Episode 3: Express Entry – Top 5 Things To Prepare Now to Increase Your Chance of Early Selection


Listen to Mark Holthe’s Answer

[UPDATED: April 1, 2017]

Express Entry has now been in existence for a little over two years. We have learned a lot of very harsh lessons from how Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada has been processing applications. The most important overriding lesson is that IRCC will show no mercy to anyone submitting deficient applications. Failing to include a document, regardless of how insignificant, can result in the application be returned, or outright rejected on its merits.

Great care must be taken when submitting an Express Entry application.

Where to find the best  Express Entry information and resources

If you want to read the proposed legal provisions (if you are interested in that kind of thing) they are found here. Although I am a lawyer, don’t get the idea that I enjoy reading them. I do it because my clients expect it and to practice immigration law with any degree of competence, you need to understand the actual regulations and law governing the immigration process and not just accept, at face value, an officers interpretation of what they think it is – especially when you are faced with a refusal of your application.

With this being said, not everyone can make sense of statutory language, so the best source of information is the official Express Entry Website that provides excellent information in a way that most of us can understand. You will want to examine carefully the section describing how the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) works. This will give you a very good idea as to the factors CIC considers most important for foreign nationals desiring to immigration to Canada under one of our Economic Class programs.

In future blogs I will spend more time breaking down the CRS formula including how to increase your score through improving your core “Human Capital” and “Skill Transferability” factors.  However, with the high number of Temporary Foreign Workers running out of time due to the April 1, 2015 cap, the only thing that really matters is how to ensure your application is complete and ready to submit on January 1, 2015 (or the earliest possible time after EE is launched) so that there is a chance of getting drawn as soon as possible.

Let’s face it, for many TFWs, time is just about up and this may be your last chance at remaining in Canada permanently (See my Blog entitled “Temporary Foreign Worker Program – 4 Year Cap is Looming: Top 5 Ways to Stay” if you would like other ideas on how you might be able to stay legally).

Authorized representatives and slick Express Entry marketing plans

With the impending launch of Express Entry, it is not surprising that all sorts of amazing marketing strategies are popping up all over the Internet.  Immigration lawyers and consultants are clambering to attract the attention of foreign nationals looking to engage a reputable representative to guide them through the Express Entry process. Although the decision to hire an authorized representative depends on a number of important factors, I would strongly encourage you to be very cautious engaging any firm or other immigration group that does not have their actual immigration professionals listed clearly on their website. I believe foreign nationals are taking a great risk when engaging a faceless entity to assist them with some of the most important decisions of their lives.

Make sure you know exactly who is representing you and who will be working on your file. It doesn’t matter if the lawyer or consultant managing the firm has 5000 years of experience in immigration. If their paralegal or other support staff are the ones completing the application, without direct oversight and ongoing training from that lawyer or consultant, the vast experience of that principal is ultimately meaningless. So choose wisely, not cheaply.

I must admit that I have been quite surprised at how quickly these new Express Entry marketing websites, entertaining videos and wide assortment of infographics have surfaced. In the vast majority of cases, the information is just a summary of the information contained within the CIC Express Entry website. However, some of the professional videos that have been produced by my colleagues within the immigration bar are quite impressive. In fact, after watching these informational videos on Express Entry,  I think CIC should adopt them and put them on the official Express Entry website. They are really well done.

So how can my little firm compete?

So as I sit here late at night feeling considerable “website/video envy”, wondering how my awesome little firm (with our simple little website) is going to compete with the slick marketing campaigns of my much large and sophisticated competitors, I realize that maybe I really don’t have to compete at all.

Maybe all I need to do is focus on what I do best!

I just need to keep writing informative blogs and releasing useful podcasts (you can subscribe to my “Canadian Immigration Podcast” and my “Canadian Immigration Answers” podcast on iTunes) that actually give people useful tips and strategies for navigating the soon-to-be troubled waters of Express Entry.

Express Entry minefields examined in future blogs.

However, notwithstanding the information and strategies I explain in this blog, candidates need to understand that although the government goes to great lengths to make the Express Entry process appear simple with no need to hire a representative to assist them, in fact, there are a number of potential minefields that can trip up an unsuspecting candidate and cause them to be, at best, bounced from the candidate pool and, at worst, barred from applying under the program for a minimum period of 5 years. However, I will also reserve the identification of these dangers for another blog.

