People are being scammed because they don’t understand how Express Entry works. This post introduces the basics of the Express Entry system, 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!
Most Common Express Entry Scam
In recent months, 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 from the client states something to the effect of “I’m already in the Express Entry pool, and I paid $1000 US to XYZ Company but nothing seems to be happening with my application. My express entry 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 express entry score is not high enough to ever expect to be invited to apply for Permanent Residence under Express Entry. By this point in time, these clients, who are usually highly skilled workers, have spent several hundred dollars to get language test results and an educational credential assessment, plus usually paid a large sum 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 and they become a permanent resident. It’s an incredible betrayal of trust to learn that there was never any hope of immigration to Canada in the first place.
The Express Entry system is quite vulnerable to this scam, which plays on a lack of understanding of how Express Entry works by the thousands of potential candidates out there. Scammers try 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. It’s all about the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS).
How Express Entry Works
Express Entry is a two-step process. The first step is that all Express Entry candidates must qualify under the criteria for one of Canada’s three federal economic immigration programs. These are: the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program or the Canadian Experience Class – each has its own detailed criteria. However, there are hundreds of thousands of people worldwide who have enough express entry eligibility points to qualify under one of these programs, and thus are able to enter the Express Entry pool. In fact, there are far more eligible potential Express Entry candidates than Canada could ever possibly accept as immigrants.
That’s why the second step of the Express Entry process is so important. It uses the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). All candidates in the express entry pool are ranked against the rest of the world who also want to immigrate to Canada. Most skilled workers living abroad, if they do not have Canadian education or work experience, will likely need to qualify under the Federal Skilled Worker program, one of the 3 programs managed by Express Entry. So your Comprehensive Ranking System score will reflect your score as as Federal Skilled worker.
Once your Express Entry profile is submitted – which requires a language test and an educational credential assessment – your CRS score is automatically calculated. With that score, your chances of immigrating to Canada become clear because the selection uses a points-based system. Every few weeks (there is no set schedule), Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will issue invitations to the highest scoring individuals in the Express Entry pool to apply for Permanent Residence. (Of note: This may change somewhat in 2023 as we are awaiting the arrival of a major change to Express Entry – targeting certain occupations in greater demand in Canada, rather than going by the highest scores alone).
How an Express Entry Scam works
A common Express Entry scam happens at the first step of the process.
First, you provide your data relating to your age, education, language ability in Canada’s official languages, work experience, settlement funds needed for yourself and any family members, and any family ties to Canada. You also provide information on your spouse or common-law partner. Then the scammers then tell you something like:
“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 in the sense that they meet the eligibility criteria under one of the 3 programs operated by the Express Entry system, but who will never receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for Permanent Residence. That is because their score in the Comprehensive Ranking System is too low to ever expect an invitation. It’s not enough that you have a profile in the Express Entry pool. Although it will remain active in the pool for a year (thus eligible for draws), you have to score high enough to be chosen above the other candidates in an Express Entry draw.
Based solely on their eligibility to enter the Express Entry pool, clients are encouraged to send a large sum of money so that their Express Entry profile can be submitted, and their Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score can be officially generated. What is not mentioned is the fact that anyone’s CRS 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 this process or not.
There is significant cost to submitting your profile because you have to obtain language test results and an ECA (educational credential assessment) first. You will also be paying the scammers. Yet, your actual likelihood of being chosen in one of the Express Entry draws and moving forward to actually getting a permanent resident visa is practically non-existent, and an honest adviser would tell you that. In other words, you may never have the opportunity to actually make a PR application or submit your supporting documentation for assessment, or become a permanent resident.
The clients are further encouraged when they receive “official proof” of their eligibility from the federal government. This is usually a print screen showing their detailed points which make up their CRS score from inside the online portal with their Express Entry profile number and a letter that welcomes them to the Express Entry pool. And it probably comes in both official languages! While these are indeed official documents, they do not in any way convey that the applicant has any chance of ever immigrating to Canada. They are simply a confirmation that the client’s information is registered in the portal, in other words, they have an Express Entry profile. It sounds promising – but your Express Entry profile number really only means that you have met the minimum criteria to enter the pool. The vast majority of people in the pool are never invited to apply.
The CRS score is the important part to pay attention to as that is the key to whether you are likely to get an Invitation to Apply (ITA). If not, you should probably focus on other Canadian immigration options instead.
About CRS scores and success with Express Entry
It is really important to understand the basis of your score as an Express Entry candidate because it indicates what your true chances are, and also whether there are any practical ways to raise it. Since Express Entry started in 2015, it has been solely a points-based system. Exactly how many points the principal applicant will need to get invited has varied in each draw, but professionals follow the trends and always know the current cut-off scores.
To re-iterate, any professional working in this area can calculate your score pretty accurately without you needing to enter an Express Entry profile (and incurring the costs of getting those documents). They will also discuss with you other factors that could derail your immigration plans if they showed up later in the process, e.g., on your medical certificate or police history that may make you inadmissible. They can also advise you on how your spouse or common-law partner fits into the whole process.
