Express Entry Tips

By Peter Wong, QC

Having now seen the process in action for the past 12 months I would like to provide some advice and direction to those persons who are looking to file applications under Express Entry.  This advice is not intended to be exhaustive but hopefully will be helpful to those persons who are looking to improve their chances of being successful in the system.  Overall, it has proven to be a very unforgiving system whereby any errors or omissions at both the profile stage or second stage processing can result in an instant rejection with little recourse for complaint.  The only real alternative after a rejection letter is to resubmit a new profile and hope that a new invitation is issued.  Rejection letters do indicate that profile information is kept for a period of 60 days from the date of the letter, but it is entirely unclear whether that would result in a new invitation unless the profile was amended or somehow repopulated with new information. 

Tip 1

Do not submit your Express Entry profile until you are ready to submit the remaining documentation within 60 days.  This is the most important single piece of advice that I can provide as the problem that most applicants encounter is the 60 day deadline for documentation to be submitted after the Invitation letter has been issued.  Problematic documents include educational assessments, police certificates, and sometimes medical reports, passports, marriage certificates, birth certificates and reference letters.  This last aspect of not having reference letters that support Federal Skilled Worker applications can result in rejections at the second stage of processing.  The lack of police certificates, or having the wrong type of police certificates are fatal to many applications that are otherwise perfect.  The reverse aspect of this tip is to submit your Express Entry profile so that your work permit and the underlying LMIA does not expire before you get a chance to submit all of your relevant documentation within the 60 day period.  In other words, if you qualify at the time of the invitation, but not at the time that they stage 2 documentation is submitted than you have the opposite problem of a material change in the circumstances between the time of the invitation and the time of the application being locked in (after stage 2 documentation has been uploaded).  If you have a time frame issue, then best to get your EE profile and your stage 2 documentation ready to go at the same time, so that if you get the invitation you are then able to turn around and file your necessary documentation immediately. 

Tip 2

The Express Entry system chooses the category that you qualify under; you do not get to choose which category that you qualify under.  Express Entry basically covers 4 economic classes, including Federal Skilled Worker, Federal Skilled Trade, Canadian Experience Class, and certain provincial nominations.  It is important to understand that the system chooses which Class you fall under. So, you might qualify under both Federal Skilled Worker and Canadian Experience Classes, but the Invitation Letter will only be issued under a single category regardless of how many categories you may qualify under.  This is the most important aspect of the Invitation Letter as the category that you are chosen under dictates what you require as far as stage 2 documentation.  For example, for Federal Skilled Worker, reference letters from past employers are crucial to the successful of the application at the second stage as you must be able to prove your work experience under the main duties for relevant skilled work experience.  Also, if points are assessed under the Educational Factors for post secondary education not taken in Canada, then the lack of a WES educational assessment is fatal to the processing at the second stage if it under Federal Skilled Worker.  The key point to understand in this tip is that once you are selected by the Invitation Letter then all of your documentation must be completed with that selection in mind.  It is a common mistake in cases that I have reviewed that one category is set out in the Invitation letter and the documentation is geared towards what the applicant wanted to be categorized under. 

Tip 3

Experience letters do matter, particular for Federal Skilled Worker Class.  If you are selected under the Federal Skilled Worker category, make sure that all supporting relevant work experience letters contain the essential elements that are required for such reference letters.  They must be from the employer, on letterhead, signed and dated.  The dates of employment, job title and salary information are all part of such letters.  The most important aspect that is commonly missed is that the main duties of the position, as described under the National Occupation Classification, are not properly described in many reference letters.  This is a common problem that will end up in refusal if the work experience that is described is not sufficient, or describes another occupation.  Further, it is not a good idea that the descriptions simply just parrot the NOC description as it must be an accurate description of the duties undertaken.  This factor is likely the single biggest reason for failures of applications at stage 2 processing. 

Tip 4

Proving work experience in a skilled position in Canada is essential for the Canadian Experience Class. For CEC applications the main documentation that needs to be provided relate to the hours of employment that have taken place over the course of one year.  The minimum requirement for hours is 1560 over a course of 12 months.  This can be a combination of full and part time, but it cannot be done in less than 52 weeks, nor can any week have less than 30 hours per week in the 52 weeks proven.  Nor can any of those hours be for unskilled or semiskilled work that is not classified under A, B or 0 NOC categories.  Do not apply if you are thinking that you qualify, until you have the requisite minimum number of hours (1560 hours) and the requisite number of weeks (52).  Proof of such hours may be accomplished through a combination of employment reference letters, pay stubs and tax records (T4).  If you are missing some of this documentation you may have difficulty proving that you qualify under this category and could be refused at the second stage, so better to have this documentation ready and available to prove that you qualify. 

Tip 5

Labour Market Impact Assessments ("LMIA") for permanent residence are a viable way to improve chances. Many people are unaware that there are 2 types of LMIA applications.  One is for temporary work status and the other is for supporting permanent residence applications, that would not assist in continuing foreign work employment in Canada, but would provide 600 points for Express Entry.  LMIA applications for permanent residence purposes do not have application fees attached to them such as foreign worker LMIAs ($1,000).  Permanent residence LMIAs are processed in a completely different unit than foreign worker applications and do not require transitional plans which are often a lot of effort for employers.  There are still advertising requirements for permanent residence LMIAs but in general terms this type of LMIA may be easier to get than foreign worker ones depending on the current market conditions of the area in which the foreign worker authorization is being sought.  At the very least, with the lack of an application fee, these may be more attractive for any employer willing to assist in supporting a permanent residence application. 

Tip 6

Expired Police Certificates, or ones that cover a limited time period should not be used. Careful attention needs to be paid to what police certificates are submitted for stage 2 processing.  If you are still resident in the country where the police certificate is obtained from then police certificates expire within 6 months.  If not, they do not expire!  Police certificates must be carefully reviewed to determine their validity and whether they are required for the application.  If they are not available at the time of stage 2 processing, then a letter must be uploaded in their place indicating when they will be available along with proof that they have been applied for.  The best advice is to apply for them in advance of the EE profile being uploaded to avoid the possibility of the Police Certificates not being available.  If they are in foreign languages proper translators certificates need to be available. 

Tip 7

Educational Assessments for foreign degrees and diplomas should be obtained in advance. Not every EE invitation requires that you upload foreign education credential assessment, but where they are required, be aware that they generally take more than 60 days to obtain.  The basic method of obtaining such assessment involves the foreign institution providing transcripts directly to the accredited assessment agency.  If they provide the proper documentation than a letter will be issued by the Educational Assessment Agency that is recognized by Canada Immigration.  The process can vary from several weeks to several months. 

Tip 8

English and French language requirements cannot be mixed and matched between language test marks. You can only use one test that is not older than 2 years.  That 2 year period runs from the date of the testing, not the date of the marks coming out.  If it expires between the time of the invitation and the time of the second stage documentation being submitted then you will be required to retake the test, and submit new results, otherwise the application will be rejected.