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.

Read the Transcript

You can download a complete, word-for-word transcript of this episode, [spoiler]Welcome to the Canadian Immigration podcast episode 3. My name is Mark Holthe, and I’m an immigration lawyer with Holthe Tilleman in the beautiful province of Alberta, Canada. In this episode we are going to be talking about the express entry program that will be starting in January of 2015. As everyone is preparing for the program, this podcast is designed to give you tips and strategies on how to prepare now, so that you are ready when the program opens up to submit your application.

The title of the podcast is the top five things that you need to prepare now to increase your chance of early selection. Just recently Citizenship and Immigration Canada finally released the criteria that they are using to assess candidates who are applying under the Canada experience– the Canadian express entry process. For the most part we now have a pretty good idea what they are going to be looking for when they are extending invitations to apply or ITAs too for nationals who are applying and submitting their profiles into their express entry pool.

Now I’m not going to spend too much time going over the general program. There are an unbelievable amount of resources out in the public domain already that talk about the express entry program, and so I don’t intend to do that. The best location for information and resources on the express entry program is actually Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s main website. If you check my show notes that are attached to this podcast, I’ll have a number of different links that you can access to find these resources.

The express entry website contains a lot of excellent information, both directed towards employers and foreign workers or foreign nationals who are looking at utilizing this process of obtaining permanent residence status in Canada. There is also a link now to the comprehensive rankling system that will be used by the government when they are essentially ranking individuals against others within the pool to select what they determine to be the best and the brightest and the most applicable to our current labor market needs. I’ve also provided a link within the show notes to the regulations that are proposed and stipulate basically the legal foundation for the express entry program; obviously not everybody is into statutory interpretation, and reading the laws as they are drafted in statutory form.

Don’t get me wrong, as a lawyer I definitely don’t enjoy reading those, but the reality is my clients expect me to do it, and so I do in order to stay on top of everything. And in fact as far as I’m concerned having understanding of the laws that really drive immigration is critical to practice immigration law with any degree of confidence. So there is a link there for those of you who are into that kind of thing, but ultimately right now if you are looking for general information, the CIC website is really good. In other podcasts to come, I’ll address more factors related to the comprehensive ranking system including ways in which to improve your score with respect to the human capital factors and the skill transferability factors, which I won’t get into a lot of details here, but those are some of the factors the government looks at when they are determining which candidates they want to select for the program.

With the temporary foreign worker cap quickly approaching on April the 1st of 2015, I think the only thing that really matters to foreign workers that are currently working in Canada, at least those who are in skill level B positions, is how they can apply and what they need to do to get in as quickly as possible, so that they can find a way to stay here especially when their work permits are capping out, or their employers if they are in the food service industry or other service oriented industries, if their employers are employing more than 10% foreign workers, then their permits are not able to be extended either.
So there is a number of people that are looking at ways in which they can apply through this new express entry process, but at the end of the day this particular podcast is going to be focused on the things that we need to do right now to get ready so that when that program is released in January that you will be ready to submit your application right away and hopefully get selected within the first selection process.
With some of the employer outreach meetings that I have attended lately, they are indicating that the first draw from the express entry pool will likely occur at the end of January. So if you want to get your application in, I’m going to cover a few of the most important things that I feel you need t do right now before we even really know what they are going to be requesting when the application process is officially released.

Now as I scan through the web and I look at all the resources there it’s absolutely amazing, all of the marketing strategies that are popping up all over the internet, I was searching just the other day express entry, and it took me to this site and I couldn’t even tell if it was CIC or whether it was some other organization, but there was a box to click and you could register and provide your information, allegedly I guess to this organization so that they could start the process of preparing for express entry, but at the end of the day it took me a little while to dig back until I realized that it wasn’t Citizenship and Immigration Canada, but it was some other anonymous site. And it’s absolutely unbelievable how many different resources whether they are videos or infographics, describing the process or fancy websites, it’s quite amazing.

But one thing I would advise as you’re going through this process and if you are someone who’s looking at the express entry program, be careful who you use. Ultimately I’ve always felt that if a website is advertising their expertise with respect to Canadian Immigration, and there is no link directly to the professional, whether it’s a consultant or a lawyer who will be acting on your behalf, I would be very weary. Alternatively, many websites boast the number of years of experience that the firm has, the fact of the matter is whether you are a lawyer or a consultant, and your firm has 5000 years of experience in immigration, essentially if the paralegals or the support stuff are the ones that are completing the applications, and there is no direct oversight or ongoing training from that particular lawyer or consultant down to their support staff, well that vast experience that they are boasting really isn’t going to help you in any of it.

