“Given the fierce global competition in attracting scarce talent to meet specific domestic business needs, it is critical for Canadian employers to have access to an efficient and facilitative immigration program,” says Naumaan Hameed, a partner and certified immigration law specialist KPMG Law LLP.
Introduced in early 2015, Express Entry was billed as a more efficient way of selecting economically valuable immigrants and, ultimately, the answer to Canada’s talent shortage but 18 months on and the scheme is still suffering from a number of teething problems.
“Unfortunately, it appears that the economic immigrants selected through Express Entry to date have not provided adequate solutions to employers’ talent and labour needs,” says Hameed.
Currently, Express Entry operates a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) which awards points to potential immigrants based on factors that are conductive to economic establishment in Canada – however, Toronto-based Hameed says the structure isn't perfect.
“It appears that the current ranking and selection methodology gives candidates in lower skill levels priority to apply for Canadian permanent residency over other higher skilled candidates simply based on the type of work permits they respectively hold,” he explained.
Hameed also noted that international students face considerable challenge and disadvantage under the current ranking system as they have insufficient work experience and rarely have arranged employment because companies struggle to obtain LMIA approval.
“There are likely more qualified Canadians available for these more junior positions,” he explained. “As a result, many international students have no option but to return to their country of origin or consider other destinations.”
It’s an outcome that Hameed says could Canada should be looking to avoid.
“Losing international students who wish to settle in Canada is clearly contrary to Canadian economic interests given the declining national birth rate and the need for skilled students to fill Canada’s pervasive, long-term skills gap,” he told HRM.
“Moreover, the restrictive nature of the current immigration system risks creating a barrier to permanent residence, which in turn threatens to dissuade students from investing in advanced education in Canada. In short, Canadian employers lose out on a valuable pool of potential talent.”
In fact, Hameed has a stark warning of what the employment landscape could look like without a re-design.
“While it is equally important to develop and grow domestic talent pools, Canadian employers would derive significant advantage from being able to attract and retain ‘the best and brightest’ from around the world,” he said.
“Any delay or inaction to improving Express Entry would result in lost business growth opportunities, a hindrance to Canada’s potential of being a global innovation player, and a high likelihood of losing Canadian innovators to overseas markets where talents are more readily available.”
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A leading immigration lawyer is calling on policy makers to amend the current Express Entry scheme, claiming adjustments could make the system far more effective for employers.