Chapter 2. Permanent labour migration

This chapter first traces how the Canadian selection system for permanent labour migrants has evolved since the introduction of the points-based system in 1967. It then describes and analyses the Express Entry (EE) system. This two-step selection system, introduced in 2015, builds a pool of eligible candidates (Expression of Interest) from which labour migrants are selected (Invitation to Apply). The chapter then compares and contrasts EE to two main peer systems in other countries – SkillSelect in Australia and the Skilled Migrant Expression of Interest system in New Zealand. The chapter also analyses the performance of Express Entry during its first four years of operation. It details how well EE is fulfilling the objectives laid out at its inception: i) greater flexibility in selection and application management; ii) better responsiveness to labour market and regional needs; and iii) quicker application processing.

    

The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law.

When migration policy debates refer to the Canadian migration system, they often – implicitly – refer to the points-based system for permanent skilled labour migration. A points-based system allows selection of immigrants based on a range of differing criteria balanced against each other. In Canada, such a system was introduced in 1967 and has since then undergone various reforms, outlined at the beginning of this chapter.

However, the traditional points-based system with a passmark, while balancing selection criteria, was not sufficient to respond to key challenges, including long processing times and an inability to prioritise among qualified applicants. It is against this backdrop that Canada introduced, in 2015, “Express Entry” (EE), a two-step dynamic skilled labour migration system. The chapter examines how well Express Entry has performed during its first four years of operation against the objectives at its inception: i) greater flexibility in selection and application management, ii) better responsiveness to labour market and regional needs, and iii) increased speed in application processing.

Express Entry selects applicants among a pool of qualified individuals, who have expressed an interest in permanently migrating to Canada. This chapter outlines the criteria applicants need to meet for pool entry along the three federal programmes managed with this Expression of Interest system. It further depicts the mechanism which sorts applicants within the Express Entry pool.

With the start of its new system, Canada introduced a number of innovations. These include the consideration of interaction between different factors such as language proficiency and education, as well as a continuum of points in its ranking system allowing for a more refined selection than in other countries. New evidence and monitoring of the intake of the first rounds of Express Entry already led to two major reforms of the system. These addressed several initial shortcomings such as a reduction of the previous excessively high points for a job offer. The reforms resulted in a shift from a demand-driven to a largely supply-driven selection based on broad human capital characteristics.

At the same time, several challenges for permanent labour migration management under the new system remain. In particular, reflecting previously clearly separate pathways, Express Entry operates three different pool entry programmes, of which only one uses a points grid for entry. Under the new comprehensive ranking system, this leads to different standards in pool-entry requirements and the criteria applied for final selection. This also engenders a number of inconsistencies in the system.

Evolution of the Points-Based System

The evolution of the Points-Based System (PBS) in Canada is a reflection of changing immigration objectives. Indeed, a key characteristic of the Canadian approach to migration management are frequent adaptations to react to new evidence and challenges, but also to changing political priorities. From the frequent adjustments to the points granted, the following section only discusses the most significant changes.

The PBS works through a points grid to determine selection criteria. Its key characteristic is the possibility to trade-off some skills against others (e.g. higher language skills for somewhat lower qualification levels). The government adjusts criteria for selection by assigning more or less points to certain factors. In the past, these adjustments have swung between favouring general human capital and reacting to specific labour demands (Ferrer, Picot and Riddell, 2012[1]; Green and Green, 2004[2]).

When the PBS was first introduced, human capital accounted for 30% of all points, labour market factors for another 40% and other factors, including age and adaptability, for the remaining 30%. At the time, adaptability was assessed in a face-to-face interview. An applicant needed half of the total maximum points to be eligible for admission. As a result, human capital, age and adaptability together were sufficient for an applicant to pass the mark of 50 points, without fulfilling any labour market specific demands. Canada later adopted a pro-cyclical immigration policy, increasing immigration during economic booms and limitations during recessions (Figure 2.1). The country abandoned this policy in the 1990s.

Figure 2.1. Immigration and unemployment rates, 1965-18
Figure 2.1. Immigration and unemployment rates, 1965-18

Note: Immigration rate as a percentage of annual population, unemployment rate of last quarter in given year.

Source: OECD Secretariat calculations based on data from IRCC.

In 1974, the government introduced a penalty of ten points for applicants without pre-arranged employment or intention to work in a designated occupation and from 1982-86, Canada granted admission only to applicants with pre-arranged employment (Green and Green, 1999[3]).

Major changes introduced in 1986 involved allocating more points for language ability and less for adaptability. In addition, the government removed the requirement of pre-arranged employment and instead introduced a “levels” factor, a discretionary allocation of ten points, used to control the number of persons entering over a certain period. The new policy also included a higher pass mark of 70 points.

As outlined in Chapter 1, in the early 1990s, Canada moved away from long-term demographic goals and instead used designated occupation lists based on specific occupational shortages. Immigrants who matched the occupation on a list received additional points and were processed on a priority basis. This use of immigration for short-term economic demand was again reverted in the second half of the 1990s to favour long-term benefits of increased immigration. This change occurred despite high domestic unemployment at the time, with the intention of raising the overall skills levels of the population rather than responding to immediate labour needs. In 1996, the government for the first time employed the idea to adjust the pass mark depending on the occupational group of an applicant, acknowledging structural mid-skilled shortages.1

In 2002, with the Immigration Refugee and Protection Act (IRPA), education, experience and language – all human capital factors – obtained more weight. Points for education and language increased, comprising 49% of all points, while experience increased to 21%. For the first time, tertiary (university) education became a necessity to scoring full points for education. Human capital factors alone accounted for a full 93% of the points for the pass mark. In contrast, the number of points responding to labour market needs decreased even further than it had been in the second half of the 1990s. From 2002 onwards, adaptability was no longer assessed with an interview; instead, applicants received points for prior exposure to and experience in Canada. Furthermore, points for spouses’ human capital and labour market factors became part of the adaptability score, which could but did not need to be claimed. The pass mark rose to 75% of total points but was scaled back the following year to 67% of the total points, where it has remained since. Table 2.1 provides on overview of some of the major changes. Authorities processed applications in the order of submission.

Table 2.1. Evolution of the Points-Based System (current FSW entry grid) 1967 to present
Percentages of maximum points and pass mark

1967

1986

post-2003

% of points

% pass mark

% of points

% pass mark

% of points

% pass mark

Human capital

30%

60%

35%

50%

68%

101%

Language

10%

20%

15%

21%

28%

42%

Education

20%

20%

12%

17%

25%

37%

Experience

20%

8%

11%

15%

15%

Labour market demand

40%

20%

35%

50%

10%

15%

Arranged employment / occupational demand

25%

20%

20%

29%

10%

15%

Vocational preparation

10%

20%

15%

21%

Destination

5%

10%

Other

30%

60%

30%

43%

22%

33%

Age

10%

20%

10%

14%

12%

18%

Personal Assessment / Adaptability / Relatives

20%

40%

10%

14%

10%

15%

Levels

10%

14%

Points possible / needed

100

50

100

70

100

67*

Pass mark in %

50%

70%

67%

Note: The table shows only key changes. Due to percentage rounding, shares do not round up to totals indicated. *Set at 75 points (75%) from June 2002 to September 2003, thereafter decreased to 67 points. Pass mark of 67 used for calculating shares.

Source: OECD Secretariat calculations based on data from IRCC and Green and Green (1999[3]).

Given the pass mark of 67 points, a large number of applicants qualified for admission based on their human capital endowment alone. As numbers of applications rose faster than the ability of the authorities to deal with requests, backlogs of applications continued to grow. In addition to the large numbers, the verification process involved substantial manual assessment and human interface. A series of Ministerial Instructions since 20082 introduced a mix of qualifiers for expedited processing such as in-demand occupations and later numerical limits. Ministerial Instructions empower the federal Minister for Immigration to pause, decline and return unprocessed applications. Any such modifications to immigration policy were previously possible only through regulatory change and consultation. This flexibility aimed at streamlining application processing in line with changing priorities and at addressing the large inventory of applications that had built up since the late 1990s. For specific periods, the ministry reduced the points granted for work experience to 15% and increased the points awarded for language proficiency. Besides changes to the grid, a job offer or an occupation in demand became – temporarily – mandatory. In line with these changes, the ministry made other infrastructure adjustments. Key among them was the centralisation of the initial review of Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) applications in Canada through a new Centralized Intake Office for paper-based applications.

The entry points grid’s six main selection factors (language, education, experience, job offer, age and adaptability) for Federal Skilled Workers (FSW) were maintained for this class in 2015, when Express Entry was introduced. It is important to note that this entry points grid differs from the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) that allocates points within the Express Entry pool, the differences are discussed in more detail below. In brief, the entry points grid allocates up to 100 points (67 allow a candidate to apply as a FSW) whereas the CRS grants up to 1 200 points out of which a varying number are needed to be invited to apply for permanent residence. The entry point grid is only applicable as a first step for those wishing to come to Canada as a Federal Skilled Worker, whereas the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) ranks everyone, who passed the requirements of at least one of the currently three federal skilled economic immigration classes.

Until the introduction of Express Entry in January 2015, Canada had a one-step PBS for selection of permanent economic immigrants. Leading up to 2015, the immigration system was confronted with two major challenges. First, for many years, the department was obliged to process every application received until amendments to IRPA were introduced in 2008. This allowed the government to set a limit on the number of applications to be accepted for processing. However, with years of demand outstripping departmental capacity to process, by 2008 the FSW backlog had already grown to over 600 000 applications and with wait times of almost three years (IRCC, 2010[4]). Second, the system provided no means for prioritisation of candidates among applicants. In particular, employers faced long and uncertain waiting periods and applicants could not alter their application once submitted. Thus, neither changes in personal qualifications of applicants (supply side) nor in labour market and economic conditions (demand side) could accelerate admission of those in the queue. The series of Ministerial Instructions issued since 2008 have aimed to improve targeting and enhance flexibility and responsiveness to changing demands. However, limits on immigration programmes did not address the main problem: the inability to efficiently prioritise processing.

Express Entry builds on the points-based infrastructure that had been in place for more than four decades and changed the application process to incorporate a pre-screening and an official invitation step. Its introduction drew on extensive research, consultation with many stakeholders, including employers, and builds on the experiences of peer countries pursuing a two-step labour immigrant selection, with Expression of Interest models pioneered in New Zealand in 2003 and introduced by Australia in 2012.

Express Entry

The general process of the Expression of Interest system

Figure 2.2. Express Entry basic functioning
Figure 2.2. Express Entry basic functioning

A key objective of Express Entry is to enable the selection of the best candidates at any time and to prioritise the various programme intakes to reflect changing economic conditions and political preferences. The system manages migration in two steps: first, all candidates who meet entry requirements are admitted (fixed mark) into a pool and second, candidates in the pool are ranked against one another and chosen in descending order until a fixed number of entries is reached (floating mark).

In the case of Canada within this two-step process, applicants first submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) and if they meet the eligibility criteria for at least one of the federal economic visa categories, enter a pool of candidates called the Express Entry pool (Figure 2.2). Within this pool, a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) automatically assigns points to each applicant according to transparent criteria. As a result, each applicant has an individual CRS-score and ranks relative to all candidates in the pool.

About every second week, IRCC publishes a Ministerial Instruction stating the total number of candidates it invites to apply for permanent residence. Such Invitations to Apply (ITA) are sent to the highest ranked candidates in the Express Entry pool in descending order until reaching the candidate(s) whose CRS-score is exactly at the pass mark for selection for this specific draw.3 Thus, candidates in the pool must have a CRS-score at least equal to the minimum pass mark at any given draw to receive an Invitation to Apply for permanent residence. However, depending on the composition of the pool (other candidate’s CRS-score4) the minimum CRS-score needed to receive an ITA in the given round is changing. While Ministerial Instructions state the number of ITAs, for easier reference the ministry also publishes the resulting minimum CRS-score.

The numbers of ITAs for permanent residence visas are determined within the framework of a multi-annual Immigration Levels Plan, which sets out the broad admission ranges for federal high-skilled migration, by stream. The number and “type” of labour migrants selected at any draw remain at ministerial discretion. For instance, the minister can decide to pick only candidates of one or several visa categories. In addition, the government is able to adjust the points granted in the CRS, again by using Ministerial Instructions.

The CRS-score calculation is a transparent process and interested applicants can pre-calculate their expected score online at no cost. The efficiency gains in processing time allow for a realistic timeframe estimation and applicants can update and thus improve their CRS-score while remaining in the EE-pool. This is also possible in the Australian system, where applicants can access their EOI and update information at any time. In contrast, in New Zealand applicants need to provide information to Immigration New Zealand why they want to change their details and thereafter need to re-submit their Expression of Interest.

After submitting their Expression of Interest and on a voluntarily basis labour migrants can register on Job Bank, an online job search and matching platform and service of Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). This allows them to market themselves to employers. At the same time, they can also search on private job vacancy boards. Employers registered on the Job Bank can view applicants’ profiles (though not their personal contact details) until they decide to interview them. When a match proceeds to an interview and a decision is made to hire, employers with an approval to hire a foreign worker (a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment) provide this information along with a job offer letter to the candidate. Candidates can update their Express Entry profile accordingly. Provinces and territories are able to view and nominate applicants in the Express Entry pool directly if candidates meet their regional programmes criteria. Applicants who accept such a provincial nomination – to live in the region – update their Express Entry profile accordingly. Applicants can also increase their points, by, for instance, improving their certified language levels, formal education credentials or claiming points or no points for a spouse or common law partner.

Candidates successfully drawn from the pool receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for a permanent residence visa and have up to 60 days to submit a complete application. This should include all documents relating to admissibility and points claimed in various selection factors. The same period, 60 days, applies in Australia while in New Zealand applicants have four months to send the final application once they have been invited to apply for residence. Applicants who decline an ITA, or did not receive one due to their CRS-score, remain in the pool for up to 12 months. This duration of profile validity is between the duration in the Australian system where profiles are valid for 24 months and the system used in New Zealand where they are valid for six months.

