Express Entry to Canada – Avoid These Common Scams

People are being scammed because they don’t understand how Express Entry works. This post introduces the basics of Express Entry, and breaks down the most common scams so that you can protect yourself. If you are planning to immigrate to Canada, you need to read this post!

In recent weeks, I have been receiving a number of emails from individuals overseas who have paid a lot of money to agents in order to immigrate to Canada under Express Entry. Usually the email states something to the effect of “I’m in the Express Entry pool, and I paid $1000 US to –insert name of agent or firm here– and yet nothing seems to be happening with my application. My CRS score is 338. I’m hoping you can give me some advice.”

It’s always a difficult conversation when I connect with them and, after quickly reviewing their personal data, deliver the news that their CRS ranking points are not high enough to ever expect to be invited to apply for Permanent Residence under Express Entry. By this point in time, the clients have spent several hundred dollars on language tests and educational assessments, plus the normally large sum paid to the agent/lawyer/consultant who was supposed to be organizing their immigration to Canada. They have also been actively planning their future in Canada, certain that it’s just a matter of time until their number is drawn under Express Entry. It’s an incredible betrayal of trust to learn that there was never any hope of immigration to Canada in the first place.

The most common Express Entry scam plays on language and lack of understanding in order to convince you to turn over your hard-earned cash for the hope of immigrating to Canada. Let’s break it down in plain language so that you don’t ever find yourself falling victim.

How Express Entry Works

Express Entry is a two-step process. The first step is to be eligible under one of Canada’s three federal economic immigration programs – Federal Skilled Worker, Federal Skilled Trades Program or the Canadian Experience Class. There are many thousands of people worldwide who are eligible under one of these programs, in fact, many more people are eligible than Canada can accept as immigrants.

That’s why the second step of the Express Entry process is so important. If you are eligible under one of the 3 programs, you can enter your details into an online profile and then be ranked against the rest of the world who also wants to immigrate to Canada. Once your profile has been submitted, your CRS ranking score is calculated and your chances of immigrating to Canada become clear. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada invites the highest scoring individuals to apply for Permanent Resident approximately every two weeks.

The Most Common Express Entry Scam

The most common Express Entry scam happens at the first step of the process. After providing data relating to age, education, language ability, work experience, available funds and family ties to Canada, individuals are told various forms of the following:

“Congratulations, you qualify as a Federal Skilled Worker.”

“Congratulations, you are eligible for a Permanent Residence visa.”

“Congratulations, you are eligible to immigrate to Canada.”

What is not clearly communicated is the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of people worldwide who qualify or who are eligible under one of the three programs, but who will never be invited to apply for Permanent Residence because their CRS ranking score is too low to ever expect an invitation to apply. It’s not enough to just get into the pool, you have to score high enough to be chosen by Canada.

On the basis of their eligibility, clients are encouraged to send a large sum of money so that their profile can be submitted, and their ranking score computed. What is not mentioned is the fact that the ranking score can be computed without submitting a profile, and it would take approximately 20-30 minutes for an honest expert to determine if it makes any financial sense for the client to move forward with the process or not.

The clients are further encouraged when they receive “official proof” of their eligibility which is usually a print screen of their CRS ranking details from inside the Canada immigration online portal, and a letter from IRCC that welcomes them to the Express Entry pool. While these are official documents, they do not in any way convey that the applicant has any chance of ever immigrating to Canada. They are simply confirmation that the client’s information is registered in the portal. The CRS score is the important part to pay attention to.

What CRS scores are required for success with Express Entry

The lowest CRS score that has ever been used for an Express Entry general round of invitations was 413 on May 31, 2017. There have only been a handful of rounds where invitations were issued for scores less than 420 in the entire history of Express Entry.

In 2018, the lowest CRS score for general rounds of invitations was 439.

The lowest CRS score that has ever been used for an Express Entry Round of invitations that specifically targeted applicants only under the Federal Skilled Trades program stream was 199 on May 26, 2017.

In 2018, the lowest CRS score for the rounds of invitations that specifically targeted applicants under the Federal Skilled Trades program was 284.

What this means is that, under present circumstances, unless you qualify under the Federal Skilled Trades Program, you need to have a score of 439 or higher to have a really good chance of being invited to apply for Permanent Residence in Canada.

If your score is between 425-439 it’s probably worthwhile to submit your profile just in case the points levels drop at some point.

