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New Report Assesses the Track Record of Canada’s Express Entry Immigrant Selection System, Finding Successes and Limitations
Press Release
Thursday, April 25, 2019

New Report Assesses the Track Record of Canada’s Express Entry Immigrant Selection System, Finding Successes and Limitations

WASHINGTON — Canada, which in 1967 invented the points-based system for selecting economic immigrants, has long drawn the attention of policymakers, analysts and others in the United States and elsewhere for its innovative selection policies. In January 2015, the Canadian government significantly revamped its approach to selecting economic immigrants after criticism its earlier system was inflexible and unable to meet employers’ real-time needs or process applications in a timely manner.

With the new Express Entry system, Canada has moved away from a first-come, first-served system to a new digital platform that assesses and selects prospective economic immigrants in a two-stage application process. This has marked arguably the biggest change to the country’s economic immigration policies since the introduction of the points system five decades earlier.

Like its predecessor, Express Entry uses points to assess would-be immigrants on the basis of characteristics such as university education, language skills and experience in particular occupations. Now, though, those who are eligible for one or more of the federal economic immigration programs are then entered into a pool and ranked, with regular draws to invite the top-scoring candidates to apply for permanent residency.

A new report from the Migration Policy Institute’s Transatlantic Council on Migration, The Canadian Express Entry System for Selecting Economic Immigrants: Progress and Persistent Challenge, assesses the newer selection system. It explores how and why Express Entry was designed, its impact on economic immigration to Canada and a number of persistent challenges. These include re-examining how the system weighs prospective immigrants’ formal credentials versus their “soft” skills, and the gaps between the economic outcomes of principal applicants and their dependents.

Express Entry has attractive features, including its use of digital technologies to assess whether profiles submitted online by prospective immigrants meet minimum eligibility thresholds. The system can be adjusted dynamically and quickly to ensure immigration targets are being met and to prioritize different human capital attributes or employer demand.

But the flexibility inherent in an easily modifiable selection system also carries political considerations, by changing how Canadians engage with the role of immigration in the country’s economic future, as author Daniel Hiebert, a professor of geography at the University of British Columbia and former Canadian government immigration advisor, explains.

While adjustments to the criteria used to select immigrants were previously scrutinized by the media and the public, changes are now done routinely and administratively with little attention—essentially short-circuiting public conversation on an important topic.

“Of course, there are benefits inherent in policymakers’ ability to adjust admission criteria, fix problems and experiment with new policies without facing a barrage of media scrutiny and possible criticism,” Hiebert writes. “However, one could argue that this depoliticization has led to a situation where the public is unaware of—and disinterested in—major policy decisions around economic immigration.”

The report is the third in a Transatlantic Council series focused on ways in which countries can build migration systems for a new age of economic competitiveness. Read the earlier reports, on legal migration partnerships and competing approaches to selecting economic migrants, here: www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/transatlantic-council-migration/building-migration-systems-competitiveness.

Read the report on Canada’s points-based system here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/canadian-express-entry-system-selecting-economic-immigrants.

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The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at local, national and international levels. MPI’s Transatlantic Council on Migration is a unique deliberative body that examines vital policy issues and informs migration policymaking processes across the Atlantic community.