As the government defines the number of ITA it issues and not the required CRS-score, the threshold is floating. Consequently, the same score of points in the Express Entry pool can be sufficient to get an invitation in one draw but not in the next, as candidates exit and enter the pool between draws. As a result, the pool is constantly changing and applicants face varying competition to receive an ITA. Until the end of 2018, IRCC issued 107 MIs stating the number of ITA and the resulting minimum needed CRS-score.

The system provides an online platform for managing applications, the automation of most processing stages and the ability to seek nomination from provinces and territories as well as job offers – via a linked platform – from employers. EE does not employ any discretionary elements, except for the set pass marks and changes to the score calculation. Under Express Entry, the estimated target processing time between submission of a completed visa application and the final decision on a permanent residence visa is six months. Figure 2.3 gives an overview of an application process via Express Entry.

Figure 2.3. Express Entry high-level principles and processes
Figure 2.3. Express Entry high-level principles and processes

Source: OECD Secretariat.

Step 1: Minimum entry requirements

The first step for applicants into the Express Entry pool is to submit an electronic profile. Express Entry is open to three visa categories of federal economic immigration programmes: Federal Skilled Workers (FSW), Canada Experience Class (CEC) and Federal Skilled Trades Program (FST). All candidates in the pool must meet the minimum eligibility requirements for at least one of these programmes. Applicants who apply via Express Entry to be a Provincial Nominees must also meet the minimum qualifying criteria the respective province/territory’s Express Entry PN category.5

At this first selection step, Canada uses an entry points grid only for the FSW category where candidates must gain a minimum of 67 points of the total 100 available. For the other immigration programmes, candidates do not need to pass a points mark but to fulfil programme specific requirements. In Australia, applicants to Skilled Independent and Nominated Visas using the SkillSelect system have to pass a points test, while some other visa categories require specific selection criteria (OECD, 2018[5]). In New Zealand, applicants to the Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa and those for Entrepreneur Work visas have to pass a fixed points mark (Government New Zealand, 2019[6]).

Applicants to Canada start with a self-assessment through an online tool “Come to Canada”. Based on several criteria (province of interest, age, language ability, family members, education, settlement funds, work experience and details on any job offer) the tool identifies if the candidate meets the criteria for any permanent federal immigration class. If minimum requirements in one immigration class are met, the candidate receives a personal reference code and is asked to submit online and free of charge an Express Entry electronic profile that includes their mandatory language test scores, educational credential assessment (required for Federal Skilled Workers), details of work experience and, where applicable, a job offer or provincial nomination. Assessment providers issue documents with unique identity numbers, which ensure authenticity and reduce subsequent efforts for verification.

Applicants might be eligible for more than one programme, which will be noted in their file, but can only be invited into one programme. IRCC decides under which programme applicants should apply and be processed. This is called the “precedent”. At launch the precedent order was FST, FSW, CEC. This order was changed to FSW, CEC, FST on June 26, 2015. In the following and until March 9, 2016, the hierarchy was FSW, CEC, FST. Thereafter, IRCC started to invite eligible candidates first as CEC, next as FSW and last as FST, to decrease processing times.6 This process is in contrast to SkillSelect in Australia, where candidates themselves decide for which programme they are suited and can apply for several visa categories (but only one occupation) within one application.

All interested applicants must be admissible, in terms of health and security concerns, to enter Canada. In addition, they need to specify the amount of finances they dispose of to support their settlement. Individuals invited to apply as FSW or FST need to dispose of a certain minimum sum, unless they are currently already authorised to work in Canada, and have a valid job offer from an employer in Canada. Those invited to apply under the CEC do not need to meet the fund requirements. The amount of money required depends on the size of the family. An individual applicant has to proof CAD 12 475. For each additional family member, the amount increases by between CAD 3 000 to CAD 4 000. The amount of minimum funds is adjusted annually.

At this stage, Express Entry assigns applicants an Express Entry Profile Number and a Job Seeker Validation Code. The Express Entry profile remains valid for one year. The initial online assessment takes around 15-20 minutes and the submission of a detailed Express Entry Profile around two hours, provided all required information is at hand.

Age restrictions

While younger candidates obtain more points, there is in principle no maximum age for admission to Canada.7 This stands in contrast to the systems in Australia and New Zealand. In Australia,8 candidates must be under 45 years of age at time of invitation for the skilled independent visa, in New Zealand the age threshold to submit an EOI for the Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa is 55 years. Part of the motivation for such age thresholds is the fact that after, the expected working life ahead is no longer sufficient to finance future transfers, and the aggregated discounted fiscal impact tends to turn negative. This age-range typically tends to be around 45 years, but can be earlier or later depending on the expected earnings and the tax-benefit system (OECD, 2013[7]).

Skilled work experience

Another requirement is experience in skilled employment. As skilled occupation are considered those occupations that are listed as skill type 0 (managerial jobs), skill level A (professional jobs) or skill level B (technical jobs and skilled trades) in the 2016 version of Canada’s National Occupation Classification (NOC). The minimum requirement for an applicant to the FSW Program is to have 12 months of continuous full-time work experience9 in such a skilled profession over the last ten years. Applicants to the CEC need a minimum of 12 months of skilled work experience in Canada, in the last three years. Self-employment and work experience gained as a full-time student do not count as work experience for the CEC. Applicants to the FST class require at least 24 months of full-time work experience in a specific skilled trade (skill level B) in the five years prior to applying. All skilled work experience has to be full-time or the equal amount in part time.

Language competency

Every applicant has to submit his/her proof of language skills in either English or French, the two national languages. This includes individuals born in an English/French speaking country who regard the language(s) as their mother tongue. The language test has to cover four core competences (reading, writing, listening and speaking) and must not be older than two years on the day of application for permanent residence. Applicants can prove English language skills with the CELPIP-General test or the IELTS General Training test. They can only use the TEF Canada (test d’evaluation de français) to verify French skills.

To be eligible for the FSW Program, individuals must meet or exceed the language threshold of Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) or Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens (NCLC) 7, which is equivalent to intermediate skills (B2 level in the Common European Reference Framework).10 To meet the minimum requirements for CEC, the language level depends on the skill level of the job. CEC with NOC 0 or A must have the same language levels as a FSW (CLB/NCLC 7). For a NOC B job, the minimum level is CLB/NCLC 5 (about B1 in the Common European Reference Framework). Thus, for a significant part of CEC applicants, lower language thresholds apply than for applicants in the FSW. The reasons for this are not entirely clear. If anything, a higher Canadian language proficiency should be expected of an applicant who has spent time studying or working in Canada, since language is a key determinant for successful labour market integration. In the case of the FST, the minimum levels for speaking and listening are CLB/NCLC 5 and for reading and writing CLB/NCLC 4.

In New Zealand, applicants to the Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa need to prove somewhat higher language competency, roughly equivalent to a CLB 8, to be eligible to apply (IELTS level of 6.5 or more, a TOEFL 79 or more, Cambridge English B2 First (FCE)). However, if the applicants proves periods of study or skilled work experience in an English speaking country, this requirement can be waived. Higher levels of English may be required for certain occupations by professional bodies, but are not otherwise rewarded through higher points as this is done in the Canadian CRS (OECD, 2014[8]). In Australia, applicants to the Skilled Independent Visa (subclass 189) need certified “competent” English language skills, roughly equivalent to a CLB 7 (IELTS level of 6, a TOEFEL 69).

Educational qualification

An Education Credential Assessment (ECA) is mandatory for applicants who want to apply as a FSW and no minimum education level currently exists for CEC and FST. FSW applicants must have a minimum of Canadian equivalent secondary school (high school) or post-secondary school certificate. If a candidate earned his/her educational credential outside Canada, a designated organisation must verify its equivalence to a Canadian credential. It is mandatory to use one of currently seven IRCC-designated organisations that issue an Educational Credential Assessment.11 This assessment does of course not guarantee every employer accepts the foreign education as equivalent. What is more, it is not the same as a formal recognition. This is particularly relevant in credentials in regulated professions, for which a licence to practice is required. There are many such occupations in Canada. Currently, Canada regulates around 15-20% of all professions, usually in the mid-skilled segment, and recognition requirements differ by province and occupation. Applicants need to check beforehand whether they intend to work in a regulated profession in Canada, and if so what the procedures for recognition entail.

In New Zealand, educational qualifications have to be formally recognised by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority with respect to the level the qualification occupies on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF). However, there is a rather extensive 'List of Qualifications Exempt from Assessment', specifying degrees and awarding institutions by country (New Zealand Government, 2019[9]).

The FSW specific entry grid

Apart from meeting the above minimum requirements, applicants for FSW must score 67 out of 100 points available in the FSW specific entry grid.12 Table 2.3 outlines the maximum number of points available per factor.

Table 2.2. FSW entry grid points allocation

Factors

Points (maximum)

Ability in English and or French

28 points

Education

25 points

Experience

15 points

Age

12 points

Arranged employment

10 points

Adaptability

10 points

Total / Pass mark

100 points / 67 points

For language ability, applicants receive 24 points if they pass the CLB level 9 or higher in each of the four language skills (speaking, listening, reading, writing) and can earn additional four points for their skills in the second official language if they score CLB 5 or higher in all of the four. As FSW applicants require a CLB 7 to be eligible, they need at least 16 points for this criteria. In order to receive the maximum 25 points for education, applicants need a university degree at a doctoral (PhD) level or equivalent. Lower education levels grant fewer points. The minimum requirement, a Canadian high school diploma or equivalent, earns a candidate five points in this category. Applicants also receive points for the number of years they have spent in full-time paid work. If their working experience was in a NOC skill level 0, A or B occupation for six or more years within the last ten years, they obtain the maximum number of 15 points. The minimum entry requirement, one year of paid skilled work experience, grants nine points. Regarding age, individuals between 18 and 35 years receive the highest number of points in this category: 12. For each additional year, one points is deducted. Individuals aged 47 or older do not receive any points for age. A full-time job offer of at least one year from a Canadian employer under specific conditions grants 10 points. Finally, applicants can earn in total maximum 10 points for “adaptability”. With this line, one year of full time skilled work experience in Canada grants 10 points. The same goes for combinations of two of the following, which provide five points each: arranged employment, past study experiences in Canada, spouses or partners language knowledge, spouses or partners past study or work experience in Canada, relatives in Canada.

This entry grid is the same points-based system as has been in place for FSW before the introduction of Express Entry. However, achieving the successful pass mark of 67 points only grants the right to enter the Express Entry pool under the category of a Federal Skilled Worker (FSW). The FSW entry grid is specific to this economic programme and the other economic classes (CEC and FST) do not use any entry grid but specific eligibility criteria.

Additional criteria for FST

In addition to the minimum requirements regarding language and work experience mentioned above, FST-applicants must also meet the requirements for their skilled trade as defined in the NOC. Applicants either have to have a valid job offer of full-time employment for a total period of at least one year, or a certificate of qualification in their skilled trade issued by a Canadian authority.13 The FST class is not open to all NOC Skill Level B occupations, but currently limited to four major and two minor groups of the NOC. These occupations are in industrial, construction, maintenance, agriculture, processing, transport and manufacturing trades; as well as cooks, chefs, bakers and butchers.

Figure 2.4 provides an overview of the requirements under each programme to enter the Express Entry pool.

Figure 2.4. Eligibility criteria to enter the Express Entry pool
Figure 2.4. Eligibility criteria to enter the Express Entry pool

Source: OECD Secretariat.

Step 2: The Comprehensive Ranking System

Once an interested individual has met the minimum requirements for one of the federal programmes, they are able to complete their profile and enter the Express Entry pool. Based on the information provided, the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) automatically calculates each applicant’s individual CRS-score.

Table 2.3. Total points allocation in the Comprehensive Ranking System

Applicant with spouse of common-law partner

Applicant without spouse of common-law partner

Core / human capital factors

460 points

500 points

Spouse or common-law partner factors

40 points

-

Skill Transferability factors

100 points

100 points

Additional points

600 points

600 points

Total max

1 200 points

1 200 points

A candidate can obtain a maximum of 1 200 points.14 As shown in Table 2.3, applicants who apply without a spouse or common-law partner can earn up to 500 points for core and human capital factors such as education, official language skills, age and Canadian work experience. Those who apply with a spouse or common-law partner can earn up to 460 points for their own core and human capital factors, and up to 40 for those of their partner (excluding for age). In addition, the system assigns up to 100 points for so-called “skill transferability” factors. Finally, the CRS allocates up to 600 points for other factors, such as 50 for a valid15 job offer (200 in case of a senior management NOC 00 position), up to 30 each for French language skills and post-secondary education in Canada, 15 for a Canadian sibling16, and the full 600 points for a provincial nomination. The maximum points within each of the three sub-categories (core, skill transferability, other) are an upper limit, so that the grand total cannot exceed the mentioned 1 200 points.

Core and human capital factors

Table 2.4. Points for core and human capital factors in the CRS

Applicant with spouse of common-law partner

Applicant without spouse of common-law partner

Age (principal applicant)

100

110

Level of education (principal applicant)

140

150

Official languages proficiency (principal applicant)

150

160

Canadian work experience (principal applicant)

70

80

Level of education (spouse or common-law partner)

10

-

Official languages proficiency (spouse or common-law partner)

20

-

Canadian work experience (spouse or common-law partner)

10

-

Total max

500

500

A key innovation in the introduction of EE has been that extensive study and evaluation of previous systems and the determinants labour market outcomes of immigrants in Canada preceded and informed the design of the CRS. Both the short-term and long-term outcomes were studied in this context. One such study informing the CRS found that language and Canadian work experience are the best predictors of earnings in the short term but education and age at landing are the best predictors in the long term (Bonikowska, Hou and Picot, 2015[10]). The core and human capital factors reflect these findings (Table 2.4). They include points for age, level of education, official language proficiency and Canadian work experience.17 Individuals18 between 20 and 29 years of age receive the maximum of 110 points for the age factor. For older applicants points decrease by five or six points per year, until individuals aged 45 years or older do not receive any points for this factor anymore. Children under the age of 18 receive no points and young adults at age 18 receive 99, those aged 19, 105 points, respectively. This assignment follows the rationale that younger age at arrival positively affects long-term economic integration outcomes, and that the future aggregated discounted net fiscal impact of younger people is higher but that very young individuals still require further education.