If your score is between 410-425, you should be looking for some kind of Provincial Nomination program that you could apply for or planning steps that you can take to increase your ranking score. You might want to think twice about spending a lot of money for an Express Entry profile if your points are within this level, because the chances of you receiving an invitation to apply for PR are very low.

If you are eligible under the Federal Skilled Worker or Canadian Experience Class with a CRS score of 410 or lower, you have almost no chance of being invited to apply for Permanent Residence under present circumstances.

Now, it’s important to point out that the Express Entry program is constantly changing, and no one can predict what CRS score will be required to receive an invitation to apply. But when you look at historical and recent trends, you can gain a better sense of what your chances are and then make an informed decision as to how you want to spend your money.

If you are not sure which federal immigration program you are qualified for, you can check the CRS scoring data from your EE profile and it will tell you which program criteria you meet, or you can review the eligibility criteria on our website.

Promises of Provincial Nomination through Express Entry

Individuals whose CRS scores are obviously too low to ever be invited to apply for Permanent Residence through Express Entry are sometimes given further encouragement that their agent/lawyer/consultant is constantly monitoring all of the various Provincial immigration streams and they will submit your information to any provincial program that you may qualify for at no extra cost. A provincial nomination certificate through Express Entry results in an additional 600 points and a guaranteed invitation to apply for Permanent Residence through Express Entry.

Although this information is technically true, it is used in a way that is borderline unethical when every client is given hope that they might qualify for a Provincial Nomination. The eligibility for each of the Provincial Nomination programs is clearly stated by each of the Provinces, it’s publicly available, and a careful examination of a client’s specific situation will indicate who is and who is not likely to qualify for Provincial Nomination. Those who do not qualify under any of the current programs should be told so, right from the start.

Just get a Job offer and you will increase your points

Sometimes individuals are instructed that they will qualify to apply for Permanent Residence as soon as they can obtain a job offer in Canada, because that will boost their CRS points by 50 or 200 points, depending on the offer. Again, this is technically true, but the reality is that it is very difficult to obtain a qualifying job offer in Canada. A qualifying job offer does not mean that you have an employer in Canada who wants to hire you. It means that you are either already working in Canada under specific types of work permits; or that you have a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) with your name on it for a job in Canada. In order for an employer to obtain this LMIA, they must first advertise the position for at least one month and hire any Canadian or Permanent Resident who applies for and is qualified to do the job. There is usually a significant cost to the employer to go through this process. Although it’s not impossible to obtain an LMIA, potential candidates need to remember that it will only be possible if there is a shortage of Canadians for the specific position and an employer who is willing to spend a lot of time and money to hire you. It’s not an easy process.

How to avoid being scammed

The goal of this article is to give you the tools and understanding you need in order to read between the lines of all of the promises surrounding immigration to Canada through Express Entry. While it is true that tens of thousands of people qualify to immigrate to Canada under Express Entry every year, it is my fear that almost as many people are being duped into spending a lot of money on a process that isn’t going to work in their situation. Ultimately, I hope this information will help you to avoid spending money unnecessarily, and ensure that you get the professional service that you deserve.

Now that you have a better understanding of how Express Entry works, these are my top tips to help you ensure you are getting the best professional advice for your immigration situation:

1. Work with a licensed consultant.

It is illegal under Canadian law for anyone other than an authorized representative to provide immigration advice. You should be dealing directly with an authorized rep (not an assistant or other staff member) when your personal situation is being evaluated to determine how you are eligible under Canada’s immigration programs. Authorized reps for Canadian immigration are licensed consultants, Canadian lawyers, Quebec notaries or Ontario paralegals.

You can check to see if your consultant is licensed on the ICCRC website:
https://iccrc-crcic.ca/find-a-professional-frame/

Working with an Authorized rep is for your own protection, as there are mechanisms in place to prevent clients from being scammed and remedies available if you are given incorrect advice. When you work with someone who is not licensed for Canadian immigration work, there is no protection available to you; and you can even be barred from Canada for 5 years for not disclosing the unauthorized rep on your application.

2. Know which program you qualify for.

An Authorized rep should insist on holding a proper consultation with you before providing any advice, because it is impossible to guide anyone unless the specific details of their situation are explored. During the consultation, you should gain an understanding of what Canadian immigration program you qualify for, and you should understand how/why you qualify. Most reps have an assessment sheet that they use to determine where you fit, and you should ask for a copy of the assessment so that you also understand.

