ARCHIVED — Vol. 148, No. 24 — November 19, 2014

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SOR/2014-256 November 7, 2014

IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE PROTECTION ACT

Regulations Amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations

P.C. 2014-1246 November 6, 2014

His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, pursuant to subsections 5(1) and 14(1), (2) (see footnote a) and (5) (see footnote b) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (see footnote c), makes the annexed Regulations Amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.

REGULATIONS AMENDING THE IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE PROTECTION REGULATIONS

AMENDMENT

1. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (see footnote 1) are amended by adding the following after section 12:

Invitation to apply for permanent residence — application by electronic system

12.01 (1) Subject to subsection 12.02(1), an application for permanent residence that is made in response to an invitation issued by the Minister under Division 0.1 of the Act must be made by means of an electronic system that is made available by the Department for that purpose.

Effect of electronic application

(2) For greater certainty,

  • (a) an application referred to in subsection (1) that is made by means of the electronic system meets the requirements of paragraph 10(1)(a); and
  • (b) the applicant’s electronic signature in that application meets the requirement of paragraph 10(1)(b).

Electronic application — requirements

(3) When an application referred to in subsection (1) is made by means of the electronic system

  • (a) the information, documents and evidence referred to in paragraph 10(1)(c) must be submitted by means of that electronic system at the time the application is made; and
  • (b) the applicant must, at the time the application is made,
    • (i) pay electronically the applicable fee, if any, referred to in section 295, or
    • (ii) submit electronically the evidence of payment referred to in paragraph 10(1)(d).

Invitation to apply for permanent residence — application by other means

12.02 (1) If an applicant is unable to make the application referred to in subsection 12.01(1) by means of the electronic system because of a physical or mental disability, it may be made by another means made available by the Department for that purpose that would enable the applicant to make the application, including a paper application form.

Evidence of payment of fee

(2) An application that is made under subsection (1) must be accompanied by the evidence of payment referred to in paragraph 10(1)(d).

Non-application

12.03 Subsections 11(1) and (3) do not apply in respect of an application referred to in subsection 12.01(1) that is made by means of an electronic system under that subsection or made by another means under subsection 12.02(1).

COMING INTO FORCE

2. These Regulations come into force on January 1, 2015.

REGULATORY IMPACT ANALYSIS STATEMENT

(This statement is not part of the Regulations.)

Background

Using immigration to support Canada’s economy is a priority for the Government. Currently, there are four main economic immigration programs designed to ensure that the immigration system is attracting individuals who will successfully integrate into Canadian society and support Canada’s economic needs

  • (1) The Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), which selects permanent residents based on their ability to settle in Canada and contribute to the Canadian economy;
  • (2) The Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP), which selects permanent residents who are qualified in a skilled trade;
  • (3) The Canadian Experience Class (CEC), which provides a pathway to permanent residence for those with work experience in Canada; and
  • (4) The Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), through which provinces and territories choose immigrants to fill regional labour market needs.

In the Economic Action Plan 2012, the Government committed to transformative changes to the immigration system to ensure that it remains internationally competitive, better supports Canada’s economic needs and builds a fast and flexible immigration system that is more responsive to Canadian labour market demands — without displacing the domestic workforce. This included a commitment to “explore with provinces, territories and employers approaches to developing a pool of skilled workers who are ready to begin employment in Canada.”

The 2013 Speech from the Throne and Budgets 2013 and 2014 confirmed the Government’s intention to create an innovative immigration application management system that will allow employers, provinces and territories to assist in the selection of skilled immigrants from a pool of candidates who best meet Canada’s economic needs. This new system, where applicants will have to submit an expression of interest in coming to Canada, has been officially named “Express Entry.”

Express Entry is an electronic, fully automated application management system which will establish a two-step application process for the FSWP, FSTP, CEC and a portion of the PNP.

  • Step 1: Foreign nationals who wish to obtain permanent resident status under the aforementioned economic programs must submit an online expression of interest to come to Canada. The Express Entry system will include a stand-alone pre-application stage whereby candidates, if pre-screened as eligible based on self-declared information, will be entered into a pool. Candidates will then be scored and ranked against others in the pool.
  • Step 2: An Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence will be issued to the highest-ranked candidates, such as those with scores that reflect their human capital and ability to succeed in the Canadian economy. Candidates who receive an ITA must submit their application for permanent residence electronically, with the exception of people with disabilities who are unable to complete an online application. Approved immigration levels for each economic stream will be taken into consideration when determining the number of candidates who will be invited to apply for permanent residence.