In addition, the CRS awards up to 150 points for education. Canadian and overseas educational attainment grant the same number of points within this core set, although there are bonus points for Canadian qualifications in the “other” set of factors. In order to be valid, an IRCC-designated organisation has to issue an Educational Credential Assessment. In order to receive the highest number of available points, individuals need to have a doctoral level university degree (PhD). Lower levels of formal education grant lesser points. For instance, a bachelor degree grants 120 and a secondary diploma (high school graduation) 30 points.

Proficiency in the official languages, English and French, is an important predictor of labour market outcomes in the long-term. The CRS-score allots a maximum of 136 points for proficiency in the first official language, and an additional maximum 24 points for knowledge of the second official language. A CLB/NCLC level of 10 or more in each linguistic capability (reading, writing, listening and speaking) grants the maximum points and anything at or below CLB/NCLC level 4 (which is the lower bound for admission to the pool) grants no points. Language requirements for skilled labour migration are common across OECD countries. However, the Canadian system is particularly refined, as no other system awards points for language both along a seven-step scale while differentiating between the four linguistic abilities (reading, writing, listening and speaking). In New Zealand, language skills above the required pass mark to enter the pool do not result in a higher overall score, while the Australian system awards points only along a three-step scale.

Work experience in Canada can earn up to a maximum of 80 points under the core factor. Individuals having worked at least for one year full time in Canada receive 40 points, and points increase by years of additional Canadian work experience. For five years or more, the maximum number of 80 points is granted. Foreign work experience is not a core factor – in contrast to the FSW grid – and grants points only under the skill transferability factors.

Points for spouses and common-law partners

A further unique feature in the Canadian system is that there are two separate calculations in the CRS for applicants with spouses/common-law partners and those without. If applicants want to bring their spouse or common-law partner with them to Canada as accompanying family in the economic class, they thus need to provide details of their level of education, language proficiency and Canadian work experience, i.e. for the same core factors as for themselves with the exception of age. Applicants can receive up to 40 points for their spouse/common law partner.

Applicants who want to bring their partner to Canada need to provide this information even if their partner reduces their points score relative to a single application. An applicant’s spouse or partner might not want to join the applicant and immigrate to Canada. In this case, the CRS assesses the applicant as if he/she does not have a partner. Likewise, if the spouse or partner is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, applicants earn points as if they do not have a spouse or partner.

At the beginning of 2019, the maximum contribution of spouses and common-law partner points – assuming a CRS-score of 441 as the median pass mark in the second half of 2018 – is 9% of the pass mark. The new calculations differ from the pre-EE system, where principal applicants earned maximum 10 points for adaptability, which could optionally include qualifications and experience of spouses. As such, spouses could add 15% of the total pass mark (10 points out of 67) but principal applicants bringing their spouse could also achieve these points by other means such as previous studying or working experience in Canada.

Figure 2.5. Federal Skilled Worker Program, principal applicants, and spouses and dependants, 2005-17
Figure 2.5. Federal Skilled Worker Program, principal applicants, and spouses and dependants, 2005-17

Source: OECD Secretariat calculations based on data from IRCC.

In this context, it is of interest to investigate whether EE had an impact on the composition of applicants – i.e. whether applicants under EE are more likely to be single, and/or whether married labour migrants under EE are more likely to resort to subsequent family reunification rather than bringing them along. While between 2005 and 2014, the ratio of permanent principal labour applicants landing under the FSW and the number of accompanying spouses and dependants has been constant, since the introduction of EE there has been a sharp decline in the share of the latter (Figure 2.5). Note, however, that it is not clear whether this relates to changes in selection procedures, such as the CRS-score, changing characteristics of the applicants themselves, such as a younger age of the principal applicants (as younger people are less likely to have family), or a decision to exclude spouses and dependants on the permanent residence application. Indeed, in parallel EE also favours younger candidates (both by strengthening the importance of age as a selection criterion and by no longer rewarding long previous work experience), and the average age has indeed declined (see next section).

Whilst the bulk of principal applicants are men, it is noteworthy that immigrant women in Canada are the highest-educated among all immigrant groups (regardless of gender) in the OECD, with more than 60% having tertiary education (OECD/EU, 2018[11]). At the same time, during the ten years prior to the introduction of EE, only around 35% of principal labour migrant applicants were women, and this share rose only slightly with EE, to 38% (IRCC, 2018[12]). This suggests that not only female principal applicants selected themselves, but also those accompanying partners or migrating under family streams tend to have a high level of education.

Within the partner points, language is key – accounting for half of the total (see Annex 2.A for an overview of the CRS). In New Zealand, spouses of applicants have to prove the same language levels as the principal applicant. Other spousal skills can add up to maximum 40 additional points to the EOI score: 20 for high education levels, at the Master’s or doctoral level, and additional 20 points for (pre-arranged) skilled employment in New Zealand. This is a maximum of 25% of the currently effective selection mark of 160 (see Table 2.5 below). These points do not affect the amount of points the principal applicant can receive, i.e. they are an add-on. Likewise, in Australia, applicants can earn up to five additional points for partner skills provided their partner meets the same eligibility criteria as themselves (language, age, assessed occupation on occupation list) which is 7% of the currently effective selection mark of 70 points.

Table 2.5. Points distribution in EOI systems
Shares of factors for maximum available points and effective pass mark during the second half of 2018.

 

Share of maximum points

Share of effective pass mark

 

CAN

(without spouse

CAN (with spouse)

AUS

NZL

CAN

(without spouse

CAN

(with spouse)

AUS

NZL

Language

18

17

17

0

36

34

29

0

Language ability in first language

16

15

17

0

31

29

29

0

Language ability in second language

3

3

5

5

Education

21

19

26

27

41

39

43

53

Academic qualifications

17

16

17

23

34

32

29

44

Additional points for academic qualification in country

3

3

9

5

7

7

14

9

Age

13

11

26

10

25

23

43

19

Work experience

9

8

22

24

18

16

36

47

Work experience abroad

13

16

21

31

Work experience in country

9

8

17

3

18

16

29

6

Work experience in area of absolute skills shortage

5

9

Professional year (certain occupations) after studies

4

7

Employment

23

23

0

26

45

45

0

50

Skilled job offer/current employment in country

23

23

16

45

45

31

Qualified for/job offer in an area of absolute skill shortage (NZL)

3

6

High paid job offer/current employment in the country

6

13

Certificate of qualification in trades occupation

6

6

11

11

Close family

2

6

4

13

3

12

7

25

Socio-demographic characteristics of spouse/partner

5

4

13

9

7

25

Sibling

2

2

3

3

Skill transferability

11

11

23

23

Other factors

3

3

4

0

7

7

7

0

Maximum Points / Effective pass mark

875

875

115

310

441

441

70

160

Note: For comparability purposes, the table excludes regional elements: 600 points in Canada, 30 points in New Zealand and five points in Australia. Effective pass mark in Canada refers to the median pass mark during the second half of 2018. In New Zealand and Australia to the selection mark in the second half of 2018. The total of the sub-item (marked bold) is the maximum under the respective category.

Source: OECD Secretariat.

In this context, it is important to note that in Canada, spouses and dependants – like all other migrants – are eligible to free (and in principle unlimited) language training which is the key part of the settlement services provided by Canada.19 In Australia, which also has free English language training for most new arrivals in need – subject to certain conditions – there is a higher visa fee (around AUD 5 000, depending on the category) for spouses and dependants who do not have functional English. Similar provisions exist in New Zealand, where persons included in the application who are aged 16 and older have to either meet the same minimum requirements as the principal applicant, or to pre-purchase English tuition. This can range up to NZD 7 000 (OECD, 2014[8]). Between 1995-98, New Zealand had a language bond, requiring spouses and dependants to pay a certain amount that was reimbursed if they managed to acquire the required minimum level of English language mastery within a year of arrival.

Skill transferability points

One innovation of the CRS in Canada is to include skills transferability factors. Skills transferability factors acknowledge interaction effects among several selection factors. For instance, research has shown that high education, especially foreign qualifications, tends to be largely discounted at the Canadian labour market, unless the migrant at the same time has a good official language knowledge. Likewise, foreign work experience has been almost completely discounted in Canada in the past, unless combined with proficiency in official languages (Bonikowska, Hou and Picot, 2015[10]). Indeed, foreign work experience does not grant points in the CRS without either knowledge of official languages or prior Canadian working experience. Awarding such points for interactions is unique to the Canadian system.

One of the interactions credits education and the other foreign work experience (Table 2.6). Both grant extra points if a candidate simultaneously has a certain language proficiency or Canadian work experience. In addition, a certificate of qualification for trade occupations grants points, provided a certain level of language skills. In total, five such pairs of skill transferability exist with different combinations of factors. The maximum points for each interaction are 50 and the total from all interactions cannot exceed 100 points.

Table 2.6. Skill transferability points in the CRS

Language Skills

(CLB 7 or more)

One year or more of Canadian work experience

Language Skills

(CLB 5 or more, one below 7)

Points maximum

At least post-secondary programme

13, 25, 50

13, 25, 50

Max. 50

One year or more of foreign work experience

13, 25, 50

13, 25, 50

Max. 50

With a certificate of qualification (FST)

50

25

Max 50

Maximum points for Skill Transferability

100

To receive the full number of skill transferability points, a 3-year higher educational degree (such as a bachelor’s degree), strong (CLB 9) language skills, and either three years of foreign or two years of Canadian work experience are necessary. Lower qualifications and experiences grant already - albeit fewer – points, whereas additional years of work experience beyond the ones mentioned do not add points.

Individuals applying under the FST class receive up to 50 points for a certificate of qualification, provided simultaneous good language skills. Depending on the occupation, only provinces, territories and specific federal bodies can issue a certificate of qualification. Applicants must have passed a certification exam to have their training, trade experience and skills recognised, usually from a province/territory. Applicants may also need experience and training from an employer in Canada.

As noted, the CRS grants points for foreign work experience only given high language skills and/or simultaneous Canadian work experience. Otherwise, foreign work experience does not grant any points for the final CRS-score. Here, the Canadian system differs from peer systems in Australia and New Zealand. In both countries, foreign work experience grants points irrespective of language skills and working experience in the country. In order to achieve the maximum number of points for this category, individuals have to prove eight (Australia) or ten (New Zealand) years of skilled work experience, respectively, whereas in Canada the maximum number of interaction points is granted for three years of foreign work experience already.

Additional points

The CRS awards up to 600 points for so-called “other factors”, which is 50% of the total possible CRS-score. These include 50 points for arranged employment in a skill Level 0, A or B occupation, (200 in a NOC 00 occupation), and up to 30 points for post-secondary education in Canada. Applicants receive the total of 600 points for a provincial or territorial nomination. While a job offer typically reflects demand, it also reflects human capital as substantiated by employers in the context of their specific immediate needs. Provincial nominations can address both demand and supply depending on the objectives of the EE-linked programme of the province or territory. The 600 additional points provided by a provincial or territorial nomination ensure selection in the next ITA round. Changes to the CRS in June 2017 introduced additional 15 points for a sibling living in Canada who is a citizen or permanent resident, and up to 30 points each for Canadian post-secondary education and for strong French language skills with simultaneous fair English language skills.

Key issues in the functioning of Express Entry

Control and flexibility

IRCC controls the timing and magnitude of new application intakes…

Based on its multi-year immigration levels plan, IRCC defines the total number of invitations in each round. In its first two years of operation, invitations were limited due to the parallel processing of eligible backlog applications that were filed under the previous system. Over the first months of 2017, when the pre-Express Entry backlog for the FSWP and the CEC was almost depleted, ITA round sizes were increased to create a working inventory of applications. IRCC then somewhat reduced the size of the ITA rounds but since 2018 increased the total intake again, to ensure a steady application submission for meeting the targeted processing time for Express Entry applications (Figure 2.6).

Figure 2.6. ITA issued per Express Entry draw and required pass mark, 2015-2018
Figure 2.6. ITA issued per Express Entry draw and required pass mark, 2015-2018

Source: OECD Secretariat visualisations based on data from IRCC.

…including programme-specific draws

Express Entry allows IRCC to conduct programme-specific draws from the pool. In such programme-specific invitation rounds, the minimum CRS-score to receive an ITA can be considerably higher (for PNP, due to the additional 600 points for provincial nomination) or lower (for FST) than in the general biweekly Express Entry draws. Apart from these draws, the pass-mark for selection has been remarkably stable, especially in 2018.

As the Express Entry pool is growing, many applicants have the same CRS-score. Hence, inviting all applicants at the pass mark could results in a number of ITA issued considerably higher than planned by the ministry. Against this backdrop, in June 2017 IRCC announced to change its previous policy to invite all candidates who meet the pass mark. The system now ranks applicants with the same CRS-score based on the date of submitting their EOI in the pool. Australia applies the same rule while New Zealand invites all applicants in the case of tied scores.

The floating pass mark (CRS-cut off) suggests a system that responds to changing parameters

Figure 2.7. How the CRS-cut off score changed during 2018
Figure 2.7. How the CRS-cut off score changed during 2018

Note: On May 30, 2018, IRCC invited 700 applications under the PNP and FST classes with a cut-off of 902 and 288. On September 24, 2018, IRCC invited 400 applications under the FST class with a cut-off of 284. These draws are not shown in the graph.

Source: OECD Secretariat visualisations based on data from IRCC.

