Express Entry Permanent Residence program is anything but


Express Entry Permanent Residence program is anything but

Evelyn L. Ackah, Special to Financial Post | October 15, 2015 11:12 AM ET

Express Entry, the electronic permanent residence application system for economic skilled immigrants, was launched by the Canadian government on January 1, 2015. It was promoted as a way to fast-track the permanent residence process for highly skilled temporary foreign workers (TFW) into Canada and reduce reliance on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

Nine months later, here’s the sad and frustrating news that Canadian businesses already know: The Express Entry system has failed. And more importantly, it’s hurting both highly skilled workers and business owners in high technology, manufacturing, healthcare, senior management, and more.

The Express Entry Permanent Residence program has two main problems: One problem is unreliable and unstable software. The other problem is the severe lack of transparency in the application process.

Let’s take a look at the results.

Since January 1, 2015 to July 6, 2015 exactly 112,701 people have applied for Express Entry. Of those applicants, only 844 permanent resident visas have been issued to applicants and their dependants. About half of them, 411, have arrived in Canada to-date. That’s 411, including dependants, out of a possible 112,701. By comparison, 43,000 economic immigrants landed on our shores in 2014.

Bottom line: Canadian businesses can’t get the skilled workers they need. As a result, Canada’s competitiveness is suffering. And highly skilled workers are looking at greener pastures overseas.

Let’s take a look at the Express Entry portal itself.

Only 844 permanent resident visas have been issued to applicants and their dependants

Nine months after the launch, we are still waiting for the user manual to be distributed and for significant technical glitches to be resolved for this purely online electronic portal. The software is full of bugs and glitches: You’ll fill out Portion A, and five days later you’ll get a confirmation that you filled out Portion B and that portion A still needs completion.

The system crashes regularly, forcing applicants (or their lawyers) to re-do hours of work. The portal will log you out after a certain amount of time; information submitted is frequently lost. It disappears down a black hole never to be seen again.

This has been my world — and the world of every other immigration lawyer in Canada — since January 1, 2015.

Let’s take a look at the actual selection process.

The Express Entry system uses a selection process that is not transparent. Applicants are awarded points based on age, education, experience, adaptability factors, language proficiency, Canadian experience, an approved job offer, and so on, given a score on a 1,200-point scale, and entered into a pool.

Applicants with a Canadian job offer (called a Labour Market Impact Assessment, or LMIA) or those nominated by a province automatically receive 600 points.

Every few weeks, the government selects applicants with more than a certain number of points from this pool. But the cut-off score for selection from the pool is both arbitrary and a moving target: it’s been as low as 450 and as high as 886.

And it gets more confusing! An applicant can be selected for one of three classes: the Canadian Experience Class, the Federal Skilled Worker Class, or the Federal Skilled Trades Class. If an applicant meets more than one of the categories — the portal chooses arbitrarily — the applicant cannot choose.

Candidates and their families don’t know from one week to another if they qualify for permanent residency status. Imagine you go to Las Vegas to play roulette, but you don’t know the rules and you have no strategy?

The Express Entry electronic portal needs stable technology, free of all bugs and glitches, along with a user manual, and a detailed operational manual documenting the entire application process and all application requirements upfront. It needs ways to respond to questions, within hours or a few days — not weeks. And, highly skilled workers with valid work permits who have been working in Canada for over a year should be deemed to have a qualifying job offer for Express Entry purposes and should automatically obtain the 600 points needed to put them at the top of the list for Permanent Residence. They are already here and employed in Canada – aren’t these the ideal immigrants we want to keep in Canada?

It’s time to fix a system that doesn’t work for Canadian businesses.