This blog is all about knowing what you need to do now to give yourself the best chance of being selected early come January 1, 2015 when Express Entry is launched.

Express Entry - Top 5 Things

Top 5 things you must do now to increase your chance of getting drawn quickly for Express Entry

With the 4 year cap looming on April 1, 2015 and the corresponding desire of many TFWs to obtain PR status as quickly as possible in order to remain in Canada, I have provided below the top 5 things you need to do now in order to put yourself in the best position possible to file your application as soon as Express Entry opens on January 1, 2015.

1. Apply immediately for any critical third-party supporting documentation. In other words, if you have to request documentation from any outside agency, you are completely at the mercy of their processing times. As such, you must apply immediately because as more people start doing what you are doing, processing times will skyrocket. In order to submit your application you will need to have your supporting documentation ready. Although CIC may allow candidates to submit profiles without some original supporting documents, they will most definitely require proof that they had been applied for. The most critical of the “third-party” documents (things you need to apply for or book an appointment to get) include:

  • Language Testing Results (LTR). This is probably the most important “third-party” document you will need to obtain. You have the option of taking the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). You need only take the “General Test” for either option. Information regarding these tests can be found here. We have found that clients who learned English in the Americas generally do better with the CELPIP test as the accent is “Canadian” and often times easier to understand. The IELTS may be a little tougher because the accent tends to be more closely associated with continental English with its accompanying variations in terminology. Obviously if you learned continental English, the IELTS may suite you just fine.

[HINT: Sample CELPIP tests can be accessed here.]

[HINT: Sample IELTS test samples can be accessed here.]

  • Educational Credential Assessments (ECA). Although ECAs are only mandatory for FSW applicants, a favourable ECA report will earn you more points for education on the CRS and improve your chances of being drawn. Once again, processing times are the real issue. With all of the credential assessment locations being inundated with requests, processing times are climbing all over the place. In some cases, there are delays of up to 3 or 4 months to obtain an ECA. Make sure to call around and specifically ask for processing times. CIC has provided a list of the designated organizations for ECAs here. Our latest experience suggests that the World Education Services may be one of the quicker options. However, you need to shop around. If you are desperate and running out of time and money is not an option, you may even consider submitting your credentials for assessment at multiple locations and take the results that come back the quickest. Obviously, one would expect that the assessments should be comparable. However, if they are not, then presumably you would use the one that provides the most favourable assessment.
  • Police Clearances (PC). Depending upon the countries from which you need clearances, you must at the very least start the process and document all of your efforts. If you are applying through a jurisdiction where the process can take up to 3 months or longer, you will be able to submit evidence to support the fact you have applied for the clearances. However, if you do not keep copies of the efforts you are making to secure your police clearance, CIC will bounce your application if you have submitted nothing and are at the police clearance stage.

[HINT: Police Clearance information can be found here.

  • Immigration Medicals (IM). Remember that immigration medical examinations must be obtained from a CIC designated Panel Physician. As is the case with ECAs and PCs, as candidates are rushing to complete IMs to finalize their PR applications, it will become increasingly difficult to book appointments with Panel Physicians. Book now so that you are able to get your IM right away. Immigration medicals are valid for a period of one year.

[HINT: The global list of CIC Panel Physicians can be found here.

2. Start collecting your civil status documents. Make sure that you have your birth certificates, marriage certificates (if applicable) and valid passports ready.

  • Birth Certificates. One of the most troublesome of the civil status documents is the birth certificate. Most TFWs in Canada came to Canada by virtue  of their passport and as such, may not have their birth certificates readily available. As such, we often find our clients scrambling to locate their birth certificates back in their home countries and frequently end up having to order new ones if they are lost. This process can take time, so make sure that you have either your birth certificate in hand, can easily access it, or have ordered a new one. This advice would apply equally to marriage certificates as well.
  • Passports. The problem with passports is that they have an expiry date. We have had a number of occasions where we were preparing to file a PR application for a client when we realized that the passport was expiring in just a few months. Make sure your passport is valid for at least one year. If it is not, we recommend that you take steps immediately to have it extended as CIC requires a passport to be valid for at least 6 months at the time of visa issuance. We know that CIC is going to be super strict when it comes to supporting documentation, so although we have been able to submit copies of expired passports in the past with an accompanying statement indicating that an application had been filed for an extension or a new one, I would strongly discourage doing this now as CIC will have no problem returning a person to the EE pool if a complete application has not been filed within the 60 day window.