In 2018, apart from two programme-specific draws, the government invited in each round between 2 750 and 3 900 candidates to submit an application and the resulting CRS cut-off was between 439 and 456 points (Figure 2.7). During 2018, the government did not introduce any changes to the CRS. Nevertheless, the CRS-score needed to receive an ITA varied somewhat. It partly reflects the changing composition of the pool as individuals enter and leave, but also the size of the current draw and the time lapse since the previous draw (and its size). In fact, whenever the time between two rounds of regular invitations is three instead of the usual two weeks, the cut-off in the next draw is slightly higher. In turn, where the period between two draws is shorter, the cut-off tends to be lower. Likewise, successive periods of rather large draws tend to be associated with somewhat lower pass-marks.

This floating pass-mark contrasts somewhat with the operation of the SkillSelect system in Australia and the EOI-system in New Zealand. New Zealand sets a minimum pass mark to enter the pool (100 points) and the admission mark for each draw depends on government priorities. In 2018, only those with a score above a certain threshold (160 points) received invitations to apply while, until October 2016, those between two thresholds (100 and 140 points) were ranked by point-scores and preference were given to applicants with a job offer. In Australia, SkillSelect issues invitations automatically to the highest-ranking EOIs, in descending order as in Canada, but only until a pre-defined limit subject to annual occupation ceilings. What is more, the pass-mark is rather stable. In Canada, applicants are continuously invited and no occupation limits exist. Hence, interested applicants have a high incentive to acquire all possible points to achieve their highest CRS-score for any possible round.

Ministerial Instructions allow for flexibility in migration management, but should be used parsimoniously

In the over four years of Express Entry operation, IRCC has made several changes to the calculation of the CRS-score. In November 2016, IRCC reduced the previously large number of 600 points awarded for a valid employment offer to 50 points in a NOC 0, A or B job (and 200 for senior management positions, NOC 00).20 In addition, thereafter applicants received up to 30 points for post-secondary education in Canada. These policy changes impacted considerably on the composition of the intake. After the 49th draw, when changes applied, the cut-off score declined considerably. In fact, the median pass mark before these changes came into effect was 472 and thereafter until the end of 2018, it was reduced to 441 points, reflecting a shift from a system that largely privileged labour demand to a system that remains largely supply-driven. Whereas in 2016 one-third of EE-invited candidates had a job offer, in 2017 fewer than 10% did (IRCC, 2018[13]).

Other changes introduced in June 2017 granted 15 additional points for a siblings living in Canada and up to 30 additional points for strong French language skills. Those changes were associated with a rise in CRS-score needed to receive an ITA in the first round implemented from 413 to 449. Since then until the end of 2018, the pass mark has remained relatively stable at around 440 to 450 points.

As such, the system provides flexibility to IRCC via Ministerial Instructions to change selection criteria (point allocations) without requiring major legislative changes. In the case of such announced changes, the CRS-score of individuals already in the pool updates automatically applying new rules of calculations. Applicants can also add additional information to receive further points.

All considered, the system is thus able to alter the composition of invited applicants quickly and to respond to changing priorities. On the other hand, this implies that the possibility to award bonus points for characteristics and attributes of migrants needs to indeed respond to solid economic and/or demographic evidence, to avoid that they are unduly affected by possible interest group pressure. What is more, a large number of potential bonus points risks significantly altering the result of who is selected and who is not. Considering the long-term objective of the system to balance human capital with other characteristics, and the fact that a large part of the pool is around the pass-mark (see Figure 2.9), micro-management via Express Entry is a risk that needs to be avoided.

Selecting those with the highest potential to succeed

Early labour market outcomes of Express Entry immigrants are favourable

One year after admission in 2015, 86% of all economic principal applicants – including those who were admitted outside of EE – had reported employment income. This was a higher share than in the previous ten years. In fact, with the exception of 2008 (the year of the economic crisis), the share has constantly increased since 2005. Likewise, the reported income tends to be higher than among prior cohorts of admission, although this was an ongoing trend observed for many years already (Figure 2.8).

Figure 2.8. Median earnings in CAD of labour immigrants by years since admission (landing) and arrival cohort
Figure 2.8. Median earnings in CAD of labour immigrants by years since admission (landing) and arrival cohort

Note: Median of those with income (wages, salaries and commissions).

Source: OECD Secretariat calculations on the basis of data from Statistics Canada.

Due to the time lag between immigrants landing, starting to work and filing income tax declaration, only limited analyses on the labour market results of recently-arrived immigrants under EE are possible. Data from the 2016 IMD – using labour immigrants from 2015 and 2016 – suggests that the median earnings of labour immigrants (FSW, FST, CEC, PN) landing via EE are higher than among those coming from outside EE.

A survey from IRCC compared the outcomes of EE-selected labour immigrants who were admitted between 2015-18 with those who were non-EE-selected (i.e. the previous backlog) but admitted during the same period. It shows that twelve months after admission, 87% of EE-selected respondents had secured a first job, compared with 82% for non-EE-selected respondents. What is more, the average and median self-reported income of EE-selected immigrants was higher compared to non-EE-selected respondents. This was true for both the first job in Canada as permanent resident and the current job at the time of the survey for those in employment (IRCC, forthcoming[14]).

EE prioritises those with the highest skills and other attributes linked with lasting integration

In contrast to the pre-2015 system, Express Entry ranks eligible candidates by their skills level, choosing those with higher skills rather than those with lower skills, and ensuring that the highest-skilled get chosen first. While it is too early to actually compare outcomes pre- and post-EE, by its very design, it is a clear improvement over the previous system in this respect.

Based on the minimum criteria outlined for pool eligibility which were the same as under the previous system without such ranking, a FSW applicant needs a minimum CRS-score of 98 points, a CEC applicant 64 CRS-points and a FST applicant 74 CRS-points. Hence, given the minimum requirements, a CRS-score of 64 points is sufficient to enter the EE-pool. This is less than 15% of the median pass mark for selection in non-programme specific draws. Even for FSW, the programme with the most restrictive pool entry requirements, this results in only 22% of the points required for the median pass mark in the second half of 2018 (441). In New Zealand, interested candidates for permanent skilled migration must achieve a score of 62.5%, i.e.100 points out of a current pass mark of 160 to submit an application. In Australia, the eligibility score to apply under the Skilled Independent visa is 65 points, a full 93% of the score needed to be selected in the second half of 2018, which was 70 points (albeit it was higher for certain occupational groups).

Express Entry operates a large pool of skills

Figure 2.9. Applicants invited to apply by ITA in 2017/18 and EE-pool snapshot of August 2018
Figure 2.9. Applicants invited to apply by ITA in 2017/18 and EE-pool snapshot of August 2018

Source: OECD Secretariat calculations based on data from IRCC.

In 2017 and 2018, 80% of invited and subsequently landed immigrants under EE had a CRS-score between 400 and 500 points, and 14%, virtually all of them provincial nominees, a CRS-score over 600. Applicants who do not receive an ITA, or decline an offer, remain in the pool for up to twelve months (Figure 2.9). Invited applicants who do not react to an invitation to apply are withdrawn from the pool.

The snapshot of the pool of active candidates in August 2018 shows that about a third of applicants in the pool have a CRS-scores between 401-440 points, suggesting a reasonably high qualification level to being picked in future draws (Figure 2.9). However, about a third of applicants have a CRS-score below 350 points. The system will only select these candidates if they are eligible for programme-specific FST draws, or if they manage to obtain a Provincial Nomination.

During the first three years of the new systems operation, only about one-third of profiles in the Express Entry pool received an ITA and submitted an application for permanent residence in Canada. A recent analysis of the Australian labour migration system shows that in SkillSelect on a monthly basis, around two-thirds of those entering the pool (submitting an EOI) receive an ITA. Compared to this peer system, Express Entry is thus less selective in its first step (the Expression of Interest) as only minimum requirements apply, in the second step however, relatively fewer candidates receive an ITA.

The reason for continuing a Federal Skilled Trades Program is not evident

Created in 2013, the FST provides a pathway to permanent residence for individuals in a selected group of the skilled trades. These are occupations in industrial, construction, maintenance, agriculture, processing, transport and manufacturing trades, as well as for cooks, chefs, bakers and butchers. Applicants need to meet the requirements for their skilled trade as defined in the NOC, and either a valid job offer for full-time employment for at least one year, or a certificate of qualification in their skilled trade issued by a Canadian authority. In spite of providing a lower human-capital threshold access to permanent residency than CEC and FSW, the programme has taken off only very slowly, already before the introduction of EE. One reason for this is the fact that some skilled trades tend to be regulated professions. Therefore, individuals often need to go to their intended province/territory of residence to be assessed for their trade.

After over six years of operation of the FSTP, it is not clear why Canada runs a federal immigration programme for labour immigrants in this narrow range of occupations many of which require certification at the provincial/territorial level. Canada’s latest Occupational Projection System (COPS 2017-2026) predicts labour demand and supply to be broadly balanced in most of these respective occupations at the national level. Indeed, some occupations such as cooks (NOC 6322) are even expected to face labour surplus conditions (ESDC, 2017[15]).

Express Entry, a system designed for managing high-skilled migration, does not include applicants under the FSTP in regular selection draws, due to their relatively lower human capital endowment and resulting lower CRS-score. After the decrease of points awarded for a valid job offer – from 600 to 50 points following November 2016 – candidates in the EE-pool who were (only) eligible for the FSTP have never been invited in a regular round of invitation.

What is more, other entry paths are available for immigrants in such occupations but not under this programme. Qualifying individuals with a similar skill set but at least one year of Canadian work experience are always invited under the CEC, and there is always the possibility of provincial nominiation under the PNP (see Chapter 4).

Given their relatively low skills, applicants under the FST programme are not invited to apply anymore in regular EE draws, in 2017 only 906 FST and in 2018 only 900 FST were invited in special draws. In these years, only 345 and 280 of individuals invited to apply submitted an application for permanent residence, suggesting that many do not land.

Within FST, the largest group intended to work as cooks (30% and 34%), which raises the question of appropriate targeting, given that this is an occupation in which no future labour shortages are expected. What is more, in 2017, EE admitted over 550 individuals under its other streams (CEC, PNP and FSW), intending to work as cooks, and in 2018 this number was over 650. This also suggests that other channels such as CEC or provincial nomination in EE are in fact used by the same target group.

Indeed, provinces and territories that need qualified labour migrants in certain trades can search the pool and invite individuals via enhanced nominations in the EE-pool. In fact, the only province that still admits a considerable share of its economic immigrants under the FSTP is Alberta: 4% of its intake of 2018 (until October). More than half of all federal skilled traders admitted via EE since its introduction intended to settle in that province. At the same time, Alberta is the only province that has not yet admitted any provincial nominees via EE and only recently introduced its EE-linked PN stream.21

A universal pool entry grid, based on the core CRS factors, would set minimum standards

As a crucial distinction to previous selection, the CRS ranks all candidates against one another in the EE-pool.22 The main difference between applications under the FSW, FST and the CEC is thus their pool entry eligibility23. Future Provincial Nominees under EE have to meet one of the entry requirements of one of the three federal programme. The Canadian Experience Class (CEC) was introduced in 2008 to help address substantial application backlogs and waiting times in the FSW, allow for a transition of individuals already working in Canada as well as to increase responsiveness to labour needs (IRCC, 2015[16]). Given that Express Entry favours onshore transition and has eliminated backlogs, the continuous need of a CEC is thus not clear. A further objective of the CEC was to provide a pathway for international graduates, who now receive bonus points in the CRS for Canadian study experience.

FSW applicants go through an entry point grid while CEC (and FST) applicants do not. There are some inconsistencies between the FSW-entry grid and the CRS in the EE-pool. For instance, a 19-year-old applicant receives the maximum number of age-points in the FSW-entry grid, but less than maximum in the CRS. In turn, a 45-year-old applicant receives 0 (out of 110) points for age in the CRS, but still 2 (out of 12) points in the FSW-entry grid. Further, the FSW-entry grid rewards up to six years of foreign work experience. By contrast, in the CRS, only three years of foreign work experiences already allow for the maximum number of points available, and these points are only granted given at least one of two other factors: official language knowledge and/or Canadian work experience.

Regarding language knowledge, CEC and FSW admissions (excluding Quebec) in 2017 are very similar (98% and 97% only speaking English). In terms of age structure, individuals admitted under the CEC in 2017 are younger than those under the FSW. A full 58% of CEC-admitted are below the age of 30. Admissions under the FSWP fall mostly in the age-range 30 to 44 (61%). In addition, the majority of immigrants admitted under the CEC intended to work in a NOC B occupation, while the majority of FSW admissions intend to work in a NOC A occupation. Against this backdrop, it is not clear why CEC applicants are not subject to the same minimum requirements as FSW to enter the pool.

Such a revised new entry points grid for all skilled migration, based on the core factors of the CRS-grid, would also enhance transparency. The core criteria of the CRS (age, education, languages and Canadian work experience) could provide the basis for such a universal points grid for all candidates in the first stage (to submit an EOI). The entry grid should only allow those candidates to enter the pool who have an assessed minimum standard of formal education – for instance high school education – and a language level of “adequate intermediate ability” (CLB7).

This is a higher language ability than currently required for Skill Level B applicants under CEC (and FST). However, language proficiency at arrival is a central skill portability factor and predictor of labour market outcomes (Ferrer, Green and Riddell, 2006[17]; Bonikowska, Green and Riddell, 2008[18]; OECD/EU, 2014[19]). For a successful transfer of cognitive “high skill” abilities, a higher language proficiency is more important than for the transfer of manual skills. Hence, a more proficient language requirement offers some protection for high-skilled immigrants against being pushed to take up employment in manual occupations for which they are not qualified (Imai, Stacey and Warman, 2018[20]). What is more, host-country language ability24 seems to be the only form of human capital that is beneficial to both those who do and those who do not work in the same occupation as before migrating (Warman, Sweetman and Goldmann, 2015[21]). As mentioned, CLB 7 (equivalent to an IELTS 6.0) would be the same level as required for the skilled independent class in Australia, and a still higher level of language ability is required for the Skilled Migrant Category of New Zealand (equivalent to IELTS 6.5).

