Why Canadian experience is important when selecting immigrants

Kareem El-Assal
Published: April 24, 2020

In the weeks since Canada announced travel restrictions in response to the coronavirus crisis, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has actually increased the frequency of Express Entry draws.

Prior to the travel restrictions, IRCC usually held Express Entry draws every two weeks, and usually on Wednesday.

Since the travel restrictions, it has held six draws, including two draws on the same day, and four draws within one week.

Another major development has been that the draws have focused on candidates with provincial nominations and who are eligible under the Canadian Experience Class.

IRCC has stated these program-specific draws are meant to benefit candidates already in Canada.

Each CEC-specific draws has been large, with a total of 10,308 invitations to apply (ITA) for permanent residence being issued over three draws, including last week’s draw, which was the largest CEC-specific draw since the start of the travel restrictions.

In the short run, it makes sense for IRCC to invite more candidates with Canadian experience for permanent residence since such candidates are already in Canada, and are less likely to be affected by coronavirus-related disruptions than Express Entry candidates who are currently abroad.

In addition, issuing ITAs to as many candidates inside of Canada as possible during this crisis can help IRCC come as close as possible to the intake targets set out in its immigration levels plan.

However, there are also important long-term reasons as to why federal and provincial governments look to target immigration candidates with Canadian experience.

In fact, the recent draws held by IRCC should be seen in a broader context.

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Growing importance of Canadian experience

In 2008, IRCC launched the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) to help more international students and temporary foreign workers transition to permanent residence.

The CEC has since grown in prominence as Canada’s student and worker population has increased exponentially.

Various provinces and territories also encouraged candidates with Canadian experience to apply for permanent residence through their respective Provincial Nominee Programs even prior to the launch of the CEC. Since the CEC’s launch, they have also increased their number of streams dedicated to students and workers.

In addition, IRCC’s newer immigration programs such as the Atlantic Immigration Pilot and Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot offer dedicated streams for those with Canadian experience.

It is also worth pointing out that Express Entry’s Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) enables candidates with Canadian experience to earn a higher CRS score.

Short- and long-term benefits of Canadian experience

The reason Canadian experience has become so important in federal and provincial immigration programs is because Canadian government research shows that such experience is a strong indicator that an immigration candidate will integrate quickly into the Canadian labour market, and perform well in the labour market over the long run.

The research finds that immigration candidates with the following characteristics are most likely to have good economic outcomes:

  • Young in age
  • High level of education
  • High proficiency in English and/or French
  • Canadian experience
  • Canadian job offer and/or a provincial nomination

Canadian experience is crucial for a number of reasons. It helps immigration candidates improve their language proficiency, which is a major component of the Comprehensive Ranking System. In addition, candidates who gain Canadian work experience or education are able to demonstrate to Canadian employers that they have the skills and knowledge that employers are looking for. Being in Canada also helps develop the social and professional networks which are critical for immigrants to find work that aligns with their skills.

It is important to note that Canadian experience is not superior to foreign work and study experience. However, hiring a worker is an imperfect process, and it is one that is greatly influenced by comfort. The reality is that employers—whether they are in Canada or in any other country in the world—are more comfortable hiring candidates with local work experience.

The good news if you don’t have Canadian experience

The majority of Express Entry candidates receive invitations to apply for permanent residence even though they do not have Canadian experience.

This is because Canadian government research shows that even immigration candidates without Canadian experience tend to also integrate into the Canadian labour market quickly, because they also possess the aforementioned characteristics such as high language proficiency, education levels, and/or the likes of a job offer or a provincial nomination.

All this to say, Canada welcomes your immigration application, whether you have Canadian experience or you do not.

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Kareem El-Assal is the Director of Policy & Digital Strategy at CanadaVisa.

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