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Express Entry Helping to Address Canada’s Need for IT Workers

According to a report published last year by the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC), Canada needs 182,000 new workers in the Information Technology (IT) sector by 2019. Fortunately for Canadian employers and international workers alike, over the past year Canada’s Express Entry immigration system has helped to address this labour shortage.

Critically, provinces across Canada have recognized their need for skilled IT personnel and have used their ‘enhanced’ Express Entry-aligned Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) streams to select IT workers specifically. These provincial efforts are in addition to the federal government’s objective of inviting more Express Entry candidates based on their strong human capital factors. As a result, the number of candidates with IT work experience being invited to apply has increased over time.

In addition, the federal government recently launched a new initiative aimed at IT workers and employers known as the Global Talent Stream. This initiative aims to help innovative companies grow by ensuring they can access the highly skilled talent they need quickly. Workers who arrive in Canada under the Global Talent Stream may build up Canadian work experience — a highly-valued factor under Express Entry — and subsequently immigrate to Canada permanently.

This IT immigration report looks at how IT workers have benefited from immigration trends over the past 12 months.

About Express Entry and provincial nomination

Individuals eligible to immigrate to Canada through a federal economic program can submit a profile into the Express Entry pool, where they are ranked against each other according to a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). The government of Canada issues Invitations to Apply (ITAs) for Canadian permanent residence to the highest-ranked candidates on a priority basis through draws from the pool. If a candidate obtains a provincial nomination, 600 CRS points are awarded and that candidate is prioritized for an ITA in a subsequent draw from the pool.

In order to apply for a provincial nomination, candidates must first create an Express Entry profile. Provinces use their enhanced PNP streams in different ways. For example, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan open their doors on a first-come, first-served basis to candidates in specific occupations, whereas Ontario searches for candidates in the pool before issuing a provincial Notification of Interest (NOI).

Provinces looking for IT workers

Certain provinces, using their enhanced PNP streams, are explicitly seeking out IT workers in the Express Entry pool.

Example 1: Ontario

Ontario, which is a particularly popular destination for new permanent residents, has a Human Capital Priorities (HCP) stream that only selects eligible candidates in the Express Entry pool. Applications under this stream are submitted through the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP).

On June 28, the government of Ontario made an announcement that it was seeking Information and Communications Technology (ICT) professionals. While one of the usual requirements of the HCP stream is that candidates must have a CRS score of 400 or above, the announcement clarified that for these ICT occupation-specific searches, Ontario lowered the required minimum CRS score below 400. Candidates with work experience in any of the following National Occupational Classification (NOC) codes were eligible to receive a NOI, even if they scored less than 400 points under the CRS.

  • NOC 0131: Telecommunication Carriers Managers
  • NOC 0213: Computer and Information Systems Managers
  • NOC 2133: Electrical and Electronics Engineers
  • NOC 2147: Computer Engineers (Except Software Engineers and Designers)
  • NOC 2171: Information Systems Analysts and Consultants
  • NOC 2172: Database Analysts and Data Administrators
  • NOC 2173: Software Engineers and Designers
  • NOC 2174: Computer Programmers and Interactive Media Developers
  • NOC 2175: Web Designers and Developers
  • NOC 2241: Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technologists and Technicians
  • NOC 2281: Computer Network Technicians
  • NOC 2282: User Support Technicians
  • NOC 2283: Systems Testing Technicians
  • NOC 5224: Broadcast Technicians
  • NOC 5241: Graphic Designers and Illustrators

Though the government of Ontario has not stated if or when it may prioritize IT workers under the HCP stream again, it is notable that the ICTC report cited at the beginning of this article states that ‘By 2019, cumulative hiring requirements for ICT talent are expected to be over 52,700 in the greater Toronto area, over 9,700 in Ottawa-Gatineau, over 3,800 in the Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo region, and over 9,900 in rest of Ontario.’

Consequently, it may be the case that Ontario uses the HCP stream again to prioritize IT workers.

Example 2: Nova Scotia

Halifax, the capital and largest city in Nova Scotia, was recently titled ‘Canada’s fifth-biggest tech hub’ by CTV News. This is no mean feat, considering that Halifax is the 13th largest metropolitan area in Canada.

