An article for Canadian employers who want to hire a foreign worker through the Express Entry system.

Canada’s Express Entry system is the main immigration pathway for foreign workers, but it is only open to “skilled” occupations. In this article, we will help you understand what is considered to be a “skilled” occupation, what makes a “valid job offer,” and how to help your new employees to become permanent residents.

Before hiring immigrants, is important to know the National Occupational Classification (NOC) code and NOC skill level of the job you are hiring for. For now, NOC skill levels are divided into 0, A, B, C, and D.

Occupations are classified into these skill levels based on how much education, experience, and job-specific training is required for the worker to carry out the necessary duties. Once you know this, it will help you figure out your employee’s immigration options.

Express Entry only recognizes occupations in three of these skill levels: 0, which are management positions; A, jobs that require a university degree; and B, technical jobs and skilled trades that may require college or apprenticeship training. If you are hiring for an NOC C or D occupation you will have to use a different immigration program.

Keep in mind, NOC skill level classifications will change in late 2022. There have been no official details released on which occupations will become eligible for Express Entry, and which ones will become ineligible. The changes will not affect the immigrant-hiring process.

Most employers need an LMIA

Oftentimes, the first step to hiring an immigrant is to demonstrate to the federal government that there is no Canadian available to fill the open position.

To do this, you need a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). There is usually an advertising requirement for the LMIA, which means you have to post your job on the Government of Canada’s Job Bank and advertise in two other places.

Once you have done the advertising requirement, you can apply for the LMIA. If ESDC agrees you need to hire a foreign worker because no Canadian is available, you will get a positive LMIA.

If you want to help your employee get Express Entry points

You can use the positive LMIA to help your employee get more points in the Express Entry system. While the LMIA helps your employee get points for their job offer, it is not necessarily a requirement. The more points they have, the more likely they are to be invited to apply for Canadian immigration. It is possible for employees to apply on their own without their employer’s backing.

If your employee is not an Express Entry candidate yet, they need to see if they are eligible for one of three immigration programs: the Canadian Experience Class, the Federal Skilled Worker Program, or the Federal Skilled Trades Program.

If they are eligible, they can create an Express Entry profile. Once all their documents are uploaded, they will get a score based on their credentials, age, and other factors. After that, they may be invited to apply for permanent residence in an Express Entry draw.

They do not need a job offer to create an Express Entry profile, but having a valid job offer can score them some extra points. They can get 50 points for having a valid job offer in an NOC 0, A, or B occupation. It is rare, but if their NOC code starts with 00 they can get 200 points for that job offer.

A valid job offer has to be full-time at 30 hours per week, and good for at least one year after the employee gets their permanent residency visa.

The only way they can get the points for the job offer without an LMIA is if they have an employer-specific, LMIA-exempt work permit. That means, if you hired them and did not do the LMIA process because they had an open work permit (Post-Graduation Work Permit, for example), you will need to get an LMIA so that they can receive the points.

To recap, to hire an Express Entry candidate with a valid job offer, employers need to:

  • get a positive LMIA, if you need one, and;
  • offer a full-time, LMIA-supported job to the candidate in writing that is ongoing for at least one year after they get permanent residency.

Who does not need an LMIA?

You do not need an LMIA if:

  • you already did it when you originally hired the foreign worker and you want to extend their job offer for at least one more year so they can get a permanent residency visa;
  • your employee has worked for you for full-time for one year (or the equivalent part-time) in Canada and they have a valid work permit that was exempt from an LMIA under an international agreement like CUSMA, or the work permit falls under the International Mobility Program, such as a federal-provincial trade agreement, or is considered a significant benefit to Canadian interests.

In other words, you do not need an LMIA if one of the Canadian government’s LMIA exemption codes or work permit exemption codes applies to your situation.

If you are still unsure, and hiring a foreign worker from a visa-exempt country who is not already in Canada, you can contact the International Mobility Workers Unit.

What to tell your employee

Once your employee has an Express Entry profile, they will need to update it with:

  • employer name and address;
  • start date;
  • LMIA number; and
  • NOC code.

Most foreign workers can keep working in Canada while their application is processing. If their temporary status is set to expire between the time they apply for permanent residence and when they get a decision, they can apply for a Bridging Open Work Permit, which allows them to stay in Canada.

The time it takes to process an Express Entry application varies. Although IRCC’s processing standard is six months or less for Express Entry, in 2020 it actually took the average Express Entry applicant nine months to get permanent residency status.

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