The requirement of one year of skilled work experience in Skill Level B, A or zero occupation prior to permanent migration is plausible. It allows for a genuine assessment of immigrants intended occupation as many seem interested in switching jobs when immigrating and “upgrading” from a lower-skilled pre-immigration job to a higher-skilled upon landing in Canada (Warman, Sweetman and Goldmann, 2015[21]). However, this requirement somewhat prevents international graduates from Canadian universities – with the exception of those graduating from an Atlantic educational institution who have access to the Atlantic Immigration Pilot – to qualify for permanent federal immigration programmes immediately after graduation without any work experience, as off-campus work experience does not count towards this requirement. Australia waived the work experience requirement for students completing qualifications at an Australian educational institution, effectively placing greater weight on Australian qualifications in the points system.

Given harmonised pool eligibility criteria, and the recommended termination of the FST class, a merger of the remaining skilled immigration categories CEC and FSWP could be considered. In fact, the 2017 and 2018 multi-year Immigration Levels Plans already acknowledge the overlap between the three main Express Entry categories. It does no longer set CEC, FSW and FSTP-specific admissions ranges. Instead, it uses one category: Federal High Skilled (IRCC, 2017[22]; IRCC, 2018[23]).

Landing depends on the migration class rather than on the CRS-score

A key question is whether there is some kind of selectivity among those who are invited to apply and those who actually do so. In Australia, those with higher points scores turn out to be less likely to submit an application than those who have lower points and receive an ITA (OECD, 2018[5]).

Looking merely at the points, this pattern seems opposite in Canada. Only 12% of individuals that received more than 600 points in the CRS-score did not submit an application.25 Among those scoring between 400 and 499 points, this share is 25%. However, these numbers from Canada are not easily comparable to other systems. The reasons being that individuals under the PNP and CEC programme often have previous ties to Canada and many are in fact already residing in the country. This affects both, their CRS-score as well as their probability to land in Canada as permanent residents. When looking at the FSW category alone, 26% of those who received an invitation to apply did not submit an application. The respective shares are lower for the CEC (19%), the FST (15%) and the PNP (13%).

Low points for (foreign) work experience results in younger applicants

Given the relatively low number of points – compared to the FSWP – awarded by the CRS for work experience and the high number of points for (lower) age, one would expect recent immigrants selected via EE to be significantly younger than those selected prior to 2015. Data from admissions under the CEC and FSWP, excluding those admitted to Quebec, confirm this expectation. In 2017, the majority of admissions under these two classes was younger than 30 years of age (51%). Another 46% were between 30 years and 44 years old, and only about 3% were 45 and older. Prior to EE, in 2014, admissions under these classes were mostly aged between 30 and 44 years (60%), with 30% younger and about 10% older.

Points for Canadian work and study experience favour onshore selection

Until October 2018, most applications who received an ITA under EE and subsequently submitted an application were part of the Federal Skilled Worker 44% (73 593) and the Canadian Experience Class 40% (68 140). By contrast, only about 13% were issued to Provincial Nominees (21 635) and just 2% applied under the Federal Skilled Trades Program (3 746). In Express Entry a relatively large share of applicants arrive via the CEC stream compared to pre-EE admissions (Chapter 1). This change reflects the points allocated for Canadian work (and more recently study) experience in the CRS as well as the new sorting hierarchy within Express Entry discussed previously. Indeed, Canadian work and study experience has become a major advantage for permanent selection under EE (Figure 2.7).

The CRS-score awards, since November 2016, up to 30 extra points for Canadian education credentials and in 2017, 45% of applicants invited to apply for permanent residence under EE claimed such points (IRCC, 2018[13]). This is a sharp increase from pre-EE: In 2014, the share of labour immigrants landing outside of Quebec who had a previous study permit was only 24%. In other words, now almost half of all those selected in EE have Canadian education. A Canadian two-year Master’s degree with the minimum required one year of foreign skilled work experience provides more points than a foreign master’s degree and any amount of foreign work experience. For Canadian work experience, the CRS awards points twice: in the core factors as well as in the interaction factors (Figure 2.7)26. A foreign Bachelor’s degree holder with just one year of Canadian work and no further experience surpasses an otherwise similar applicant with the same educational level and foreign work experience, regardless of the number of years of experience. However, due to the interaction factors, this is not the case for applicants with a foreign Master’s degree, where one year of Canadian work experience alone does not grant more points than three years or more of foreign work experience.

Table 2.7. How the CRS values foreign and Canadian work and study experience
Applicant 28 years old, with English (CLB 9) and no French, applying without a spouse/common law partner

Foreign BA and 3 years or more of foreign work experience

Foreign BA and 1 year Canadian* work experience

Foreign MA and 1 or 2 years of foreign work experience

Foreign MA and 1 year of Canadian* work experience

Foreign MA and 3 years or more of foreign work experience

Foreign BA + 1 year of foreign + 1 year of Canadian* work experience

Canadian (2-year) MA and 1 year of foreign work experience

Core and Human Capital Points

354

384

369

409

369

394

369

No spouse or common-law partner points

Skill Transferability Points

75

38

75

50

100

76

75

Additional Points

30

CRS score

429

432

444

459

469

470

474

Note: “BA” denotes one three-year or longer post-secondary credential. “MA” stands for a master’s or entry-to-practice professional degree. *Canadian work experience during the previous three years.

Source: OECD Secretariat calculations.

In 2018, the CRS cut-off score for invitation for permanent residence has mostly been between 440 and 450 points. Hence, the table suggests that the current system favours candidates with Canadian experience. Given the relatively large number of international students and temporary workers gaining relevant Canadian work experience, this situation is likely to remain for the coming years. In fact, 49% of all ITAs for permanent residence issued via EE in 2017 were for individuals who were already residing in Canada. Total numbers almost doubled while the relative share decreased from previously 64% in 2016 (IRCC, 2018[13]).

While no data exists on how study experience in Canada benefits long-term labour market integration, immigrant’s source country education quality matters and affects the return to education (Li and Sweetman, 2013[24]). The current system requires an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) only for those submitting an EOI under the FSW, a potential imbalance as discussed previously. However, everyone in the pool who wants to earn points for education needs an ECA unless they earned a Canadian degree, diploma or certificate within the last five years.

Salary should be considered as a proxy for high-skilled work experience in Canada

Research has shown that pre-landing skilled Canadian work experience is an important factor for faster economic integration of landed immigrants (Hou and Bonikowska, 2016[25]; Bonikowska, Hou and Picot, 2015[10]). The CRS currently accounts for this by awarding points for the duration of Canadian skilled work experience (NOC 0, A and B).

Currently, Canada uses the duration of work experience and the NOC as a proxy for high-skilled employment. However, as the 2016 IMDB data shows, incomes among individuals with pre-landing experience transitioning to permanent residency vary considerably (Figure 2.10).

Figure 2.10. Share of labour migrants by earning groups, Express Entry onshore transitions
Figure 2.10. Share of labour migrants by earning groups, Express Entry onshore transitions

Note: Labour immigrants admitted in 2016 might not have worked a full year yet. Numbers shown hence might underestimate their earning.

Source: Statistics Canada, 2016 IMDB.

At the same time, Hou and Lu (2017[26]) show that, for persons with prior Canadian work experience, the payment received while working in Canada, rather than the duration thereof, is the best proxy for future earnings. Several other OECD countries also use the salary as a proxy for classifying high-skilled employment. However, these generally refer to the wage offered (i.e. after landing). The most prominent example is the European Blue Card Scheme that among other conditions requires the applicant to receive a salary at least equal to the threshold set by the individual Member State. Similarly, the Danish Pay Limit Scheme allows applicants with a job offer and salary above a threshold to reside and work in the country for an initial period of maximum four years. Applicants to New Zealand’s Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa can claim 20 additional points (12.5% of the effective selection mark of 160) for a salary/salary offer above a certain remuneration threshold27. Since August 2017, New Zealand also uses remuneration thresholds as an additional means of defining skilled employment. The United Kingdom also uses salary for classifying high-skilled jobs.

Moving to a salary reference, for example linked to the pre-application year of work experience in Canada, would thus not be an unusual step to take. At the same time, it would remove the somewhat arbitrary points allocation for the years of Canadian work experience in the current system. Individuals applying without a spouse receive already half of available points for Canadian work experience in the core factors, currently 35 points, after only one year of experience, but the full number of 70 points only after five years. At the same time, a number of steps should be taken to ensure integrity. To account for different labour market conditions across the country, the salary should be relative to where the experience was obtained rather than absolute. For part-time work and recent graduates who would get lower earnings, refined solutions would need to be developed.

The CRS allocates points for the duration of Canadian work experience a second time in the skill transferability factors, but here the maximum number of interaction points is available after two years of Canadian work experience. In contrast, the total number of interaction points for foreign work experiences is possible to gain after at least three years of foreign work experience.

Provinces can recruit directly from Express Entry while employers can use the government online platform Job Bank

Express Entry operates a pool of pre-selected candidates who have already undertaken a language assessment, and in the case of FSW, also an educational credential assessment. Provinces and territories can access the pool directly to find suitable candidates for regional immigration programmes. By contrast, employers are not able to recruit candidates from the EE-pool directly. Instead, they can use Job Bank, Canada’s online job searching and matching platform. They can also search on other private sector recruitment services or co-operate with provincial/territorial programmes (Figure 2.11).

Figure 2.11. Schematic overview of the links between EE and Job Bank
Figure 2.11. Schematic overview of the links between EE and Job Bank

Job Bank is open to use for Express Entry profiles, but was designed as a matching service for Canadian job seekers as a sort of “clearing house” for vacancies. The platform is the result of merging an offer existing under the same name since 1980 (on-line since 1996) and the previous “Working in Canada” Website. Job Bank has been operating since March 2014 and is free of charge.

Services on Job Bank include job searching, recruiting/hiring and matching. In addition, individuals can explore careers and job market trends. According to a telephone survey conducted at the beginning of 2016, Job Bank was the most common place for job postings of employers with a Job Bank account. It was also the most popular platform to search work among job seekers (40% of the total). However, 40% of jobs in Canada are obtained through job seekers’ personal networks. Respondents to the 2013 and 2014 Canadian Out-of-Employment Panel surveys said that talking to others for searching jobs was second after searching on the internet (ESDC, 2017[27]).

Recent immigrants who may not have well-established networks share similar information needs with less experienced labour market participants. They may also benefit from information available on Job Bank as regards to federal, provincial and territorial regulatory bodies. While knowledge of the Job Bank’s job searching services is generally high, many are less aware of the career planning and job market information services it provides.

However, recent immigrants seem to be better informed than the general Canadian public about these features. A full 71% of recent immigrants knew that Job Bank provides information about career planning and 69% on job market trends (ESDC, 2017[27]). The high level of awareness of Job Bank’s features is linked to the mandatory registration for EE candidates on Job Bank until mid-2017. Until that date, all EE-applicants needed to create a Job Bank profile if they did not already have a job offer or a provincial/territorial nomination. After June 2017, the registration with Job Bank became voluntary for applicants. Instead, it became mandatory for recruiters in need of a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). All employers must advertise on Job Bank as one of three required recruitment methods in order to obtain a LMIA, a requirement discussed further in subsequent parts of this review. IRCC should continue to communicate the value added of Job Bank to new EE applicants, despite registration being voluntary now.

Similar to the current use of Job Bank in Canada, the manual matching system SkillFinder in New Zealand is not automatically connected to the application management pool.28 By contrast, in Australia until April 2018, employers could search the pool of SkillSelect by occupation, qualification and English language ability directly. However, Australia ceased this access in April 2018. What is more, in contrast to Australia, where occupation lists and ceilings apply, the Canadian system does not have such limits in place.

The current system prioritises skilled population growth over specific occupational demand…

Express Entry admission requirements are not linked to specific “in-demand” occupations, but rather to skilled work experience, defined as an occupation in the categories 0, A and B of the NOC. The only exception is the FST programme, where applicants need two years of prior work experience in an occupation belonging to one of four major and two minor occupational groupings, all of which are Skill Level B occupations.

With the November 2016 changes, which reduced the numbers of points for a job offer in EE, the importance of pre-arranged employment for selection has decreased. Whereas in 2016, one third of invited candidates had a job offer, in 2017 this was the case for less than ten percent. The EE-system is thus largely supply-driven. Indeed, in the context of changing work environments and digital transformation, not one occupational qualification but rather broad mix of skills that allows for adaptation and lifelong learning are increasingly important (OECD, 2019[28]). Canada’s overall shift in immigrant selection from specific demand towards broader human capital hence responds to some of the expected challenges in the future of work, by selecting candidates who are expected to be able to work across a range of different jobs (OECD, 2019[29]).

The changes also implied a shift in the occupational composition. In 2015, only about a third of EE-admitted labour immigrants who stated an occupation intended to work in a “professional job” (as opposed to “technical jobs and skilled trades”). From 2016 onwards, this share increased to two-thirds in 2018. These occupations typically require a university degree education. Data by broad occupation grouping (2-digit NOC) suggest that the largest groups of intended occupations are in natural and applied sciences, followed by business and finance, while the share of Skill Level B occupations in retail sales and service supervision decreased significantly (Figure 2.12).

Figure 2.12. Distribution of intended occupation group and skill-level of immigrants admitted under EE
Figure 2.12. Distribution of intended occupation group and skill-level of immigrants admitted under EE

Note: Shares in percentages of intended occupations stated.

Source: IRCC. Admissions of Permanent Residents under Express Entry by Province/Territory of Intended Destination and Intended Occupation (2-Digit NOC 2011)

Annual invitations issued under Express Entry display a very similar picture. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the top three intended occupations of those invited to apply were in the IT sector. Occupations in the sales and service sector, which were among the top ten occupations in 2015 and 2016, were replaced in 2017 and 2018 by occupations in the business, finance and administration sector (Table 2.8). This suggests that the current system – despite not being explicitly linked to shortage occupations –selects more highly-skilled occupational profiles.