3. Know your CRS score before spending a lot of money.

An Authorized rep should be able to use your personal data to calculate your Comprehensive Ranking Score before an Express Entry profile is submitted. If the person you are working with doesn’t know how to calculate your CRS on their own, then you should find a different rep. It is also possible for an experienced rep to make predictions on the results of your language tests and educational assessments. These predictions can then be used to calculate an approximate CRS score for your situation, and that data can help you decide whether or not it makes sense for you to spend the time and money on formal assessments. When this kind of information is provided, holding a paid consultation with an expert as your first step is actually a money saving technique, as you won’t be wasting funds on assessments that aren’t helpful or necessary for your specific situation.

4. Research the Provincial Nomination programs to see if you fit anywhere.

The eligibility criteria for Provincial Nomination programs is publicly available information. You can find details for each of the Provinces on our website – don’t just take someone else’s word for it.

5. How much should it cost to find out my chances with Express Entry?

An experienced Authorized Rep will charge anywhere from $175 – $350 CAD for a consultation related to Express Entry. That is enough to give you an idea if you should spend more money pursuing Permanent Residence through EE or not. If you are being quoted a higher cost than that, and you don’t yet understand your Express Entry options, I would recommend that you look for alternate counsel. Beware of “free” assessments. Nothing of value is ever free. Many of the scams that we see in our office start out with a free assessment before the individual is told that they “qualify” and just need to send a large sum of money in order to start the process.

What To Do if You Have Been Scammed

If you recognize yourself in one of the scenarios described in this article, there are steps that you can take.

1. Get a second opinion to find out where you really stand.

Oftentimes a consultation with a different authorized representative will help to bring clarity to your present situation and assist with determining your next steps. You need to understand what your actual immigration situation is and how you fit within Express Entry before you can decide what action is needed.

2. Contact your existing representative to discuss your concerns.

Get in touch with whomever you have been working with to date to express any concerns you might have about the work that has been done on your file to date. If you have evidence of inaccurate advice being provided, or if you have realized that your CRS ranking score is too low to expect an invitation to apply, ask them to clarify why the advice was given. If you have indeed been the victim of poor advice or were promised some result that is clearly not going to happen, you should ask that all funds you have paid be refunded promptly.

3. File a complaint.

If you have been working with an authorized representative to date, and you have not been able to resolve your concerns directly with them, you can file a complaint with their regulatory body in order to have your concerns addressed. The ICCRC homepage as well as each Provincial Law Society in Canada provides information on how clients can file a complaint against their representative. The regulatory body will review each complaint and if the representative appears to be at fault, it will launch an investigation of the situation to ensure that the client is protected. It is a good idea to inform your authorized rep that you are planning to file a complaint unless you can resolve the issue directly with them, as this will likely result in your concerns being addressed by the representative in a very prompt manner.

If you have been working with an agent who is not an authorized rep, there are fewer options available to you. You can contact your local police to file a report of fraud, and you can also contact the local Canadian embassy to report the unlawful activities of the agent.

4. Leave a Google Review

Leaving a public Google Review that details your experiences with a particular service provider is one of the easiest and most effective ways to inform others about the type of service they should expect. If you have been misled by a particular individual or firm, it’s a good idea to let others know so that they don’t find themselves in a similar situation.

The Express Entry system is more complicated than it seems. It is a good idea to research the program in order to understand your personal situation so that you can be certain the professional you are working with is operating in your best interests.

The Way Immigration would be pleased to work with you on Express Entry to determine what your realistic options for immigrating to Canada are. A consultation with our licensed RCIC’s will provide you with your Comprehensive Ranking Score, plus the understanding of how your score was calculated, whether or not your score is sufficient to achieve Permanent Residence, and what steps you can take to improve your score. If there is no realistic hope that you will ever qualify through Express Entry, we will do our best to discuss with you other options that could provide you with a better chance of immigrating to Canada.

 

FRAN WIPF, A REGULATED CANADIAN IMMIGRATION CONSULTANT

Fran Wipf is an expert in Canadian immigration matters. She was licensed as an immigration consultant in 2008, and since that time, she has assisted thousands of individuals, families and businesses to find Canadian immigration success. You can learn more about Fran, and the services she offers, at www.thewayimmigration.ca

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