The legislative foundation for Express Entry was established in the Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 2, which received Royal Assent on December 12, 2013. That Act added a new Division to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), which requires a stand-alone pre-application stage as the first step in immigrating to Canada under certain economic immigration programs. In addition, that Division includes broad provisions outlining the process for submitting applications, required informationsharing measures, and the roles of third parties (i.e. provinces and territories as well as employers) under the Express Entry system.

Additional legislative amendments to IRPA were also proposed in the Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1, which received Royal Assent on June 19, 2014. Those amendments provide the authority to set out in Regulations who will be required to submit their applications and other documents electronically, including foreign nationals who were issued an ITA under subsection 10.1(1) of IRPA, as well as foreign nationals who make an application for a visa or other documents under subsection 11(1) of IRPA. The legislative amendments provide the authority to provide, by regulation, the electronic system to which an application or documents may be submitted, and circumstances where exemptions and alternatives to the electronic system would be permitted, including the alternative means. While the legislative amendments provide the authority to make regulations regarding mandatory electronic applications for all classes of immigrants, the current Regulations apply only to Express Entry applicants.

Issues

Currently, foreign nationals who are interested in coming to Canada as permanent residents in the FSWP, CEC, FSTP and PNP, submit their permanent residence application on paper as required by subsection 10(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR). There are a number of inefficiencies associated with the current paper application system, which limits the ability of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration (CIC) to provide fast and timely service, and could be improved through electronic filing.

  • First, paper applications limit CIC’s ability to distribute the workload easily and economically across the processing network. Currently, applications for permanent residence are usually processed at the office that serves the applicant’s country of nationality or residence, and that may have limited capacity to process files in a timely manner for multiple reasons (i.e. backlogs, peak travel seasons, etc). Paper files are not easily transferable for processing from one office where capacity is limited to another office where capacity exists. To do so, they must be packaged and shipped to the desired office, thus reducing processing efficiency and increasing processing times. Transferring paper files around the network or returning incomplete paper applications or original documentation to clients is costly and creates an additional administrative and financial burden for CIC. The current paper application system limits CIC’s ability to quickly adapt to changing situations, including in cases of natural disaster, office closures or political instability. In such situations, CIC needs to promptly transfer files to other offices, which, as noted above, is a much more resource intensive exercise with paper.
  • Second, paper applications require a significant amount of physical storage space and human management.
  • Third, the paper application process is less convenient for clients as they must complete and print paper applications, which often require repeating the same information on different forms. In addition, paper applications must be mailed to CIC, instead of being submitted directly online.

Based on the 2013 admissions for FSWP, FSTP and CEC, it is anticipated that applications for approximately 65 000 to 75 000 individuals will be processed per year under the Express Entry system. Provinces and territories will retain their base number of PNP nominations, which will not be subject to the Express Entry system. However, provinces and territories wishing to increase their current PNP allocation will be able to use the Express Entry system to nominate additional candidates, up to an authorized limit.

Objectives

The objective of these amendments is to create efficiencies by making the submission of electronic applications for permanent residence under this system mandatory and to provide exemptions to this mandatory requirement for people with physical or mental disabilities who are unable to submit an application online.

Description

The amendments to the IRPR make it mandatory for a foreign national — who received a valid invitation to apply under subsection 10.1(1) of IRPA (i.e. applicants under FSWP, FSTP, CEC and part of PNP) — to submit their application for permanent residence and the applicable fees electronically.

In addition, the amendments set out specific circumstances where exemptions from and alternatives to the submission of electronic applications will be allowed. For example, as an alternative to electronic applications, people with disabilities may request a paper guide and application kit for the purposes of submitting a paper application, as is the current practice.

“One-for-One” Rule

The “One-for-One” Rule does not apply to this proposal, as there is no change in administrative costs to business.

Small business lens

The small business lens does not apply to this proposal, as there are no anticipated costs on small business.

Consultation

Citizenship and Immigration Canada has been consulting with employers, provinces and territories, and other stakeholders on the Express Entry system since the fall of 2012, and continues to engage with employers. A nine-member employer technical reference group was established in 2013, which includes the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, the Canadian Construction Association, and the Information and Communication Technology Council.

In partnership with provincial and territorial governments, senior CIC officials hosted information sessions with employers across the country from April to June 2014. Stakeholders have been receptive to Express Entry, but have expressed a desire for faster processing. Electronic applications are a key factor in addressing this concern along with a reliable and easy to use system. This has been highlighted throughout consultations on Express Entry.