Table 2.8. Most common occupations among invitations issued in percent, 2015-18

Rank

2015

2016

2017

2018

1

Food Service Supervisors (8%)

Information Systems Analysts and Consultants (6%)

Information Systems Analysts and Consultants (6%)

Software Engineers (and Designers) (7%)

2

Cooks (8%)

Software Engineers (4%)

Software Engineers (6%)

Information Systems Analysts and Consultants (6%)

3

Information System Analysts and Consultants (4%)

Computer Programmers and Interactive Media Developers (4%)

Computer Programmers and Interactive Media Developers (4%)

Computer Programmers and Interactive Media Developers (4%)

4

Software Engineers (3%)

Cooks (4%)

Financial Auditors and Accountants (3%)

Financial Auditors and Accountants (3%)

5

Computer Programmers and Interactive Media Developers (3%)

Food Service Supervisors (3%)

Administrative assistants (2%)

Administrative assistants (3%)

6

University Professors and Lecturers (3%)

University Professors and Lecturers (3%)

Professional occupations in advertising, marketing and public relations (2%)

Professional occupations in advertising, marketing and public relations (2%)

7

Retail Sales Supervisors (2%)

Graphic Designers and Illustrators (2%)

University Professors and Lecturers (2%)

University Professors and Lecturers (2%)

8

Graphic Designers and Illustrators (2%)

Professional occupations in advertising, marketing and public relations (2%)

Financial and Investment Analysts (2%)

Financial and Investment Analysts (2%)

9

Financial Auditors and Accountants (2%)

Financial Auditors and Accountants (2%)

Professional occupations in business management consulting (2%)

Professional occupations in business management consulting (2%)

10

Financial and Investment Analysts (2%)

Retail Sales Supervisors (2%)

Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations Managers (2%)

Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations Managers (2%)

Other

62%

69%

69%

67%

Source: IRCC Express Entry Year-end Reports (2016[30]; 2018[13]; 2019[31]).

In Australia, all applicants must qualify to work in an occupation listed on a Shortage Occupations List (SOL). Each draw is linked to annual target numbers and ceilings for over-supplied occupations, to prevent skewed occupational distributions. Hence, candidates scoring above a certain point-threshold are invited to apply only within the occupational limit. In Canada, prior to the introduction of Express Entry, a similar idea of using ceilings in occupations was in place for the FSW in the late 2 000s to cap entries in each of the eligible occupations. Since 2008, intake under the FSWP, FSTP and CEC was managed with lists of eligible occupations with maximum caps per occupation accepted. For instance in 2014, the FSWP had an overall application cap of 25 000 applications. Each of the 50 eligible occupations had an imposed cap of 1 000 per NOC. For the CEC between November 2013 and October 2014, the ministry accepted only a maximum of 12 000 new applications under the CEC29 and excluded some occupations from applications, due to a large inventory of applications.30 At the same time, occupational sub-caps of 200 applications in each NOC B (medium-skilled) occupation were used to manage application intake, while there were no caps on managerial and high-skilled occupations (NOC 0 and A).

However, under the current system apart from the FSTP only some of the PNPs use occupation lists for permanent migration. In New Zealand, applicants must prove their ability to work in one of the occupations in a list of shortage occupations. Moreover, bonus points are awarded for occupations that figure on the Long Term Skill Shortage List, i.e. shortages perceived of structural nature. In Canada, occupation lists for FST intended to refer to national shortages in the skilled trades. In Australia, they reflect structural need over the medium to longer term. New Zealand’s list is explicitly based on long-term considerations.

… but it is not clear if immigrants can find employment suited to their skill-level

Skilled population growth is a core objective of Canadian immigration policy. However, immigrants should be able to work in an occupation that fits their skills and educational attainment. In fact, this seems to be the major difficulty of newcomers to Canada in the short-run (IRCC, 2018[32]). Unfortunately, there is no recent comprehensive data available on the incidence of over-qualification in Canada. Data from the 2011 National Household Survey suggests that over-education rates for recent employed immigrants between the ages of 25 to 64 years with post-secondary education is 53% compared to 30% for non-immigrants (FLMM, 2014[33]). Indeed, over-qualification rates among immigrants in Canada were above the OECD average (OECD/EU, 2015[34]).

There is no data available on the occupations labour immigrants actually take up once they land in Canada. However, a recent IRCC survey indicates that of those respondents working, a large proportion of EE-selected immigrants (73%) report that their current job matched their education, skills and experience and over four in five (81%) felt that their current job met or exceeded their expectations. Both of these shares are higher than among non-EE-selected respondents at 65% and 78%, respectively (IRCC, forthcoming[14]).

Barriers for immigrants’ access to regulated professions should be reduced and information exchange improved

A particular challenge is the access to regulated/licenced occupations. Occupational regulation aims to protect the public by ensuring quality standards, but at the same time creates barriers to entry into occupations and hence risks monopoly costs. In occupations that do not require foreign credential recognition, employers are responsible for making sure a potential employee has the appropriate qualifications, training and experience. Procedures for licencing in regulated professions tend to be complex and involve a variety of different stakeholders, depending on the province and the profession concerned. Occupational licensing not only ensures that migrants can work in the occupation for which they have been trained, this better job matching is also associated with higher wages (Gomez et al., 2015[35]).

In this respect, it is important to note that all applicants to the FSW with foreign education and those who want to earn points for their education in the CRS need an assessment of their credentials, a so called Education Credential Assessment (ECA).31 Such an assessment is a report by an independent company that evaluates foreign education. Currently, IRCC has designated five professional bodies to provide ECA and two bodies for specific occupations.32 Processing times and costs vary between these bodies.

For Express Entry, this report attests that a foreign degree, diploma and/or certificate is valid and equal to a Canadian one. In general, an assessment of the highest level of education is sufficient, unless applicants want to earn points for two or more credentials, in which case both need to be assessed (see section on step one of Express Entry above).

It is important to note that an ECA for migration purposes is not a formal procedure for foreign qualification recognition (FQR). Obtaining an ECA does not allow for access to regulated professions.33

In Canada’s federal system, foreign qualification recognition (FQR) procedures are largely with the provinces and territories. Within these, responsibility has been delegated to over 600 regulatory bodies and apprenticeship authorities, overseeing more than 650 regulated occupations. What is more, some occupations are regulated in some provinces but not in others. Applicants are expected to contact the regulatory body in the province or territory where they plan to settle, to find out if they need a licence to practice in their intended occupation. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that individuals have rarely done this in the past (Johnson and Baumal, 2016[36]).

Acknowledging these challenges, the Forum of Labour Market Ministers, consisting of representatives from federal, provincial and territorial bodies, launched the Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Credentials in 2009. The Framework initially targeted a short list of regulated occupations, but it has been expanded in recent years (FLMM, 2014[33]) to cover more than 90% of the occupations of those newcomers landing in Canada every year. The Framework spans the steps individuals face as they move through the licencing process, including pre-arrival supports and services. The assessment stage typically includes a verification of authenticity of academic credentials and the identification and evaluation of skills, credentials and work experience required for entry into regulated occupations or educational programmes. Third-party agencies (often other than the ones involved in the ECA) often conduct qualification assessments for regulated occupations and registration decisions are made by regulatory authorities on the basis of these assessed qualifications. After their assessment, foreign credentials can be fully, partially or not recognised. If recognised, they are certified directly. When skills are partially recognised, immigrants are required to upgrade their skills to complete their credential recognition to be certified. If foreign credentials are not recognised, then immigrants are provided with support to find related occupations to their credentials that do not require licencing (ESDC, 2018[37]).

A report prepared for the Foreign Qualifications Recognition Working Group of the Forum of Labour Market Ministers (Johnson and Baumal, 2016[36]), building on interviews with labour migrants, has shown that immigrants are not aware of the challenges involved in FQR. What is more, confusion exists among newcomers between the ECA that they are generally required to take and the FQR which is generally not required, but needed for the right to exercise many regulated professions. The report recommends that licensing bodies should be required to take the ECA assessment as a starting point in the licencing procedure. Thus, assessment bodies would focus on confirming the authenticity of diplomas and offer an opinion on their equivalence in the Canadian context, while regulators review how the educational content and work experience matter for the purpose of licensure.

The above clearly suggests that more information and guidance is needed, notably regarding the distinction between ECA and FQR, and the fact that responsibility for occupational regulation rests within the jurisdiction of provinces and territories. Applicants should be encouraged to assess whether their desired profession is regulated in their preferred region of landing. Furthermore, ECA bodies could provide enhanced profession-specific regulatory information and links to other existing programmes, and in particular highlight the availability of pre-arrival services related to credential recognition.

A specific problem arises from the fact that there are specific language requirements for licensing in some professions which may go beyond those needed for immigration purposes. Addressing this is not straightforward, however. Raising the bar for migrants in those occupations – e.g. by requiring higher language levels – would de facto incite migrants to select other related occupations (or provinces). The related option of moving towards an occupation-specific skills assessment, as currently done in Australia (see below), would move the Canadian system away from the largely skills/supply-driven system that it is today. Providing bonus points is a third option. However, this would risk disproportionately channelling migration into such occupations.

As a practical first step, providing immigrants with more information could help to ensure that they have necessary documentation with them to gain recognition and pass licencing examinations when they land in Canada. Pre-arrival information and support could also be more focused in such occupations (Box 2.1).

A related issue is that at present, regulatory bodies generally do not collect data or provide feedback on the information they collect to IRCC. It is hence unclear how many immigrants attempt and pass provincial/territorial licencing tests in their intended occupation of immigration.

Finally, apart from a handful of occupations in the skilled trades, there are no incentives in the system for candidates intending to work in a regulated profession to initiate the licensing process before landing. One such incentive would be to award full skill transferability points for all labour immigrants who obtained a licence to practise in their regulated profession. However, this would penalise candidates who work in such occupations. What is more, under the current system, candidates could circumvent this by stating intended occupations which are not regulated, or provinces/territories where their occupation is not regulated.

In any case, initiating the licensing process from outside Canada is often impossible. This, however, could be tackled by including a pre-test for likely recognition by occupation. A resulting probability scale could be developed according to which points are allocated – potentially under the skill transferability points for foreign work experience.

An alternative approach would be to introduce a new temporary visa to enable candidates in the Express Entry pool to come to Canada and initiate the recognition process. Such a visa for recognition is currently used for example in Germany. Such a visa could be attractive for candidates regardless of any points implications, as this would enhance their employability in their occupation.

Box 2.1. Pre-arrival support

Canada is a leader in pre-arrival settlement services, and the provision of such services has greatly expanded in recent years. In 1998, IRCC started to fund the delivery of pre-arrival services abroad and while initially only provided to refugees, services expanded to family and economic immigrants in 2001. Pre-arrival services are only available to immigrants who are selected for permanent residence but who are not yet in Canada, including PNPs. IRCC supports the delivery of these services via Service Provider Organisations (SPOs) and spent close to CAD 62 million on these services between April 2015 and August 2017. The Department renewed the Pre-Arrival Services Program in December 2018 and as a result, sixteen SPOs are being funded in the 2019-23 project cycle.

In general, pre-arrival services offer the same types of services as IRCC-funded in-Canada Settlement services, with the exception of language assessments and training. Nevertheless, pre-arrival services vary considerably in scope, type of delivery (in-person or online) and size. In-person pre-arrival services are provided in India, China, Philippines and Morocco for non-refugees. Services for refugees are available in various global locations, and are delivered by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). In-person pre-arrival services are delivered in local languages, when possible.

Five SPOs (including IOM) provide general information dissemination and national-level orientation sessions, and also conduct needs assessments and referrals to other pre-arrival and in Canada services. The remaining 11 SPOs provide more targeted employment supports such as occupation- or regional-specific information and mentoring programmes in a newcomer’s future community. In some cases, regulators and apprenticeship authorities work together with these pre-arrival SPOs.

According to the latest IRCC evaluation of pre-arrival services, economic immigrants who used pre-arrival support felt more prepared when they first arrived in Canada and employment-related services had a positive impact on immigrants’ preparedness for the Canadian work environment. However, the study found no significant differences between participants and non-participants in employment-related pre-arrival services in terms of difficulties when getting a job that matches skills and qualifications in the first three months in Canada. Nevertheless, 45% of participants in such pre-arrival services reported it to be difficult or very difficult to get their professional credentials and qualifications recognised in contrast to 55% among non-participants.

Overall, a key challenge for IRCC related to pre-arrival service uptake is to reach its target audience. Since the expansion of pre-arrival services in April 2015 until August 2017, only 8.5% of economic immigrants eligible for pre-arrival services received such support. Since October 2017, IRCC sends an automated invitation letter to all eligible permanent resident immigrants when they receive a positive eligibility decision in their immigration application, but this might be too late in the immigration process (IRCC, 2018[32]).

IRCC’s vision for renewed Pre-Arrival Services Program aims to address evaluation recommendations and includes increasing awareness among potential clients of the available pre-arrival services and supports through better promotion; ensuring easier transitions from pre- to post-arrival in Canada; and creating dedicated pathways for service for three key client groups: economic and family class immigrants, Francophones, and refugees.

The renewed programme aims at enhancing the economic and social integration of newcomers by: directly connecting clients with the information and services they need through a streamlined, easy-to-navigate process; providing pre-arrival services to Francophones through a collaborative partnership model; offering general, regional and occupation-specific employment services to boost job prospects; encouraging newcomers to apply for job licensure before they arrive, if needed; and linking clients to federal and provincial settlement services in Canada.