Of the 16 occupations on Nova Scotia’s list of targeted opportunity occupations for its Nova Scotia Demand: Express Entry stream, four are IT occupations:

  • NOC 2171: Information systems analysts and consultants
  • NOC 2174: Computer programmers and interactive media development
  • NOC 2281: Computer network technicians
  • NOC 2282: User support technicians

This Express Entry-aligned stream most recently opened last week on July 5, reaching its intake limit within hours. However, the government of Nova Scotia expects this stream to open and close over the next year.

Candidates with experience in one of these occupations improve their chances of successfully submitting an application to the Nova Scotia Office of Immigration if they prepare their documents and forms in advance and stay alert to news from Nova Scotia regarding this stream.

Example 3: Saskatchewan

Earlier this month, the government of Saskatchewan began to let nominees and other stakeholders know that a new tech careers web page is now available, showing the range of tech-related jobs in the province, which is located in Western Canada. Saskatchewan’s Labour Demand Outlook for 2016 to 2020 shows that salaries in IT professions are expected to be high.

Since July, 2016, the International Skilled Worker – Express Entry sub-category of the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP) has opened on five occasions. This sub-category allows eligible Express Entry candidates with experience in an in-demand occupation to submit an application to the SINP. No job offer is required, and applications are received on a first-come, first-served basis.

For the most recent intake, which ran from May 16 to May 24, 2017, no IT occupations were included on the list. However, for the previous intake periods Computer and Information Systems Managers (NOC 0213) and Information Systems Analysts and Consultants (NOC 2171) were included.

Saskatchewan’s list of in-demand occupations is subject to change, and Express Entry candidates across the IT professions may benefit in the future, as they have done so in the past.

Example 4: New Brunswick

This time last year New Brunswick, located in Atlantic Canada, was inviting certain IT professionals to submit their resume through the ‘Open Category’ of the New Brunswick Provincial Nominee Program (NBPNP) Express Entry Labour Market Stream, before potentially applying for provincial nomination under the program.

New Brunswick was looking for newcomers in the following occupations:

  • NOC 2171: Information systems analysts and consultants
  • NOC 2172: Database analysts and data administrators
  • NOC 2174: Computer programmers and interactive media developers
  • NOC 2175: Web designers and developers
  • NOC 2281: Computer network technicians

Though this category stopped receiving applications on July 15, 2016, it may reopen in the future, either with the above list of occupations or with some other variation.

Express Entry Changes Benefit IT Candidates

When IRCC released its year-end report for 2016, statistics showed that invited candidates by profession had shifted towards higher-skilled professions, principally in IT.

Top Occupations by ITAs issued 2016 Rank 2015 Rank ITAs 2016(+/- change from 2015) Percent of Total 2016
NOC 2171 – Information Systems Analysts and Consultants 1 3 1,792 (+537) 6%
NOC 2173 – Software Engineers 2 4 1,332 (+392) 4%
NOC 2174 – Computer Programmers and Interactive Media Developers 3 5 1,254 (+319) 4%
NOC 6322 – Cooks 4 2 1,234 (-1,061) 4%
NOC 6311 – Food Service Supervisors 5 1 999 (-1,357) 3%
NOC 4011 – University Professors and Lecturers 6 6 797 (+52) 3%
NOC 5241 – Graphic Designers and Illustrators 7 8 671 (+121) 2%
NOC 1123 – Professional Occupations in Advertising, Marketing and Public relations 8 Not in top 10 618 (data for 2015 not available) 2%
NOC 1111 – Financial Auditors and Accountants 9 9 595 (+101) 2%
NOC 6211 – Retail Sales Supervisors 10 7 584 (-85) 2%
NOC 1112 – Financial and Investment Analysts Not in top 10 10 Data not available (446 in 2015) Data not available

In 2016, candidates working as IT professionals were the largest group of invited candidates. According to the IRCC report, ‘In September 2016, when invitation round sizes began to grow, candidates with higher human capital but without a valid job offer, such as those in occupation groups NOC 11, 21 and 40, were invited in greater numbers. Since November 19, 2016, this trend has become even more pronounced.’ As the table above shows, many IT professions come under NOC group 21.