3. Collect reference letters. Make sure that all reference letters meet the minimum expectations of the various PR programs. If you want to know exactly what the reference letters currently need to look like, go directly to the document checklists for each specific program – Canada Experience Class (CEC), Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSW), Federal Skilled Trades (FST). CIC has confirmed that they will not be making substantive changes to the CEC, FSW, or FST categories when EE is introduced. However, it is possible the some of these requirements could change. Given the consequence of further delays, it makes sense to get the letters in accordance with the existing instructions and then make any changes later in the event the document checklists are substantially changed by CIC. However, as I indicated previously, this is unlikely.

One of the areas that causes the most difficulty for foreign nationals is ensuring that they have properly matched their particular position with the correct National Occupational Classification (NOC) code. Please remember that CIC uses the 2011 NOC for the purposes of the Express Entry program, but the Temporary Foreign Worker Program uses the 2006 NOC. This distinction can be important if the duties and/or employment requirements for your position are different when comparing the 2006 NOC with the position profile for the 2011 NOC. Because of this distinction, be careful when relying blindly on the NOC code set out in your LMIA (LMO) confirmation. If you get the NOC code wrong, it could unravel your whole PR application and lead to a refusal thus placing you back into the EE pool.

Finally, in order to ensure a proper identification of your  position within the NOC, you must be able to demonstrate that you performed the actions set out in the “lead statement” for the occupation as well as a substantial number of the “main duties” of the occupation as set out in the occupational description of the NOC. If the duties do not match, the PR application may be refused.

4. Complete the existing PR application forms now. Identify the PR category or categories you feel you may qualify under and start completing all of the application forms as they currently exist.

We know that the EE application system will be electronic; however, it is highly probable that if you have taken the time to thoroughly complete the current application forms, this information will likely be the exact information you will need to complete the electronic based application materials once they are released. By completing the existing forms as a reference point, you can save considerable time after EE is launched because all you will need to do is transcribe the information from your forms into the EE electronic filing system.

There is nothing worse than having to waste valuable days attempting to recalling specific residential addresses and where you have travelled over the past 10 years. Depending upon your personal history, collecting this information can be extremely time consuming often necessitating the enlistment of family and friends living abroad to help in the search.

[HINT: Links to the EE eligible permanent resident programs are set out below:

Canada Experience Class

Federal Skilled Worker

Federal Skilled Trades

5. If you are running out of time, consider hiring an authorized representative. I recognize  that this may once again be a shameless plug for hiring our law firm. However, if you are racing to beat the Temporary Foreign Worker cap on April 1, 2015, you are going to need a lot of help. Not only are you likely working full time, but this will be your first experience applying for permanent resident status in Canada. It goes without saying that you can not afford to get it wrong. In fact, even if you get it right and manage to have your EE candidate profile placed into the pool, you may be missing out on critical human capital and skill transferability points without even knowing it. These points could make the difference between being extended an ITA and languishing in the pool until its simply too late and you have to return home.

Why hire Holthe Tilleman LLP?

As I indicated earlier in this blog, our firm does not have the resources to produce fancy videos, or the in-house talent to create slick infographics or other enticing marketing campaigns to entertain you or wow you with our sophistication. What we have to offer is what you see above – and we offer it freely.

Our desire is to provide tons of useful information and direction for those who want to “Do-it-themselves” while at the same time demonstrating to those interested in hiring an immigration representative that we know what we are doing and can actually help. If you want to learn more about the services we offer and why we feel we stand out from the crowd, click here.

Ask us a question!

If you have general questions regarding the Express Entry process or any Canadian immigration matter feel free to connect with us through the “Ask an Immigration Question” portal on our website (ht-llp.com). For those who would rather leave a voice message, you can also do so on our website by clicking the “Ask an Immigration Question” tab on the right side bar. I will respond to these general question via our new “Canadian Immigration Answers” podcast available for download on iTunes.