Efficiency and Transparency

Express Entry shortened application processing times and increased efficiency

A significant problem for Canada’s pre-2015 immigration system was its lack of efficiency. Reducing processing times was a core motivation for the introduction of Express Entry, where backlogs under the FSW in 2008 grew to over 600 000 applications and the median processing time for a FSW was 34 months (IRCC, 2010[4]). The Expression of Interest system responded to the need to manage oversupply and to identify and prioritise the candidates with the highest labour market potential.

In Express Entry, candidates submit their profile electronically with an educational assessment for FSW and proof of language certificates for all classes. This required objective assessment was partly motivated by the fact that immigrants in the past tended to overstate their actual language knowledge. What is more, foreign education systems do not always perform as well as the Canadian one, thus limiting transferability.

A key question is at which stage skills should be best assessed. One the one hand, verification further down the application line can be burdensome for applicants (and sponsors) who discover misunderstandings at a late stage of the application and reduce efficiency if processing officers need to request missing information. On the other hand, supporting documents can be costly for applications, and early-stage verification can discourage candidates to submit an EOI. When applicants need to produce supporting documents at an early stage, such as in the Canadian system, they should be allowed to stay in the pool for a relatively long period. Indeed, in the case of Canada, candidates stay in the pool for a full year.

Once drawn from the pool and invited to apply, candidates have 60 days to submit an application. The targeted processing time under EE for a permanent residence visa to Canada – from submission to final decision – is six months. In 2016 and 2017, IRCC succeeded in processing 80% of applications in six months or less. In 2017, IRCC processed 80% of applicants under the FSW and the CEC within four months (IRCC, 2018[13]). The combination of automated process and control over total numbers of invitations improved application management. The current duration is similar to the average processing time of six months in New Zealand and slightly faster than the points-tested skilled independent visa in Australia, where 75% of applications are processed within seven months.

Peer systems vary in their requirements for certification and objective assessment for entering the pool. In Australia, candidates must have the results of their skills assessment (which might involve a fee to the assessing authority) in order to submit their EOI. Other claims need to be proven once applicants are invited to apply. New Zealand, applicants do not need to include any evidence with their EOI. Once the EOI meets the criteria, applicants enter a selection pool. If they are drawn from the pool and are invited to apply for NZ permanent residence, they are asked to provide the evidence to support their claims made in the EOI.

The benefit of a LMIA in the context of permanent skilled migration is not evident

In principle, whenever an employer wants to hire a foreign worker, they need a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from ESDC/Service Canada. A positive LMIA confirms the need for a foreign worker to fill an offer and the lack of a Canadian worker or permanent resident available to do the job. Immigrants need a positive LMIA to apply for a work permit. In contrast to LMIAs for temporary labour migration (where a processing fee of CAD 1 000 applies), LMIAs for permanent migration are free of charge.

While this principle applies to all potential new immigrants who want to gain points for a job offer under Express Entry, various LMIA-exemptions exist. In particular, an employer does not need an LMIA for already working with him/her on a temporary visa for at least a year (full-time) before. Hence, onshore transitions tend to be exempt from the LMIA-requirement.

The LMIA, which is discussed at length in Chapter three due to its key role in managing temporary labour migration, serves to verify integrity of the offered job, such as the genuineness of the employer. It also serves as a labour market test, i.e. it assesses whether permanent residents or Canadians currently unemployed would be available to do the same job.

Canada’s Express Entry is unique among settlement countries in having a labour market test for high-skilled permanent immigration. There are no similar labour market tests in New Zealand and in Australia. Indeed, a labour market test – i.e. to check whether a particular job could be done also by an unemployed resident – runs counter the notion of a largely supply-driven system that does otherwise not intend to fill specific labour gaps. It also enhances administrative overhead and slows down the process. Obviously, to avoid abuse, there need to be some integrity checks. In particular, the genuineness of the job offer needs to be assessed, as is also done in peer systems.

In 2017, only 10% of admissions under EE claimed the bonus 50/200 points for a valid job offer, compared with a third in 2016. Out of those admitted in 2017 who claimed the bonus points, 43% benefited from an LMIA exemption. Given the surprisingly low number of candidates who claim the 50/200 bonus points, it is conceivable that many eligible applicants with otherwise sufficient points do not bother undergoing the burdensome LMIA process. In fact, a recent survey by IRCC (forthcoming[14]) suggests that at the time of admission, 62% of respondents already had a job in Canada. Against this evidence, Canada could consider alternatives to the LMIA process. Apart from the mentioned integrity checks, one possibility would be to differentiate in the points allocated for a job offer between those with a LMIA and those without. In such a system, applicants who obtained a positive/neutral LMIA receive the full number of points, as do those applicants who have a job offer which is LMIA-exempt. In turn, applicants who need a LMIA for their job offer to be valid but have not yet obtained one, would receive a lower number of points.

Multi-year plans allow for a longer planning horizon

As mentioned in Chapter 1, until 2017 Canada had annual migration levels plans. In 2016, the target of 54 000 to 59 000 new federal high-skilled labour immigrants was slightly surpassed, with 60 000 admissions. In the following year, the 57 150 admissions under the federal high-skilled category (CEC, FSW, FST) were below the target range of 67 600 to 75 300, partly compensating for the higher intake in the previous year.

Against this backdrop, the government moved to a multi-year Immigration Levels Plan in 2017. The first plan, for 2018-20, aims to welcome around 565 000 new permanent economic immigrants (including accompanying spouses and dependants) over these three years, 58% of all new permanent immigrants to Canada. A significant part of the economic stream (43%) are planned to be under the federal high-skilled category, managed via Express Entry, and 33% of the economic stream are expected to be Provincial Nominees, partly managed via Express Entry (IRCC, 2017[22]).

The draws from the Express Entry pool respond to the admission levels foreseen under multi-annual planning levels. In times of high inflows of candidates, the system works well as it selects the best-suited candidates from an enlarged pool. The situation could be different in the hypothetical case of periods of slack supply, if for instance a relatively smaller number of interested applicants with overall lower CRS-scores drive the pass mark down to a very low level. To this end, the introduction of a revised entry-grid for all potential labour immigrants, hence all applicants in the pool, as discussed in several parts of this review already, will ensure minimum qualifications for labour immigrants during periods of scarce supply. Thus far, however, this has not happened. In contrast, there were over 95 000 interested applicants in the EE-pool at the beginning of 2019, a strong increase over the 71 000 beginning 2018.

Obviously, such a three-year planning system is not very reactive to sudden economic shocks. Indeed, the largely supply-based permanent system is not intended to be reactive in this respect (in contrast to the temporary system, see next Chapter). That notwithstanding, in contrast to the pre-EE system, in such a case intakes could be immediately adjusted under EE, with no implications other than not meeting the target.

Federal permanent labour migration outside of Express Entry

Business programmes

In addition to the programmes discussed already, every year a small share of federal economic migrants land as a part of other migration programmes, not managed via Express Entry or regional agreements. Currently, individuals can apply to specific Self-Employed and Start-Up Visa programmes. These replaced the federal Immigrant Investor Program and the Entrepreneur Program, which were closed in 2014 for further applications.

While a larger share of individuals under the business classes, relative to other labour immigrants, earn income through investment, principal applicants admitted under the business programmes have considerably lower overall incomes than other labour immigrants. For those admitted in 2006, ten years after admission, median income (including both employment and other income) was a mere CAD 19 200 and hence less than half of the median income of their peers admitted through the other federal economic programmes in the same year (CAD 48 100) (Statistics Canada, 2019[38]). It was also much lower than the median income among the Canadian population (CAD 33 300). Indeed, many entrepreneurs are admitted through the mainstream federal and provincial programmes. In fact, any permanent resident can set up a business in Canada.

For the new Self-Employed programme, candidates need to have relevant experience in working for themselves and intend and to be able to become self-employed in Canada in the arts or athletics – i.e. it is a small-scale programme focused on a very specific segment of the labour market where candidates would otherwise probably not get selected through EE. IRCC assesses individual applicants under this stream with a point grid based on education, experience, age, language ability and adaptability. Individuals have to earn 35 out of 100 available points to qualify for the programme. The current processing fee including the right to permanent residence is CAD 1 540 and the estimated processing time for this visa class is 24 months. In 2017, Canada admitted 175 principal applicants under this programme, most of them destined to Ontario.

The Start-Up Visa Program, launched as a five-year pilot programme in April 2013 and made permanent in March 2018, aims to attract foreign innovators to contribute to the Canadian economy and facilitate entry of entrepreneurs who actively pursue business ventures in Canada. During the five year duration of the pilot, IRCC accepted 132 entrepreneurs and their spouses and dependants for permanent residence (IRCC, 2018[12]).

Individuals applying to the Start-Up Visa Program must secure a commitment from a designated Canadian business incubator, angel investor group or venture capital fund to support their business concept. They further need to prove language skills equivalent to CLB 5 in English or French, possess a certain ownership share in their business, and bring enough money to settle, currently CAD 12 475 for a single applicant. The current processing fee including the right to permanent residence is CAD 1 540, and the estimated processing time for this visa class is 12 to 16 months. An IRCC evaluation of the initial pilot of the programme from 2016 fund that the programme admitted entrepreneurs with greater human capital than previously, who are actively pursuing innovative businesses in Canada. The majority of businesses related to software development (in education, finance, and social media) as well as other technology segments. The evaluation also found that the Start-Up Visa immigrants are younger, higher educated and have better language skills than the participants of the previous entrepreneur programme (IRCC, 2016[39]). However, their total number is small.

Due to the termination of the investor and the entrepreneur classes, the number of labour immigrants (i.e. principal applicants) landing via business classes has declined and in 2017, contributed less than 2% of labour immigrants in that year. As outset in the 2018-20 Immigration Levels Plan, Canada plans to further reduce the number of individuals admitted under these programmes, for each of the years 2018, 2019 and 2020 to a target of just 700 persons (IRCC, 2017[22]). This number includes labour immigrants themselves, as well as their spouses and dependants.

Pilot programmes

A key feature of Canada’s approach to migration management is to constantly develop and test new and innovative approaches. Ministerial Instructions establish so-called “pilot programmes”, which are in some cases made permanent; in others, they end after a pre-defined period. There were several such programmes in recent years, in addition to the Start-up pilot mentioned in the previous section. Since the end of November 2014, the Caring for Children and Caring for People with High Medical Needs pilot programmes offer a pathway to permanent residence after two years of Canadian work experience in specific caring occupations, effectively replacing the Live-in Caregiver Program (Chapter 3). These are now being replaced by two other caregiver pilots. In addition, two recent pilot programmes focus on specific demographic and labour market-related challenges. The first is the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program (AIP), an employer-driven five-year pilot, established in March 2017 to attract and retain skilled immigrants in Atlantic Canada. The Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot Program announced in January 2019, is a five-year community-driven pilot to attract economic immigrants to settle in rural areas within Ontario, the Canadian western provinces and northern territories (Chapter 4).

Conclusion

Canada’s new selection system, Express Entry, is arguably the most elaborate selection system in the OECD. It greatly enhanced flexibility and operates a refined selection along a continuum of points. A key innovation is that it credits the positive interaction of several simultaneously existing characteristics of labour migrants. While Express Entry is complex, the selection itself is transparent. It allows for an inclusion of the provinces and territories in selection and for setting minimum standards for federal labour migrants across the country. Express Entry also eliminated the backlog of applications and greatly quickened visa processing for selected immigrants.

Canada has an elaborate monitoring and assessment system. This allowed for an early assessment and quick reaction to address initial shortcomings. The overall positive assessment notwithstanding, a key remaining shortcoming of the system is the separate entry pathways, which were all designed prior to Express Entry and are not fully consistent under the new system. Having one single entry grid with core criteria would thus enhance consistency and reduce the current complexity.

Foreign credential recognition is a key challenge in a system that bases heavy weight on formal skills, as is the case in Canada. This is further exacerbated by the country’s federal nature, with decentralised responsibilities for credential recognition. Addressing this is not straightforward. While better information and data exchange within Canada and awareness-raising among potential candidates are first steps, additional incentives would be an important element in a strategy to make sure that candidates in regulated professions can effectively work in their occupations. One promising option in this respect could be specific visa for foreign credential recognition.

The system is complemented by a number of pilot programmes, allowing Canada to test new approaches to economic challenges such as attracting entrepreneurs, attracting labour migrants to particular regions, and settling and retaining migrants in rural areas.

Finally, the Expression of Interest system is complemented by a number of business and economic pilot programmes, allowing Canada to test new approaches to economic challenges such as attracting entrepreneurs, settling migrants in rural areas and attracting labour migrants to particular regions.

References

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Annex 2.A. Canada’s points system and process comparison
Annex Table 2.A.1. Comprehensive Ranking System

Core / human capital factors

With a spouse or common-law partner (Maximum 460 points)

Without a spouse or common-law partner (Maximum 500 points)

Age

Number of points (100 maximum)

Number of points (110 maximum)

17 years of age or less

0

0

18 years of age

90

99

19 years of age

95

105

20 to 29 years of age

100

110

30 years of age

95

105

31 years of age

90

99

32 years of age

85

94

33 years of age

80

88

34 years of age

75

83

35 years of age

70

77

36 years of age

65

72

37 years of age

60

66

38 years of age

55

61

39 years of age

50

55

40 years of age

45

50

41 years of age

35

39

42 years of age

25

28

43 years of age

15

17

44 years of age

5

6

45 years of age or more

0

0

Level of Education

With a spouse or common-law partner - Number of points (140 maximum)

Without a spouse or common-law partner - Number of points (150 maximum)

Less than secondary school (high school)

0

0

Secondary diploma (high school graduation)

28

30

One-year degree, diploma or certificate from a university, college, trade or technical school, or other institute

84

90

Two-year program at a university, college, trade or technical school, or other institute

91

98

Bachelor's degree OR a three or more year program at a university, college, trade or technical school, or other institute

112

120

Two or more certificates, diplomas, or degrees. One must be for a program of three or more years

119

128

Master's degree, OR professional degree needed to practice in a licensed profession (For “professional degree,” the degree program must have been in: medicine, veterinary medicine, dentistry, optometry, law, chiropractic medicine, or pharmacy.)