Because the improvements that came into effect last November brought a change in the value of a job offer under the CRS — from 600 points to either 50 or 200 points, depending on the position offered — many candidates without a job offer improved their ranking. This placed more of these candidates in line to receive an ITA, with or without a provincial nomination or a job offer.

Moreover, so far 2017 has seen more candidates invited than ever before. At the time of writing, a total of 54,487 ITAs have been issued this year. This number more than triples the 15,286 ITAs issued over the first half of 2016, and far surpasses the total number issued in the whole of last year.

“Taking into account the rapid increase in ITAs issued, the corresponding decrease in CRS cut-off thresholds, the changes made last November, and the fact that provinces are actively seeking IT personnel, the present and the future looks rosy for Express Entry candidates with IT experience,” says Attorney David Cohen.

Time management is key

Across all the provincial and federal programs mentioned in this article, time management and preparedness are key elements.

Let’s take a couple of hypothetical examples.

Alphonso, a computer programmer, created an Express Entry profile as he was eligible under the Federal Skilled Worker Class. He was awarded 388 CRS points. When Ontario targeted IT professionals in the pool last month, Alphonso received a NOI, allowing him to apply under the OINP. As he had prepared most of his documents in advance in case he received an ITA from IRCC, he unexpectedly gained from Ontario’s new strategy. As a result, this month he was able to apply to the OINP.

Once a NOI is issued, the invited candidate has six months to register on Ontario’s online application system and submit the application. Once registered, the candidate has 14 days to submit the application. However, Alphonso moved quickly with his application after noting that Ontario encourages invited candidates to register a profile and submit an application on their e-Filing Portal as soon as possible in order to ensure that their application is received before Ontario’s nomination allocation is fulfilled. Having submitted a complete application, Alphonso can look forward to receiving 600 additional CRS points and an ITA for permanent residence. And because he is prepared, he is well-positioned to submit his e-application to IRCC once he gets an ITA; IRCC allows 90 days for this application to be submitted, and aims to process complete applications within six months.

Another candidate, Alisha, was also invited by Ontario under the HCP stream. Alisha had 411 CRS points. However, she adopted a wait-and-see approach, in case the CRS cut-off threshold dipped to 411, allowing her to submit an application for permanent residence without first obtaining a provincial nomination. This meant that she waited deep into the allotted six-month window to register on Ontario’s online system. In doing so, she runs the risk of her application not being processed to completion by Ontario. A NOI does not guarantee a candidate registration in the OINP e-Filing Portal, and candidates who act quickly are more likely to successfully obtain a provincial nomination.

Other candidates benefit from proactive time management. Faisal, an information systems analyst, had noticed that his occupation was on the targeted opportunity occupations list for the Nova Scotia Demand: Express Entry stream. When that stream opened last week, Faisal was ready to submit a complete application. He did so with a couple of hours of the stream opening and, as a result, his application for a provincial nomination in Nova Scotia is currently in processing.

The smart economy needs a smart approach

“Decades ago, and even not that long ago, Canada’s economy was built around manufacturing and agriculture. More recently, however, things have shifted more towards IT and tech,” says Attorney David Cohen. “Canada’s economic immigration system is built around input from stakeholders, including the business community and employers. Their voice is clear — they need skilled workers who have the knowledge and experience to assimilate into the smart economy.

“Express Entry candidates are in a particularly strong position. They are eligible under one of the federal economic programs, they are visible to provinces and employers alike, and they are in a position to improve their score and ranking in the pool. As the main driver of economic immigration to Canada, Express Entry provides a wonderful opportunity for individuals and families looking to build lives and careers in Canada.

“Changes and trends over the last 12 months show that more and more IT professionals and their families are benefiting from the system. I would encourage anyone in this sector, as well as others, to make sure that they are in the pool, prepared, and knowledgeable about the provincial nominee programs and how they operate.”

A New CRS Calculator is Available

Readers can use the new and improved CRS Calculator to find out what their score would be under the CRS.

To find out if you are eligible to immigrate to Canada permanently, fill out a free online assessment form.