Today, IRCC implements the new Ministerial Instructions for Express Entry.

So just like that, the playing field changes, the path to PR shifts and applicants must adapt to the new points allocations.

As mentioned in this Walrus article, this could make it easier for employer-specific, LMIA-exempt work permit holders to compete for permanent residence.

While not earth-shattering, this will be good news for some applicants, such as people here on NAFTA work permits. Unsurprisingly, it will be bad news for others: LMIAs are no longer the golden ticket to PR: now your position and skill level will determine whether you get 200 points or 50 towards arranged employment.  This should result in average scores going down, and a lower CRS cutoff for ITA issuance.

On the other hand, provincial nominee EE programs will still get 600 points, so the ITA scores probably won’t go below 400 anytime soon.

Just a prediction: PNP programs will get busier and Service Canada’s LMIA processing offices may get a slight reprieve.  Can’t complain there.

Now if IRCC would implement the new citizenship rules, we’d really be getting somewhere.

Immigration and refugee policy had been conspicuously absent from the Canadian campaign trail until last week when, on a day when many children were heading back to school, the body of 2-year-old Syrian Alan Kurdi washed up on a beach in Turkey. He had drowned with his mother and brother while trying to cross the Mediterranean in a dinghy.

There has been a lot said and written in the last few days, and more to come, to be sure. Lots of blaming. Lots of politicizing. Lots of hand-wringing.

Obviously the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Syrians (not to ignore other chronically displaced populations such as Eritreans, Afghanis and Iraqis) is a complicated problem. No one is going to solve it in one Tweet. But for those paying even peripheral attention to the situation in Syria, it was a slow-mo train wreck. And the dust hasn’t even started to settle.

Countries such as Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan are shouldering a disproportionate burden of the displaced populations. Meanwhile the Gulf States, masters at doing nothing to pick up any slack or provide anything other than token funding and marginal lip-service, haven’t stepped up in the slightest. No surprise there, as they have become really good at not helping the most perpetually displaced population on the planet: Palestinians. And it’s been decades. But you know what? That’s on them. It’s no excuse for the rest of the world to do nothing.

When I was in Malta in 2012, I couldn’t help but notice that, right there, in the middle of the Mediterranean, the population was strikingly ethnically homogenous. Where were the Somalis? Where were the Iraqis? I didn’t get it. And yet, the local newspapers had a lot of opinion pieces about the “threat” of “migrants” from Africa. I wondered where the fear was coming from.

Eventually, it was explained to me by the locals: Historically, the EU paid Libya to police the Mediterranean, and intercept refugees and migrants, returning them back to Africa via (no doubt) horrific methods and treatment. Libya wasn’t a signatory to any UN conventions on human rights and could “clean up” the Mediterranean with impunity. And in fact, be paid to do so.

This is one of the most shocking things I have ever heard, and there isn’t a lot of proof of it, so I hope my understanding is wrong or exaggerated, but that is how it was explained to me. Once Gaddafi’s regime fell, there was no one to do the EU’s dirty work. And once Gaddafi was gone and there was little structure left in Libya, it stopped with the rendition model and became all about the smuggle.

By 2012, the fear of large migrant populations had made it into the collective conscience in Malta.

Cut to 2015.

By this spring, the increasing numbers of people ending up on the shores of Greece and Italy has become a crisis. The UN’s special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants was interviewed in the Guardian and had these words, which resonate very sadly today:

We should do for the Syrians what we did 30 years ago for the Indochinese, and that’s a comprehensive plan of action where all global north countries – and that includes Europe, Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand and probably other countries – offer a great number of Syrians an option so that they would line up in Istanbul, Amman and Beirut for a meaningful chance to resettle, instead of paying thousands of euros only to die with their children in the Mediterranean.

[Around the same time, Citizenship and Immigration Canada issued a press release boasting that it had finalized its first set of permanent residence applications under Express Entry in less than 3 months.]

The problem with the #refugeecrisis today is that there is a massive bottleneck in processing overseas applications, to the point of paralysis. Group of 5 Sponsorship applications take years to finalize and require near-impossible documentation. The processing centre in Winnipeg is taking months just to open the envelope and enter the application into the system to begin processing. If you have missed a document, the application will get returned to you unprocessed and you have to resubmit anew. By then, the immigration forms will have changed, meaning new signatures and updates have to be prepared, just to get the thing placed into the queue. And private sponsorship is no substitute for what the government can and ought to be doing.