If you have specific questions and immigration problems that need to be addressed immediately, please contact our office directly to book a paid consult.

Stay tuned for future blogs on Express Entry and a wide variety of other Canadian immigration topics.

Canadian Immigration Podcast

And don’t forget to sign up for our “Canadian Immigration Podcast” also available for download on iTunes.

Mark Holthe

Partner, Holthe Tilleman LLP

Mark is an x-immigration officer with Citizenship and Immigration Canada having worked on the Canada/US border. He is currently serving as an Executive Member of the National Immigration Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association and Immediate Past-Chair of the Alberta South Immigration Section of the CBA. He is a frequent speaker and educator on Canadian Immigration Law and Policy and regularly offers seminars and workshops to lawyers, consultants, and human resource personal related to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the transitioning of foreign workers to permanent resident status in Canada.

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16 thoughts on “Episode 3: Express Entry – Top 5 Things To Prepare Now to Increase Your Chance of Early Selection

  1. I have to create my EE profile. I am baving 70 points in FSW Program. But problem is i am not having my Date of Birth certificate. I was born on 12.12.1984 in India. At that time it was not necessary to get DOB. It is compulsory for kids born on or after 1989.
    So can i submit my 10th Certificate, Passport copy or PAN Card copy in place of DOB Certificate??
    Are documents needed to upload at time of E.E profile creation or document are requiredafter getting ITA.?

    • Dr. Shukla,

      Thanks for reaching out to me. I am happy to answer the questions you have. However, some of them depart slightly from the typical immigration questions I receive. However, I do work physicians in Canada and have a brother-in-law who is a Maxillo Facial surgeon just like your wife. I will need a little more time to answer your licensing questions. However, in the interim I recommend that you register for my free Express Entry webinar that will take place on November 2, 2015 at 6:00pm MST. Many of your questions regarding express entry will be answered during that webinar.

      I hope to have you join me. Have a wonderful day.


  2. I submitted my ee E-apr application online.In that my Indian pcc is missing but I submitted supporting receipt that i applied,also in my letter i mentioned I will upload it as soon as I received. So received now can I upload it or have to wait till officer request. also mentioned whengot AOR you are sucessfully uploaded dont send any supporting documents untill we ask. Not mentioned about pcc. So my question is can I upload it now or wait till officer ask. Please reply.Waitin for your reponce.

    • Veera,

      This is an extremely tenuous situation. We have had CIC refuse one of our express entry applications because we did not provide the PCC when we first uploaded the PR application into the portal. This was despite our explanation that we would forward it once it was received. CIC’s “one touch” policy has created significant problems for many people.

      Although there is no clear policy on this, I highly recommend that you upload a copy of the PCC immediately to the Case Specific Inquiry: https://secure.cic.gc.ca/enquiries-renseignements/canada-case-cas-eng.aspx and make sure to choose “Express Entry” as the Type of Application.

      At the very least, you will have defensible position that you have complied with all requirements of the program just in case they decide to bounce your application. When we followed this practice for other clients, we have still received a request from CIC to upload the document into the EE portal despite already doing it through the Case Specific Inquiry line; however, I take no chances these days and never wait for the request from CIC. I am always proactive so that in the event CIC refused the application, I have grounds to Judicially Review the decision for lack of procedural fairness if need be.

  3. Dear Mark,

    I have a dobut regarding occupation selection for FSW visa.

    I finished my bachelors (BSc Maths, Physics, chemistry) in 2007 and learned some software courses from June 2007 to June 2008 then got a job in July 2008 as a software trainee engineer (but designation was Jr. GIS Engineer).

    Since I got the job as a software trainee engineer, I started studying MCA (Masters in computer Applications in Aug 2008). I finished Masters course in 2011 as regular While working as a full time employee.

    My employer sent me to Australia on work visa (457) in January 2012. While my company was applying for work visa to Australia they have mentioned my occupation as an “Electrical Engineering design Drafts Person” in work visa 457 application to get the visa for sure. So my occuaption type in 457 visa approved letter is “Electrical Engineering design Drafts Person”

    I had been worked in Australia from Jan 2012-Aug 2015 under “Electrical Engineering design Drafts Person” occupation, but roles and responsibilities are equal to software engineer .