No known opposition to this proposal exists, likely as a result of the benefits that the Express Entry and electronic application system offer. It is expected that stakeholders, particularly Express Entry candidates, employers and provinces and territories, will welcome faster processing times for applicants through the electronic submission of applications and an enhanced ability to help meet Canada’s need for a skilled workforce more quickly and efficiently.

Rationale

Faster and more efficient processing

Electronic applications for permanent residence will deliver one of Express Entry’s key objectives: faster processing by managing all Express Entry-associated permanent residence applications on a fully electronic platform.

Electronic applications will facilitate workload distribution across the network and the management of application inventories. This, in turn, will reduce the costs and administrative burden associated with transferring paper files around the network. Electronic applications will also eliminate the need to return incomplete paper applications or original documentation to clients.

An electronic platform will also benefit foreign nationals applying for permanent residence under Express Entry. It will provide a mechanism to automatically transfer information provided in an expression of interest to an electronic application for permanent residence after candidates are issued an ITA. It will eliminate the need for candidates to print their applications and mail them to CIC. It will provide CIC with the ability to better guide candidates through the application process by providing readily available help text, instead of referring applicants to a separate application guide for more information. Lastly, it will allow CIC to better tailor questions contained in the application form to the client’s specific circumstances as the electronic system will be dynamic. Together, these changes will make the process more efficient and convenient for applicants and should improve client satisfaction.

With mandatory electronic applications, applicants will benefit from faster processing times. Current wait times of 10 to 25 months under the CEC, FSWP and FSTP, and 11 months under the PNP will be reduced to a targeted processing time of 6 months for candidates who are invited to apply for permanent residence.

Canadian businesses will benefit from faster processing times by being able to recruit skilled immigrants more quickly and eligible candidates who are ready to begin employment will be able to come to Canada sooner. This will ultimately maximize the contribution of immigrants to Canada’s economic growth and long-term prosperity.

Environmental benefits

This proposal will substantially reduce the number of paper documents used by permanent resident applicants, since applications, for the most part, will be completed and submitted electronically. Furthermore, the Department will not be required to physically transport paper files by air or road between visa offices or to archival facilities, thus reducing pollution.

System costs

The total cost for implementing an electronic application system for Express Entry applicants invited to apply for permanent residence is estimated to be $6.7M in present value over 10 years (2015 to 2024). The Government of Canada (in particular CIC and Shared Services Canada) will incur implementation, development and transition costs, as well as ongoing information technology (IT) support costs.

There are no anticipated direct costs to Canadians, permanent residents of Canada, Canadian business or provincial, territorial, or municipal governments. Costs to the Government of Canada include human resources to develop work tools, update bulletins and forms, create manuals, provide training, manage workload distribution, and create and implement IT functionality. Additional costs include the purchase and update of software and hardware. Communication costs are not incremental to electronic applications as they will be conducted as part of the overall Express Entry communications strategy, of which electronic applications for permanent residence are a very small component.

The processing of applications by alternate means for people with disabilities will not require any significant resources at CIC. It is anticipated that the number of individuals requesting an exemption from the mandatory electronic application process due to a disability will be extremely low.

Government savings

Electronic applications will allow for a significant reduction in the number of paper applications that CIC must manage and store, and will result in savings for the Government of Canada. As previously indicated, it is anticipated that through Express Entry, CIC will process applications for approximately 65 000 to 75 000 individuals in the FSWP, FSTP and CEC programs per year which would otherwise represent a significant amount of paper under the current system. The electronic system will also better facilitate workload distribution across the network (CIC offices in Canada and abroad). This will reduce costs and the administrative burden of transferring paper files around the network or returning incomplete paper applications or original documentation to clients. In addition, it will improve CIC’s ability to quickly adapt to changing situations at a reduced cost, including in cases of natural disaster, office closures or political instability.

Implementation, enforcement and service standards

The Regulations will come into force on January 1, 2015, at which time all Express Entry applicants — with the exception of people with physical or mental disabilities who request to use alternate means — will be required to file an application for permanent residence electronically.

In addition to the alternate means that will be made available for those with physical or mental disabilities, it should be noted that CIC’s Web content conforms to Treasury Board requirements for accessibility, providing people with disabilities added features to use for navigating the CIC Web site and completing online applications. Furthermore, applicants are informed that a family member, friend, or authorized representative may assist them with their application.

Under the Express Entry system, CIC has established a six-month service standard for the processing of applications for permanent residence, from receipt of a complete application to the rendering of a final decision.

Contact

James McNamee
Director
Express Entry System Policy
365 Laurier Avenue West, 18th Floor
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 1L1
Email: james.mcnamee@cic.gc.ca