So choose wisely and not cheaply, is probably the best way to look at it. Now like I said I was pretty amazed with some of the amazing resources that are out there, and in particular some of the professional videos that have been produced by some of my colleagues at least are quite impressive. In fact as I was watching them I was thinking to myself boy CIC should adopt these and put them on the official express entry website, because they do an excellent job of explaining from a 10,000 foot level how the program is supposed to work.

So as I sit here late this evening doing this podcast, feeling a little bit of website/video envy wondering to myself how is my awesome little law firm going– with a simple website going to compete with this slick marketing campaigns of these larger sophisticated competitors. And as I thought about that a lot, I’ve come to realize it probably doesn’t even matter, I probably don’t even have to compete with them at all, and realistically I couldn’t I don’t have the resources to do it. So instead what I’m going to do it continue to focus on what I do best, and that is providing informative blogs, and releasing useful podcasts that actually give information that you can use to help you manage and work your way through this immigration process.
I also have and I’ll let you know now at this time that there is a separate Canadian Immigration Answers podcast that I created, and I realized that it probably made more sense to have a separate podcast just to answer all those questions that I get, and then reserve this one to talk about more higher level strategic information regarding the changes that Citizenship and Immigration Canada is making to all of their various permanent and temporary immigration programs.

So that is my goal, and hopefully if you like what you hear, and you get the idea that I know a little bit about what I’m talking about, then you will have what greater desire to consider booking a consult with our firm and using us. But at the end of the day the goal behind this podcast and the other blogs that I write and information that I provide is to allow people who want to do it themselves the opportunity to get some free advice and free information, and I’ll put the disclaimer out there this is general information, it’s not to be utilized for, or intended to be legal advice, because every person’s circumstances are different. And the only real way that proper legal advice can be given and relied upon is if the specific details of that person or your immigration situation is discussed in a consultation form.

So I put that out there, if you are interested in booking a consult with me any time, just go to our website, ht-llp.com and follow the links and set up a consult, I’d be happy to discuss any of your immigration needs. So enough of me talking about myself, and going out of my way to plug our firm, let’s get right into these top five things that you must do, really at this stage if you have any hope of increasing your chances of getting drawn quickly through the express entry process. So April 1st 2015 is the four year cap for a lot of people, but as I indicated not just those that have been in Canada for four years, but also those who are employed with companies that are up until the overhaul of the foreign worker program in June of this past year had a greater proportion of foreign workers than allowed.

So essentially 10% is the limit, any companies that have more than that, they are not going to be able to extend their work permits, and obtain new labor market impact assessments for their employees. Okay, so the first thing you must apply immediately for any critical 3rd party supporting documentation. So in other words these are documents that are outside of your control in terms of how fast you can get them. Some of the examples that come to mind immediately are the language test results, and so we know when it comes time to apply for the express entry program we need to have our language, our English language capabilities assessed. The government has sanctioned on the English side two organizations to administer these tests, the first is the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index program commonly known as CELPIP, and the other is the International English Language Testing System or IELTS.

So with each of those the general test is the one that you would take, and also within my show notes I’ve got some links to some sample tests and for both of those organizations. Ultimately you have to remember that if you are trying to get into express entry and you know you need language testing, and everybody is trying to get in as well, each of these 3rd party sources are going to be inundated, so don’t wait until January the 1st once you know for sure what’s required, we know English will be. So go ahead get that test, book it quickly, it will be valid for up to two years, so do it now and then you will have it and you won’t have to worry about it later, and it will save you time, and this is what we are trying to do. Collect the information that we need as much as possible in advance, so that when January the 1st rolls around you will be ready to hit the pavement running, and be ahead of the other ones racing to get their applications in.

Okay, so all underneath this third party, the first one which is obtaining the third party supporting documentation first is the language test results. Second is the educational credential assessment. So right now the federal skilled worker program is really the only one that specifically requires there ECAs or Educational Credential Assessments. However if you want to obtain more points under the human capital factors of express entry, you really need to get your credentials assessed, and right now the processing times with some of these testing locations has really climbed over the last little stretch. And so we are looking it up to three or four months with some of them in order to obtain that ECA.

