After a person has been accepted into a Quebec school they will then apply with the Canadian government for permission to study within the province
The document necessary for authorization to study in Quebec is called the CAQ or Quebec Acceptance Certificate.
All students looking to come to Canada to study must first apply for and receive a student visa.
Students who wish to also work must apply for a separate work visa through Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
The student visa and work permit can be applied for though Canadian foreign affairs offices.
Once a student visa is arranged and the appropriate authorization from Quebec has been granted, students may then prepare for their time in Canada.
Having enough money to be able to support oneself during the school year will be necessary. Also, Quebec can get quite cold during the winter months and appropriate clothing should be arranged somehow.
Visas are only granted for temporary periods of time unless the applicant also receives a Permanent Resident Card.
Visa extensions for students can be applied for through Citizenship and Immigration Canada, but one must also re-apply for all authorization documents required by Quebec before one applies.
Work permits may also be extended granted all supporting documentation is included.
Immigrating to Quebec
Many people who study in Quebec also wish to become full time residents as well. In order to do so, immigrants must apply for Permanent Resident status.
Students who complete their studies in Canada may apply for Canadian Experience Class immigration. This program allows students who have completed their studies to continue working and living in Canada indefinitely.
After a period of time where the Permanent Resident has been living in Canada, they may then apply for Canadian citizenship.
The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada is a governmental organization that works closely with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) in the administration of immigration policy.
Most immigrants applying for Permanent Resident Cards or citizenship applications will be interacting with Citizenship and Immigration Canada. However, appeals will be mostly directed at the Immigration and Refugee Board.
Immigrants most often come in contact with the CBSA when they firs land in Canada, typically with little trouble as long as their documents are correct.
The Immigration and Refugee Board is divided into three sub-organizations that all have their own responsibilities in the implementation of immigration policy in Canada.
The Immigration Division is responsible for admissibility hearings and detention reviews.
If the CBSA thinks that an immigration applicant somehow does not follow the rules set out in the Immigration Act they will be referred to the Immigration division for an admissibility hearing.
Immigrants who have been detained because of some sort of immigration related transgression will also be sent to this department.
The Immigration Appeals Division, the second part of the Immigration Review Board, hears appeals for immigration applications. Potential immigrants may in some cases appeal a decision by Citizenship and Immigration Canada if they believe the decision was incorrect.
Refugees who live within Canada will largely deal with the third division of the Immigration and Review Board, the Refugee Protection Division. Immigrants who wish to claim refugee status from outside of Canada will deal with Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
As mentioned above, the IRB largely concerns itself with appeals and refugee claims.
The department concerned with refugee claims includes:
- Information on how to claim refugee status
- How to claim refugee status within Canada
- Information for refugee claimants in Canada
- Information for legal representatives and counsel for refugee applicants
- Information about the Refugee Protection Division
- Relevant forms for filing refugee status in Canada
- Refugee statistics and other relevant numbers
- Refugee appeal information, such as how to file for a refugee appeal
Admissibility hearings involve the assessment of an immigrant’s application or entry into Canada. This department of the Immigration Review Board includes information on how to handle a review for applicants and information for their counsel.
This department also includes important forms to be submitted and points of contact.
A Complicated Process
Immigrants and refugees should understand that any unusual situations or complications in their application to enter Canada can become extremely complex.
In some situations it may be best for applicants to hire an immigration attorney to assist them in the process. This is what the IRB means by counsel.
Choosing an immigration attorney can be a difficult process on its own. There are many fraudsters looking to scam desperate immigrants.
That is why it is important to seek out reputable attorneys in these rare cases.
What is a Work Permit?
Foreign residents who wish to come to Canada to work must first secure permission to do work within the country.
This typically comes in the form of a work permit which is a letter and a stamp in one’s passport that allows them to work in Canada.
Citizens and Permanent Residents of Canada do not need to obtain this document as their status automatically allows them to work.
In order to apply for a work permit one first has to get a job offer in Canada. Before the work permit can be granted, an examination must be made called the Labor Market Opinion.
The Labor Market Opinion (LMO) is a test to see if there is no other person in Canada who can do the proposed job. If the immigrant applicant is absolutely necessary, the LMO is considered positive.
Potential immigrants can apply for a work permit either at a Canadian diplomatic mission in their country or at the Canadian border.
Who Can a Work Permit Holder Work for?
Depending on what kind of work permit the immigrant holds they may be more or less restricted in whom they may work for. Regular work permit holders must work for the employer that they claimed when they first applied for the permit.
People with open work permits can work for any eligible employer. There are some ineligible employers, they are companies which have violated rules regarding the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and are suspended.
How Long Does a Work Permit Last?
Work Permits are temporary documents and more permanent working arrangements in Canada can only be achieved by getting Permanent Residency or citizenship,
A work permit allows an immigrant the chance to work in Canada for four years. At the end of this period they have to wait an additional four years before they can apply for another work permit.
What are Work Permit Conditions?
If your work permit has conditions you will be able to find them written into the permit itself. These conditions may dictate what kind of work you can do, where you work, how long you will be allowed to work and who you can work for.
Violations of these conditions may result in future difficulty in applying for immigration benefits.
The amount of time one has to wait before being granted a work permit in Canada is called the wait time or a processing time. These estimates are very variable and range individually and over different locations.
Mailed in work permit requests within Canada may take up to 55 days (and even longer), however, online applications take significantly less time with 30 days. Check with your local embassy or consulate for further wait times as the amount of time varies greatly depending on location.
What do I need to do to become a citizen?
The first thing that an immigrant has to do before becoming a citizen of Canada is to become a Permanent Resident. This immigration status is absolutely necessary to become a citizen.
Also, it is a good idea to become familiar with either the English or French language and learn about the Canadian government.
Other than that, it’s a matter of waiting until you have lived for three whole years in Canada.
What is Permanent Residency?
Permanent Residency is an immigration status in Canada that allows an immigrant to live and work in the country for as long as they choose to.
Permanent Residents can also travel freely throughout the provinces, study without a permit and be let back into Canada from abroad on the strength of their PR Cards.
Can I study abroad in Canada?
Canada is a great place for students and has some of the most highly regarded research facilities in the world.
Foreign students who are accepted at a Canadian school must then obtain a study permit from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
These study permits can be continually renewed until the student finishes their degree.
Can I stay in Canada with a study permit?
At the end of a student’s course of study they will generally be asked to either leave Canada or to switch their status to something more appropriate.
The Canadian Experience Class program for Permanent Residency allows a student to smoothly transition from a student to a working Permanent Resident at the end of their studies.
Do I need a work permit?
Work permits are necessary for all temporary residents of Canada who wish to work while in the country.
Permanent Residents and Citizens need not obtain work permits because they are allowed to work through their status.
Students, if they wish to work off of campus must get work permits.
Am I eligible for a Canadian passport?
Canadian passports are only available to Canadian citizens. However it only takes about three or four years to become a citizen after becoming a Permanent Resident.
Canadian passports are very useful and can be used for all sorts of purposes
- Proof of citizenship
Canadian passports provide the bearer with all of the protections of the Canadian government when abroad.
Where would I get a Canadian Passport?
Citizens can apply for passports at many different locations. One can apply for one through the mail to the Foreign Ministry.
Another option is to use one of the many Service Canada offices located throughout the country.