Compounding the problem is that Canada has clearly dropped the ball on its plans to offer asylum to Syrian refugees. Instead of taking meaningful steps to inform Canadians and fix the problem, our Immigration Minister has chosen to deflect blame and criticize the media and other political parties. It has been profoundly disappointing to see a seasoned diplomat, who served in Afghanistan, and who is rumoured to be smart, principled and competent, react with more vitriol than compassion.

Worse, we still don’t know the numbers. As of writing, there have been no recent updates on the CIC or Government of Canada website on exactly how many Syrians are being processed and have actually arrived in Canada in 2015. Incidentally, there is an update of September 2, 2015 regarding Canadian military operations in Syria. So it’s not like the government is too busy to post updates on what it’s up to overseas.

There are quite a few suggestions floating around on what Canada can do to expedite processing and bring people here faster. Calgary immigration lawyer, Raj Sharma, makes some good suggestions on how the overseas process can be streamlined. Others recall how Vietnamese and Kosovar refugees were brought to Canada and processed inland, rather than languish years overseas while the paperwork is finalized. Why can’t we fly a few military planes of refugees to Greenwood like we did in 1999?

Finally, perspective is important. The world is mostly a peaceful place. And people are mostly healthy, educated, safe and protected. So there is plenty of room for compassion and aid. When faced with a crisis of this magnitude and geographic breadth, Canadians feel generally helpless.

What can we realistically do? Do we really believe that some of those people who risked their lives in rubber dinghies may be extremists who have gambled that they won’t drown in the Mediterranean and will be granted entry to a northern/western country only to turn rogue and attack us? Or are we prepared to offer safe haven to our fair share of the most vulnerable?

My humble suggestion is that we err on the side of informed generosity and global responsibility.

And do it quickly.

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It’s been 7 draws and 15 weeks:

Draw # Date # Invitations to Apply (ITA) Min. CRS Points
1 Jan 31/15 779 886
2 Feb 7/15 779 818
3 Feb 20/15 849 (CEC only) 808
4 Feb 27/15 1187 735
5 Mar 20/15 1620 481
6 Mar 27/15 1637 453
7 Apr 10/15 925 469

And already, at least 3 people have become permanent residents through the express entry program. Consider that a temporary work permit takes on average around 5 months to be processed, it’s pretty amazing that people are becoming permanent residents through express entry in mere weeks.

Yes, the program requires a few months of preparation before you can qualify and get into the pool. And yes, it’s blatant cream-skimming that Canada has been criticized for, favouring under-40s with post-graduate educations, stellar language skills and work experience. And yes, international students in Canada are being disadvantaged by the program, since Express Entry puts the kibosh on the assurance of a means to become permanent after finishing Canadian studies and working for a year. It used to be a guarantee. Now, not so much.

But it is pretty amazing to be able to tell a client that they can become a permanent resident in under a year (hell, under 6 months) and it is so great to have some certainty and transparency to the process.

Although a lot of clients (mostly international grads) have been profoundly disappointed, many others have been pleasantly surprised to hear that express entry actually works.

And given the number of inquiries we are getting, I think the word is spreading.





If you stood on your porch at around 10pm last night, you may have heard the sound of collective hopes being crushed.

Around that time last night, CIC issued its first set of Invitations to Apply in the new Express Entry Program. Only people with LMIA-based job offers AND points above 886 (out of 1200) were given invitations. Worldwide, only 779 invitations were issued. That’s not really a drop in the bucket, it’s more like a kick in the pants.

The Express Entry program is not a new immigration stream. It’s a new way to administer the existing federal skilled worker programs. It’s not that complicated, but it is less than intuitive. Here’s the process:

  • first you have to qualify for one of the 3 federal programs (Federal Skilled Worker, Federal Skilled Trades or Canada Experience Class)
  • “qualify” means you have to have a minimum of 67 points in order to be allowed to create a profile on the Express Entry system. You also need to have taken a language test and had your credentials assessed prior to creating a profile.
  • Creating a profile is also called “entering the Pool”
  • Once you’re in the Pool, you will be assigned a score (out of maximum 1200) based on your profile.
  • Depending on your score, you may get invited to apply (ITA). If you have a LMIA-based job offer, you are guaranteed an ITA, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will be issued an ITA at the next draw.
  • Once you are issued an ITA, you can submit your application for permanent residence online and processing will take 6 months.
  • CIC has projected 65,000 ITAs per year in this program (of its ~250,000 overall annual immigration target)

People who are in the Pool without job offers must be feeling bitter this morning. Many of them are people who have lived here for 4-6 years as international students and who have 1 year of work experience to qualify for Canada Experience Class (CEC). They may not have a permanent full-time job offer because their work on their post-graduate work permits was on a term-basis only, or they have an employer that couldn’t be hassled to support a LMIA or PNP application (big banks are notorious for having this policy). So they hinged their hopes for staying in Canada on CEC. Until last night.

