On Jan. 1, the federal government launched Express Entry, a new immigration application management system intended to prioritize applicants and accelerate the process.
Skilled workers, who want to apply to Canada’s key economic immigration programs, now must create an online profile to express their interest in coming to Canada permanently.
Candidates who meet the minimum criteria will be accepted into the pool and will be given a score based on language proficiency, education and work experience.
According to the government, these are leading indicators of one’s likelihood of integrating fully and quickly into Canada’s economy and society.
The highest ranking skilled workers will be invited to apply for permanent residence and can expect to see their application processed in six months or less.
The first invitations to apply will be issued during the last week of January.
It is a sharp change from processing applications on a first-come, first-served basis.
According to the government, this will result in faster processing and will allow the Government of Canada to be more flexible and respond better to Canada’s changing labour market needs.
Express Entry manages applications for three federal economic immigration programs: the Federal Skilled Worker Program, Federal Skilled Trades Program and the Canadian Experience Class.
Provinces and Territories will be able to use the Express Entry system to select a portion of candidates for their Provincial Nominee Programs.
According to the government, Canada has admitted more than 1.6 million new permanent residents since 2006, and will admit between 260,000 and 285,000 in 2015 alone.
Canadian Construction Association (CCA) president Michael Atkinson is optimistic about the program.
He noted that express entry doesn’t change any of the eligibility requirements for different immigration programs.
He said the CCA likes the idea of putting those with in-demand skills and job offers at the front of the line and also using pre-qualification to speed up the process.
"We are encouraged by this system because it is going to be a good source for potential immigrants," Atkinson said.
He added that the government is working on a way for businesses to pore through the data base to find applicants with the right skills for hard to fill job openings.
How that will work remains to be seen.
Atkinson said the program is partially modeled after a similar system in Australia, which has had some success.
Tom Sigurdson, executive director of B.C. Building Trades, is cautious about Express Entry,
He said he wonders how the government plans to ensure applicants really have the skills and certifications they claim.
He noted that someone without any practical jobsite experience could still pass an exam.
He also sees the potential for abuse by contractors, who might invite foreign skilled workers with the promise of high pay, only to bump them down to lower paying jobs upon arrival.
However, Sigurdson said he views Canada looking to other countries for skilled labour as a symptom of a much larger problem.
"It’s a bit of an escape mechanism for the failure of our training programs," he said, highlighting the lack of available apprenticeships in B.C.," he said.
"We’ve not done the training that’s required to fill the gap. That is becoming all the more apparent … we’ve failed miserably in skilling up Canadians."