Now our latest experience and I’ve provided a list within my show notes, that there is lots of links there that will take you directly to the source of information. I’m not going to regurgitate it here, I’m not going to basically restate everything that’s on the government website, my goal is to give you practical tips and show you where to find the information. But within that list I’ve designated organizations. The one that we found tends to turn things around the quickest right now is the world education services.

So it maybe a quicker option, however you need to shop around, and ultimately if you are in a situation where money isn’t the biggest issue but time is everything, please call around, ask for processing times, and if you’re just not sure there is nothing preventing you from making that request for an ECA from multiple organizations. So that’s a possible consideration too, and then obviously if you– it would be expected that the assessments that you get back are going to be comparable I would hope so, but in the event they are not then I guess you’ll take the one that’s most favorable to you.

All right, the next third party document is a police clearance. So depending on the countries where you need clearances from, processing times can be pretty high. So take a quick look and reach out to the organizations and get that started immediately. Obviously if you have filled your application or at least you’ve expressed an interest and submitted your profile into the express entry pool, if you are given an ITA you have only 60 days to get your permanent residence application filed. So there isn’t time for you to really start requesting police clearances at that late hour, especially when you are trying to get permanent residence as quickly as possible because you are capping put on your work permit.

So what you need to do is start the process now, if it’s going to take a number of months to get it, at least keep copies of all of the efforts you’ve made to request it. So if there is an application form, keep a copy of what you sent to the police authority, you can then use that evidence to support the fact that you’ve made the application and it’s our understanding that CIC will accept that if they’ve seen that you’ve already applied and you’re just waiting. But if you’ve done nothing and you reach the police clearance stage of your application, then and you are scrambling to get the police clearance, if you run out of time, you are going to get bounced right back into the pool and maybe not even get drawn again. So there is a link within the show notes as well, to the CIC website where it’s the basic information on attaining police clearances for various jurisdictions all throughout the world.

The last third party document is an immigration medical. These immigration medicals are valid for a year, so with express entry holding out that they will turn an application around in less than six months, it makes perfect sense to move forward and get that immigration medical and do an upfront medical right now. Remember that immigration medicals have to obtained from a designated panel physician within CIC. So CIC has identified doctors all around the world and they are specifically trained to do immigration medicals, and have the resources to electronically transmit those results to CIC.

So go to the show notes, there is a global list of those panel physicians and find the one that is closest to you, start booking appointments immediately, because the reality is just like all of these other things the more people that apply, the longer the processing times, and you are going to have a lot harder time booking an appointment for a medical if there is 1000 other people trying to do so as well. So book now. So that is step one, a pretty comprehensive tip.

Next number two is to start collecting your civil status documents. Now when I think about civil status documents, the ones that come to mind right off the bat are birth certificates. Normally you would think that birth certificates will not be a big issue, however when you think about it foreign workers that are here in Canada often do not require a birth certificate necessarily to apply for a work permit, their passport is sufficient. So while you are here in Canada and if you’ve been here for a number of years sometimes it might be difficult to get that birth certificate, in fact some countries do not even issue birth certificates in the way that CIC likes to see them. So it’s really important that you take whatever steps you need to right now, to either locate your birth certificate right away, request help from family or friends in your home country to obtain access to one, or if need be which is sometimes the case, you need to order a new one and this takes time.

So I recommend that you do that immediately, and this also applies to marriage certificates as well. So birth certificate and a marriage certificate if applicable, get on those right away. The next civil status documents are passports. Now you’d think what’s the big deal with the passport, I have my passport. Well check the expiry date. On occasion we are just about ready to file a permanent resident application for a client when we realize that the passport was expiring in just a few months. Well obviously CIC requires that passports be at least six months at the time of visa issuance. So if your passport is going to be expiring in one year or less, I strongly encourage you that you start taking steps to extend it or to renew it.

Ultimately we know CIC is going to be super strict with these express entry applications, and if you’ve gone through the process, entering your profile into the express entry pool, you are lucky enough to obtain an invitation to apply, and then you submit a permanent resident application only to have it rejected because your passport is not valid long enough, that would be just a terrible shame. So make sure that you don’t leave any stone unturned when it comes to ensuring that your application is complete. The consequences can be devastating especially if you are counting on that permanent residence application to go through, so that you could potentially qualify for a bridging work permit before your existing permit expired.