The only solace is that 779 ITAs out of an annual 65,000 is nothing. It really looks like a test-drive of the ITA/EE system as bugs continue to be worked out.

Logic dictates that CIC will have to make a deeper “scoop” into the Pool if it wants to make Express Entry a success and is serious about its projections.

Now is not the time to lose hope completely. But it is the time to come up with some creative strategies for working within the Express Entry system, such as the owner/operator LMIA. If you can’t beat ’em…

Our office is abuzz with interest and inquiries about the new immigration programs starting in January. There are still more questions than answers, but here is what we know as of now, and a few things that should help people who are considering applying in the new Express Entry Stream.

Opening in January 2015, Express Entry is not actually a new program. Instead, it is a new way of processing skilled workers (including Canada Experience, Skilled Trades and Skilled Workers and some provincial nominees – more about that in next week’s blog).

People who want to apply will submit an online profile on CIC’s Express Entry website, which will include details about their employment, education, language skills and credential assessments. This is called “the Pool”. On a “frequent basis” (CIC has not told us exactly what that means), candidates will be selected from the Pool and will be invited to submit their permanent residence application (fees, forms and documents such as police checks and proof of medical exams). CIC promises a 6-month processing time. Meaning, from the date you submit your application, you will become a PR within 6 months. Unfortunately, it will be difficult to know if you will be invited out of the Pool to apply. You could be swimming around in there for months. After a year of being in the Pool, if you have not been invited to apply, your profile will expire.

However CIC promises that if you have a valid LMIA (formerly LMO), and meet all the other requirements (including language and credential assessments), you are guaranteed to be invited to apply for PR. If you have a current, valid LMIA and are interested in becoming a permanent resident of Canada, below are two things you can do NOW to enable your profile to be put in the Pool as soon as the program opens. We have also been told that LMIA applications for permanent job offers will have no government fee and a processing time of ten days.

Things to do:
1. Take a language test. Here are some links to information about the language level you must attain in order to qualify in the various programs:

Skilled Workers (i.e. University-educated, professionals)

Skilled Trades

Canadian Experience Class

2. Get your credentials assessed/certified:

Skilled Workers

Skilled Trades

Although it sounds daunting, I am of the view that anything is better than what we have now, which are limited programs for limited people in limited occupations, with unreasonable processing times. Not a great way of attracting immigrants to Canada.

We will continue to update our clients and website periodically as new information becomes available.

In the meantime, whEE! and EEk!

Lots to stay on top of over the next 6 months in terms of changes to Canadian immigration law and policy.

First up, yesterday, CIC announced changes to the live-in caregiver program
So, it’s no longer live-in. And there is an annual cap on the number of permanent residence applications that can be submitted in the program. Finally, CIC is going to try to speed up the PR applications currently in process to get rid of the 30K backlog. All good, right? Right?! Right….

Next, I got the Ebola visa blues
As of October 31, 2014, processing of all visa applications of people who are in or have been in Ebola affected countries is being suspended. The “countries affected” now include Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. I assume the US is not on the list even though it, too, is affected. Hmmm….

Finally,  yesterday, the Federal Government lost its application for a stay pending appeal of this decision:
This means that health care cuts to certain refugee claimants will be reinstated as of Tuesday, while the appeal is in process. Health care to refugee claimants seems like such a drop in the bucket compared to other cost-cutting measures that could be made, if cost was the only issue. Is it really ok to deny pregnant refugee claimants prenatal health care? Really?

In the coming months, we can expect more big changes, including:

  • Express Entry
  • Immigrant Investor Venture Capital Pilot Program
  • Business Skills Pilot Program
  • Nova Scotia’s Regional Labour Market Demand Stream
  • Nova Scotia’s “TBA” Business Immigration Program

Can’t wait. It’s all music to this immigration lawyer’s ears.