    Since September 2015 I have been working in India with designation as Sr. GIS Engineer. I have asked my managers and Hr department to change my designation to Software engineer. They said they will change my designation in next appraisal time taht is in April 2016.

    Now I am planing to apply for FSW canada PR visa under “2173 Software engineers and designers”. My Question is will there be any problem to choose 2173 because of my Australian work visa approval letter occupation type (“i.e. Electrical Engineering design Drafts Person”) ?

    Can I apply for FSW PR under “2173 Software engineers and designers” or do I have to choose “Electrical Engineering design Drafts Person”?

    Second questions is my employer is not willing to provide work experience or reference letter to apply for visa. In this case how I can proceed? is it okay if I get a statutory declaration letter from my team leader or from my colleague?

    Thank you very much for your time & help in advance.

  4. Hello Mark,
    I hope you are doing well. I am temporary foreign worker in Canada. I have question regarding the level of education i have to select when i create profile. I have the ECA report from the WES. I did 3 years bachelor in science and 2 years masters in science from India. In my ECA report i got 4 years bachelor for my masters degree(back home) and 3 years bachelor for my bachelor degree(back home). Other than that i also have 2 years post secondary diploma from Canada. So can i select”’ Two or more certificates, diplomas, or degrees. One must be for a program of three or more years”’ OR i have to select “”””Bachelor’s degree OR a three or more year program at a university, college, trade or technical school, or other institute?””””I
    I hope to hear from you.
    Thank you

    • Two or more certificates would be just fine because you will be able to use the WES report for one and the Canadian credential for the other.

  5. Hi,

    I am applying under FSWP through express entry. The minimum requirement is one year of canadian work experience. My Canadian work experience is falling short by just 20 days. But I qualify to apply because cic does not ask for date it asks only for month and year when entering the pool. I am worried once I receive ITA and have to submit reference letters, is cic going to be too strict in calculating exact 365 days? Should I go and apply? Just being short by 20 days is lowering my scores by 73 points making my score quite low than cut off. Is there any other way I can apply for PR because even though I am short by just one month, it is very difficult to find a job nowadays and I am not positive that I can get a job. Thanks.

  6. Hi i hv just got an ITA for canada. It is now that i realize that i hv some petty mistakes in my express entry profile but m not able to change it at this point. Firstly, i am single but i have mentioned 4 family members ( mistakenly counting my parents and an independent brother) instead of 1 in express entry prifile. Secondly, i hv my uncle and his family living in canada so instead of naming the relative as my uncle i mistakenly mentiond ‘brother’ in expeess entry profile. Lastly, i am confused between the the two NOC codes viz. 4011 and 4012 still m sticking to 4012 in both express entry profile as well as in my E-APR. I am having valid proofs to substantiate first 2 points.
    Can I change the above mentioned points in my E-APR without misrepresenting the information or without risking my application to get rejected?

    • You need to decline the ITA, correct the errors in the profile and then resubmit. However, because I do not really know much about your personal circumstances, there may be other factors that I am unaware of that could alter the advice given. Ultimately, the errors need to be corrected otherwise it could result in refusal of the eAPR at best and a finding of misrep at worst.

  7. Good day Mark, Thanks for all your input. my question goes thus.. For countries where one has lived over 6 months and above one needs to provide police clearance. I lived in India briefly and i’ve been finding it difficult getting Indian PC because Indian authorities insist i travel down to India to get it because i’m not indian. Travelling down to India is not possible except i quit my job and going to India doesn’t guarantee me getting the PC. What do you advise. Almost all foreigners who lived in India faces this problem. I’m already in the pool but no ITA yet. I also have proofs of correspondences to show i’ve been trying to get the PC to no avail

    • Grace, unfortunately, PCs are one of the most frustrating aspects of Express Entry. I will also address this in my new Express Enry website that will be launched shortly. In the mean time subscribe to my newsletter and I will be sure to let you know when it is released.

  8. Nice commentary – I was enlightened by the facts ! Does someone know if my business could possibly obtain a sample a form document to work with ?

  9. Dear Sir

    I wrongly selected the education qualification in WES education,i.e instead of University education I have mentioned professional education.I have sent lot of mail regarding it to WES customer service.But i never receive any mail back.Kindly help me with that