Now as I indicated before, you often will only have 60 days to file your permanent resident applications, and so once that ITA is granted or extended to you, you really have to move quickly, because otherwise you just will not have enough time to meet the deadlines. Now some people may say I know someone who was able to submit a copy of their existing passport that was going to be expiring, and then indicate to CIC that they would provide a copy of the new passport once it was obtained, and in the past without a doubt we did that all the time. But I just want to emphasize how strict they have told us at all of my national executive committee meetings with the CBA and other organizations, they have repeatedly instructed to us that they are going to be very strict.

So gone are the days where if something was deficient they would send a letter to you telling you what was deficient and holding your application. Now if there is something wrong with it, if you forgot a birth certificate, if you didn’t include the proper language assessment with your application, it would be returned, and you would be put back into the pool and who knows maybe by that time the quality of candidates will have increased and that pass mark to be selected may be beyond you. So we’re talking about, this is a really-really serious time when it comes to immigration, especially given the consequences for foreign workers that are going to be capping out.

Okay, third thing, third tip or I should say the third top thing that you can do is to start collecting your reference letters. We know that we need those reference letters to support our permanent residence applications, and that’s whether it’s under the Canada experience class, the federal skilled worker or federal skilled trade programs, and in all honesty even the provincial nominee program, those that support skilled workers through employer driven streams. So collect your reference letters, remember that each program whether it’s CEC, federal skilled worker, federal skilled trade, that each of them have little differences within what they want to see in those reference letters. If you go to the show notes once again, and you’ll be able to see links to the various document checklist. Follow those document checklists explicitly.

We have seen CIC refuse to accept reference letters when they have been deficient of those specific things that they want to see in them. Now I won’t go into detail as to how those letters are supposed to look. You can go to the document checklist and look at them, but just make sure that you if you know which program, which permanent residence program you’re ultimately shooting for, follow that checklist and you get those reference letters in place. Like I said given the consequences once again you just don’t want to take a chance.

Now it’s possible that CIC could change those document checklist after the new express entry program has been launched, however it’s pretty unlikely because they have told us in our meetings that and within all the materials they published on their websites that the basic permanent residence programs will not change. It’s just the imposition of this express entry scheme at the front end to allow them to choose who they want to apply for permanent residence. Now with these reference letters we also have some other concerns, part of the requirement when you are applying under these economic class is to show that you are working in a skilled occupation.

So this is something that I haven’t yet addressed, but if you are working in a low wage or low skill I should say occupation, you will not be eligible to participate through express entry. So food counter attendants, general construction laborers or trades helpers, these types of positions general farm laborers, will not be eligible to apply thorough express entry, you will have to turn to whatever provincial program maybe available to you. So with this process and knowing that you have to be working in a skilled occupation, Immigration Canada requires you to tell them which one you think it is.

There is a little bit of confusion with this, they use the national occupational classification code which is a comprehensive database of all of the positions that people can fill across the country. You have to slack which position matches the job you are currently filling. Now the confusion lies with the fact that there is a 2006 NOC and a 2011 NOC. Remember that CIC uses the 2011 NOC for the purposes of express entry. So when you are trying to track down which position matches yours, don’t just simply rely on the NOC hold placed in you labor market impact assessment confirmation if you have one. Don’t just rely on that because ESDC and the temporary foreign worker program uses the 2006 NOC. Now you will ask why is that? Why does the government for permanent applications use the 2011 NOC, and for temporary work applications use the 2006 NOC?

Well the answer to that question is really money, resources. The temporary foreign worker program was– all of the internal software that they use to generate LMIA confirmations, was all built, and engineered based on the old 2006 NOC, and the cost of switching over to the 2011 at this stage just didn’t make sense. So it was going to cost took much for the benefit. So we now have to deal with two separate NOCs and knowing which of them applies to what we are trying to accomplish when we are accessing the Canadian Immigration process. So be careful with that.

Now the final one that I will identify, at least the final concern with reference letters is the fact that your position truly has to match the position within the NOC. So how do you identify properly which one it is that fits for you? Well the law in the regulations immigration refugee protection regulations, specifically state that if you want the position to match, you must be able to demonstrate that you performed the actions set out in the leads statement for the occupation as well as a substantial number of the main duties listed for that occupation as it’s set out in the description on the NOC website. So you need to take a close look at that lead statement because you need to have completed all of those things that apply, and then a substantial number of the main duties.

