How Will the Express Entry Program Affect International Students?

May 2014

I have a new client, a dashing young gentleman who studied at Algonquin College here in Ottawa.  Last December, he obtained a professional job that will allow him to qualify for the Canadian Experience Class.

However, the Canadian Experience Class quota may have already been met by the time he has his one-year experience this December.  In addition, as of January 1, 2015, anyone applying for permanent residency in Canada through an economic immigration program will apply under the new "Express Entry program."


He and thousands of current and former international students are in difficult positions.  They have contributed to the Canadian economy by paying high fees to attend Canadian educational institutions, as well as purchasing both goods and services during their studies.  Most came to Canada hoping to stay – but staying might not be an option.

The government has released very few details on what the Express Entry program will look like.  This is what we know so far, though every aspect is subject to change:

  • All applications will be done online.
  • Applicants will submit basic information about themselves, such as their education and employment experience.
  • The applicants will then be "ranked."  The assessment system will look at:
    • English or French language proficiency
    • Education
    • Canadian work experience
    • Other factors that lead to success in Canada
  • Applicants must have a minimum ranking to be eligible for a pool of applicants awaiting selection for Canadian immigration.  The criteria from the current Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program, and the Canadian Experience Class will still be used, as the ranking factors will be based on the criteria from these programs.
  • Applicants in the Express Entry pool will also register with the Canadian job bank.  Canadian employers will have access to the database of applicants.  If they cannot find a Canadian for the job, they can indicate they would like to hire an applicant registered with the Job Bank.
  • Provinces and territories will still be able to select candidates under the Provincial Nominee Program.  The selected applicants will include their nomination certificate with their application to the Express Entry pool.
  • If a Canadian employer or a province/territory indicates an interest in an applicant, the Canadian government will do medical and criminal checks of the individuals and their dependents.  Language test results and educational certifications will also only be requested when the applicants are invited to apply for permanent residency.
  • If the background checks are clear, the applicants will be able to obtain permanent residence status.

Under the current Canadian Experience Class program, international students who obtain sufficient skilled work experience after graduation are pretty much guaranteed permanent residency in Canada.  Under this new Express Entry program, things are much less clear.  Though the government seems to be saying that Canadian experience will lead to a very high ranking, just getting into the Express Entry pool will not guarantee an offer to apply for permanent residency.  Citizenship and Immigration Canada confirmed this recently during their presentation to the Canadian Bar Association's National Immigration Law Section.  Their power point slide read as follows:

Highest ranked candidates will be invited to apply for permanent residence - an Express Entry submission is not a guarantee of an Invitation to Apply (ITA).

I spoke recently about this problem with a senior colleague.  She said it would be a public relations nightmare for the government if international students with Canadian job experience do not have a way stay in Canada permanently.  Let's hope so, both for my new client and all the others like him.