126

135

Doctoral level university degree (Ph.D.)

140

150

Official languages proficiency - first official language

With a spouse or common-law partner Maximum 128 points

Without a spouse or common-law partner Maximum 136 points

Maximum points for each ability (reading, writing, speaking and listening):

32 with a spouse or common-law partner

34 without a spouse or common-law partner

Less than CLB 4

0

0

CLB 4 or 5

6

6

CLB 6

8

9

CLB 7

16

17

CLB 8

22

23

CLB 9

29

31

CLB 10 or more

32

34

Official languages proficiency - second official language

With a spouse or common-law partner Maximum 22 points

Without a spouse or common-law partner Maximum 24 points

Maximum points for each ability (reading, writing, speaking and listening):

6 with a spouse or common-law partner (up to a combined maximum of 22 points)

6 without a spouse or common-law partner (up to a combined maximum of 24 points)

CLB 4 or less

0

0

CLB 5 or 6

1

1

CLB 7 or 8

3

3

CLB 9 or more

6

6

Canadian work experience

With a spouse or common-law partner Maximum 70 points

Without a spouse or common-law partner Maximum 80 points

None or less than a year

0

0

1 year

35

40

2 years

46

53

3 years

56

64

4 years

63

72

5 years or more

70

80

Subtotal - Core / human capital factors

Out of 460 points

Out of 500 points

Spouse or common-law partner factors (if applicable)

With spouse or common-law partner - number of points per factor

Without spouse or common-law partner (does not apply)

Spouse’s or common-law partner’s level of education

Maximum 10 points

Less than secondary school (high school)

0

Secondary school (high school graduation)

2

One-year program at a university, college, trade or technical school, or other institute

6

Two-year program at a university, college, trade or technical in school, or other institute

7

Bachelor's degree OR a three or more year program at a university, college, trade or technical school, or other institute

8

Two or more certificates, diplomas, or degrees. One must be for a program of three or more years

9

Master's degree, or professional degree needed to practice in a licensed profession (For “professional degree”, the degree program must have been in: medicine, veterinary medicine, dentistry, optometry, law, chiropractic medicine, or pharmacy.)

10

Doctoral level university degree (PhD)

10

Spouse’s or common-law partner’s official languages proficiency - first official language

Maximum 20 points

Reading, writing, speaking and listening– total points for each ability

Max per each ability

5

CLB 4 or less

0

CLB 5 or 6

1

CLB 7 or 8

3

CLB 9 or more

5

Canadian work experience

Maximum 10 points

None or less than a year

0

1 year

5

2 years

7

3 years

8

4 years

9

5 years or more

10

Skill Transferability factors

Maximum 100 points for this section

Education

Maximum 50 points for Education

With good official language proficiency and a post-secondary degree

Maximum 50 points

Points for CLB 7 or more on all first official language abilities, one or more under 9

Points for CLB 9 or more on all four first official language abilities

Secondary school (high school) credential or less

0

0

Post-secondary program credential of one year or longer

13

25

Two or more post-secondary program credentials AND at least one of these credentials was issued on completion of a post-secondary program of three years or longer

25

50

With Canadian work experience and a post-secondary degree

Maximum 50 points

Points for education + 1 year of Canadian work experience

Points for education + 2 years or more of Canadian work experience

Secondary school (high school) credential or less

0

0

Post-secondary program credential of one year or longer

13

25

Two or more post-secondary program credentials AND at least one of these credentials was issued on completion of a post-secondary program of three years or longer

25

50

Foreign work experience

Maximum 50 points for Foreign work experience

With good official language proficiency and foreign work experience

50 points

Points for foreign work experience + CLB 7 or more on all first OL abilities, one or more under 9

Points for foreign work experience + CLB 9 or more on all four first OL abilities

No foreign work experience

0

0

1 or 2 years of foreign work experience

13

25

3 years or more of foreign work experience

25

50

With Canadian work experience and foreign work experience

Maximum 50 points

Points for foreign work experience + 1 year of Canadian work experience

Points for foreign work experience + 2 years or more of Canadian work experience

No foreign work experience

0

0

1 or 2 years of foreign work experience

13

25

3 years or more of foreign work experience

25

50

Certificate of qualification (trade occupations)

Maximum 50 points for this section

With good official language proficiency and a certificate of qualification

Maximum 50 points

Points for certificate of qualification + CLB 5 or more on all first OL abilities, one or more under 7

Points for certificate of qualification + CLB 7 or more on all four first OL abilities

With a certificate of qualification

25

50

Additional points

Maximum 600 points

Brother or sister living in Canada who is a citizen or permanent resident of Canada

15

Scored NCLC 7 or higher on all four French language skills and scored CLB 4 or lower in English (or didn’t take an English test)

15

Scored NCLC 7 or higher on all four French language skills and scored CLB 5 or higher on all four English skills

30

Post-secondary education in Canada - credential of one or two years

15

Post-secondary education in Canada - credential three years or longer

30

Arranged employment - NOC 00

200

Arranged employment – any other NOC 0, A or B

50

Provincial or territorial nomination

600

Annex Table 2.A.2. EOI systems in comparison

Canada

Australia

New Zealand

Visa categories in System

Multiple – FSW, CEC and FSTP.

System selects all suitable programmes for a candidate. Invitations to the same applicants are issued in the following order: CEC > FSW > FST

PNs meet requirements of at least one federal category

Multiple – General Skilled Migrants (189; 190; 489P) Applicants select preferred visa type(s) themselves but can list only one occupation per application

Parallel EOI-pool for Business Talent (132) and Business Innovation and Investment (188P)

Single – Skilled Migrant Category

Parallel EOI-pool for Investment 2

Pre-requisites to filing EOI

Online assessment for minimum requirements and electronic approval. Requirements differ by visa category – requires basic personal information, language test scores, educational credential assessment and work experience

Online assessment and electronic approval for qualifying pass mark– requires basic personal information, nominated occupation, language test scores, Skills assessment (related to nominated occupation), work experience

Online self-assessment with points calculator but no electronic approval – proceed to next step if qualifying mark is met

Entry grid

An entry grid only for assessing FSW eligibility 67(100) as part of EOI pre-requisites

List of requirements for other categories

Single grid for determining both eligibility and points total – minimum 60(100)

Single grid for determining both eligibility and points total – minimum 100(185)

Job Matching

Job Bank voluntarily (previously mandatory), PES database with electronic matching option

SkillSelect database – manual matching

SkillFinder database – manual matching

Submit Expression of Interest (EOI) – step one

Submit online all additional details to complete electronic profile, electronic approval of profile along CRS points score

Submit online all additional details to complete electronic profile, electronic approval of profile

Online and manual – only health and police certificates submitted at this stage – manual approval

Validity of EOI

1 year

2 years

6 months

Update possible

Yes

Yes

No

Ranking and sorting during draw

Electronic sorting of all visa categories via the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS)

Electronic sorting of Skilled Independent sub-class by total score

Automatic selection for total score over 160, rest manually selected as per priority criteria

Other factors for draw

Multiannual planning levels for economic migration via Express Entry

Annual planning levels for economic migration. In the skilled independent programme annual ceilings based on shortage occupation list (SOL)

Multiannual planning range for economic migration

Invitation to Apply (ITA) – step two

Automatically issued to all meeting floating pass mark in draw – in case of tied scores, those with earlier file date chosen (previously all)

Automatically issued to all meeting floating pass mark in draw – in case of tied scores, those with earlier file date chosen

After preliminary manual verification, issued to all meeting pass mark in draw

Application for permanent residence visa

Online within 2 months from receipt of ITA, proof of admissibility requirements (health and character) for PA and SA

Online within 2 months from receipt of ITA proof of admissibility requirements (health and character) for PA and SA

Manually or online within 4 months from receipt of ITA, all documentary evidence for PA and SA

Labour Market Test

Yes, positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) required for granting job offer points

No LMT but integrity checks are part of immigration processes

No LMT but integrity checks are part of immigration processes

Priority processing

No. Specific draws (by category) possible and extra points for PNP ensure selection

Yes. Applicants in regional sponsored migration scheme and those nominated by a state or territory are given priority over skilled independent applicants

No

Notes

← 1. Professionals and skilled administrators required 52 points, applicants for technical streams 47 and those for trades 45 points. This idea of a class dependent entry grid still partly exists in today’s system, through the Federal Skilled Trades Programme.

← 2. In 2008, an amendment (the C-50 Bill) delegated power to the Minister for Immigration to periodically set qualifiers for admission through Ministerial Instructions. The amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) was made through Bill C-50 (the Budget Implementation Act), which came into effect on February 27, 2008. Hence, all federal skilled workers processed from 2008 are categorised as C-50 and those who applied earlier as pre C-50.

← 3. In case more than one candidate meets the final pass mark, the system selects those who earlier submitted their profile into the pool

← 4. The CRS-score (Comprehensive Ranking System) is also referred to as the ITA-score (Invitation to Apply).

← 5. For instance, an Express Entry applicant who is interested in working in British Columbia, must also meet requirements for one of the Express Entry PN British Columbia (EEBC) programs such as the EEBC — Health Care Professional programme that targets health workers like doctors and nurses.

← 6. Candidates nominated by a province or territory are always invited as a Provincial Nominee.

← 7. About 3% of admissions under EE in the two main streams (FSW and CEC) in 2017 were aged 45 and above.

← 8. Currently 176 skilled occupations are eligible for this visa programme and candidates must submit a skill assessment prepared by the relevant body for each profession.

← 9. 30 hours or more paid work per week

← 10. The CLB is a descriptive scale of language ability on a continuum of 12 benchmarks across three stages: CLB 1-4 (Basic), CLB 5-8 (Intermediate) and CLB 9-12 (advanced). It assesses language ability in four core competences (reading, writing, speaking and listening). Within each level, learners progress from initial, to developing, to adequate, to fluent ability (CIC, 2012[40]). CLB 1 to CLB 4 qualify a basic user of the language, who can understand and communicate in simple and routine tasks. CLB level 5 to 8 describe an intermediate language ability that allows for fuller participation in a wider variety of contexts. It is the range of abilities required to function independently in most familiar situations of daily social, educational and work-related life experience, and in some less predictable contexts. A CLB 7 denotes an adequate intermediate ability whereas CLB 8 refers to a fluent intermediate ability. A CLB 9 and higher verifies a proficient language user. Applicants can check how their CELPIP, IELTS and TEF scores translate into CLB levels using language test equivalency charts on the website of IRCC (IRCC, 2018[41]).

← 11. FST applicants need a certificate of qualification in the skilled trade issued by a Canadian or territorial authority, or, alternatively, a full-time employment offer in an eligible trade occupation for at least one year.

← 12. Prior to introduction of Express Entry, the minimum points required for selection under the FSW program was also 67 points.

← 13. If the territory or province where an applicants under the FST class wants to live and work does not give Certificates of Qualification in their trade the applicants must have a qualifying job offer in their trade from an Canadian Employer.

← 14. As a term of reference for the following explanations, the minimum CRS-score in all non-programme-specific draws in 2017 had been between 415 and 468 points.

← 15. With an LMIA approval from Service Canada

← 16. Brother or sister living in Canada (citizen or permanent resident).

← 17. Appendix A to this chapter includes a detailed table with all points for each factor.

← 18. Numbers discussed here are for individuals without a spouse or common law partner. The tables in the appendix include detailed numbers for applicants with and without a spouse or common-law partner.

← 19. In 2016, 7% of spouses and dependants of labour immigrants received such support.

← 20. Such NOC 00 migrants tend to be very highly paid. In 2015 and 2016, all labour immigrants filing income under a NOC 00 occupation had pre-landing experience. Further, all among those landed in 2015 and the majority of those landed in 2016 –despite potentially not having a full year of income– declared an income of over CAD 100 000, more than three times the Canadian median of CAD 33 300 in 2016.

← 21. Alberta introduced its EE-linked PN stream in June 2018 but until the end of October 2018 had not invited provincial nominees via EE, yet.

← 22. Apart from one programme specific draw in February 2015, when IRCC issued 849 ITA under the CEC, Express Entry never invited specific rounds of only FSW or only CEC applicants. It has however issued in several rounds invitations specifically for the FSTs and PN-programmes.

← 23. One additional difference that should be looked into is the required proof of funding under the different categories.

← 24. Though only proven for English ability among men)

← 25. Due to the time lag between receiving and invitation to apply to submitting an application (60 days), the numbers refer to all candidates in the pool since the start of Express Entry in January 2015 until October 2018. When interpreting the numbers it should be noted that IRCC changed the sorting category of applicants into CEC instead of FSW which might impact the probability to land in these categories.

← 26. This is also the case for education and knowledge of official languages.

← 27. Remuneration at or above NZD 50 per hour (or the equivalent annual salary).

← 28. In New Zealand, SkillFinder matches the profiles of candidates who are interest in migration to New Zealand and sign up to the portal “New Zealand Now” with vacancies that employers register in SkillFinder.

← 29. In May 2014, the cap was renewed to allow for 8 000 applications per year under the CEC.

← 30. The occupations were: cooks (NOC 6322); food service supervisors (NOC 6311); administrative officers (NOC 1221); administrative assistants (NOC 1241); accounting technicians and bookkeepers (NOC 1311); and retail sales supervisors (NOC 6211).

← 31. A Canadian degree, diploma or certificate does not require an assessment.

← 32. For physicians (NOC 3111 or NOC 3112), the Medical Council of Canada must do the ECA for the primary medical diploma and for Pharmacists (NOC 3131) who need a licence to practice, the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada must do the assessment.

← 33. In fact, FQR licensing bodies regularly disagree with the equivalencies drawn by ECA organisations. This is one reason why some professional organisations are becoming ECA organisations – so they can better control equivalencies and potentially streamline professional certifications.

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