If your position departs too far away from the position you feel is the match, then you’re probably off base and will need to look for a different one, this is a situation where we’ve seen a lot of refusals under the Canada experienced class, because they’ve not felt the person actually is performing the duties of a skilled worker, or the position that they’ve sought when in actuality they feel they are in more of a low skill position. So be careful and remember that if the duties don’t match, there is a good chance– a strong likelihood that the permanent residence application you’ve just filled is going to be refused. This process is not easy, it’s technical, it’s difficult. So pay close attention to it and follow the links, once again that I have in my show notes.
All right, here’s the fourth thing that you can do. Complete the existing PR application forms now. You are probably saying well isn’t this supposed to be an electronic system, so why I’m I completing the paper application forms? Well the reality is there is a significantly good chance that the information you’re collecting to fill in the forms now, whether it’s through the CEC or the FSW or FST regardless that the forms you are filling for these are going to be very similar to the information that will be contained in the new electronic filing system.

So if you take the time to go through and search out your history and look back at where you’ve lived for the past 10 years and your travel history, if you go through that process, and trust me it will take time if you’ve moved around a lot, you’ll then be in a far better position to simply transcribe from those forms right into the electronic application process, which will obviously save your time and get you in faster than people that haven’t. Now if you are anything like me it will take you quite a while to figure out what exactly all the addresses you’ve lived at for the past 10 years, and that will take time. So if you do this work now, you’ll be in a really-really good position. Within the show notes I’ve included links to the application forms for each of those three categories, CEC, FSW, and FST.

Now the last one and this one is once again self-serving, and it’s a shameless plug for hiring our law firm, but the reality is if you are running out of time, you really should consider hiring an authorized representative to help you. I recognize that the whole purpose of me doing this is to encourage you to consider hiring our firm. But even if you don’t chose to engage us, and you are running out of time, understand that that cap is coming quick and any little mistake that you make is going to be the difference between staying in Canada, or having to go home.

Now in most case, foreign workers here you are currently working fulltime, and this may be the very first time that you’ve ever applied for permanent residence status in Canada. So like I said it goes without saying that you can’t afford to get it wrong. By hiring an authorized representative, at least someone that’s competent to do it, they can be working on your behalf, they know or should know the system, and the basic information inside and out, and can make sure that your application is submitted properly, vetted properly, and that it is filled as soon as practical. Now obviously you want to speak with that firm, and make sure you’ve locked down some hard deadlines when things need to be done, but by engaging an authorized rep sometimes it can help considerably with getting things filled quicker, just because they know the ins and outs.

Obviously when you do applications yourself sometimes you think you’ve done everything right, and when it comes to filling within the express entry pool, you could very well have completed what you needed to do, and got your profile accepted within the pool, but you may have missed out on some critical human capital or skill transferability points without even knowing it. And these points could have made the difference between being extended in ITA or languishing in the pool until it’s simply too late enough you have to return home.

So that’s my fifth tip and I think it’s probably as valuable as all the previous four, but ultimately the purpose of this blog, the blog that I wrote on the specific topic, and this podcast is to give you some resources that you can use to do it yourself. Ultimately my goal is to at the same time demonstrate to those who are interested in hiring an immigration representative that I know what I’m doing and that our firm does. So if you want to learn more about our services, what we offer, the various types of ways we can support you, go to our website at ht-llp.com, and send me a message.

Alternatively if you do just have a couple quick questions or questions that are of a general nature, then go to our ‘Ask a question’ portal, and you can type in your information there or you can click on the side bar and leave a voice message for me on the ask an immigration question tab. I will respond to these questions in my other podcast entitled Canadian Immigration Answers, and I will try to answer those frequently as I often find people ask similar questions.

So that’s another free resource that we are trying to give out to people that maybe can’t afford to hire a lawyer, and still need assistance and there a lot of you out there, I know there are. If you have specific questions or immigration problems that need immediate attention, then it’s probably best that you contact our office and book a consult and fork over the $100 for a 30 minute consult. Understand that long before that consult I will give you an intake form, you’ll complete it and send it to me, and I will review it before our meeting, so that 30 minutes is used to the absolute most efficient manner possible. And obviously stay tuned for our future blogs, and future podcasts on express entry and a wide variety of other Canadian immigration topics.

So this concludes this third episode of the Canadian Immigration podcast. Don’t forget to subscribe to it on iTunes and also to the Canadian Immigration Answers podcast. We’d also encourage you to like us on Facebook, and connect with me through LinkedIn and follow me on Twitter. This is Mark Holthe, a partner with Holthe Tilleman LLP, and I look forward to our next podcast.

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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

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