So, if you work in any skilled occupation, are still quite young, have higher education and good language skills (factors that help your CRS score) it is very worthwhile for you to have your precise CRS points calculated independently. At the same time you can have a conversation about anything else that could impact your immigration status before making any definite plans.
You should do this before considering whether to enter an Express Entry profile. This way, you are only paying a professional to calculate your score, rather than for expensive documents that may turn out to be unusable.
What CRS scores are required to succeed with Express Entry?
Scores have been very high in the Express Entry draws since the general draws (for all 3 programs in the same draw) resumed after COVID, and they remain high.
Even before COVID, there were only a handful of rounds where invitations were issued for scores less than 420 in the entire history of Express Entry. During COVID, things were very different, and the Canadian government allowed some very low scores for people already living in Canada since it was easier to process them. But I am not even going to count the COVID period because COVID is over, and the system is back to normal.
Since the Canadian government resumed the general draws in June 2022, we first started seeing CRS scores over 500 and gradually dropping to the high 480’s. This is probably what you can expect in 2023 for Express Entry candidates in the Federal Skilled Worker Class and the Canadian Experience Class.
Every once in a while, there is a special draw for Federal Skilled Trades only, and those scores will be considerably lower. Or, there may be a draw for those with provincial nominations only, and those scores will be very high.
This means that, under present circumstances, unless you qualify as a tradesperson, you probably need to have a minimum score of over 480 to have a really good chance of being invited to apply for permanent residence through Express Entry.
If your score is over 450, it’s probably worthwhile to spend money on getting language test results and any ECAs needed to submit your profile just in case the threshold score drops at some point. Below that, you do not have a good chance at present of getting a federal invitation to apply unless you qualify for a provincial nominee program (see below) where the province chooses applicants from the Express Entry pool with much lower points if they meet other factors the province is looking for. Or, it may be possible to take steps to increase your CRS score through, for example, better language test results, or your spouse or common-law partner taking a language test.
You might want to re-think spending a lot of money on express entry costs to submit a profile if your points are under 450, because the chances of you receiving an invitation to apply and getting a permanent resident visa under Express Entry are very low. There can be other issues with submitting an Express Entry profile when you are not likely to receive an invitation to apply, because it can cause complications with other future applications to Canada.
Other truths about Express Entry…
Having said this, it’s important to point out that the Express Entry system is constantly changing, and no one can predict with certainty what CRS score may result in an invitation to apply. But when you look at historical and recent trends, you can gain a better sense of what your chances are with your various points that make up your CRS score, and then make an informed decision about how you want to spend your money. You can also monitor the Express Entry draws to see the trends.
Promises of Provincial Nomination through Express Entry
Here is the second part of the scam. Individuals whose CRS score is obviously too low to ever be picked in a draw to receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) 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. They offer to submit your information to any provincial program you may qualify for at no extra cost. A provincial nomination certificate, if added to your Express Entry profile, results in an additional 600 points and a guaranteed invitation to apply for Permanent Residence in the next Express Entry draw.
This sounds wonderful, and it is true that provinces have programs with several streams, and it is possible to qualify for one of these streams. So this information is technically true. BUT, it is it is used in a way that is borderline unethical when every client is given hope that they might qualify for a Provincial Nomination. That part is not true. The provinces have a limited number of nominations they can issue, and very strict criteria for every one of them. A great many programs are targeted to skilled workers already working in the province, or who have a valid job offer from an employer in the province.
The eligibility for each stream in every Provincial Nominee program is clearly stated by each of the Provinces and is publicly available. 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.
If you do in fact qualify for a provincial nominee program, it can be a reliable avenue. Again, it is wise to confirm things through an independent professional before investing too much.
Just get a Job offer to increase your Express Entry points
Sometimes individuals are instructed that they will qualify to apply for Permanent Residence as soon as they can get a valid job offer for a skilled job in Canada, as this will boost their express entry eligibility 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 job offer in Canada, and even if you do, only certain certain job offers will qualify for points.
A qualifying job offer does not just mean that you have a Canadian employer who wants to hire you and makes you a valid job offer. It means that you are either already working in Canada under a specific type of work permit; 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 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 for Canadian employers.
How to protect yourself from immigration fraud
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. These programs prey on people with dreams of getting a Canadian permanent resident visa.
While it is true that tens of thousands of people qualify to immigrate to Canada under Express Entry every year, I am concerned 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 advice that you deserve before you pay out too much for an immigration application that will not result in your getting permanent residency.
Here are my top tips to help you ensure you are getting the best professional advice for your immigration situation:
Now that you have a better understanding of how the Express Entry program works, and especially the significance of your CRS score in actually getting permanent residence through this avenue, here is my best advice.
1. Work with a licensed consultant.
It is illegal under Canadian law for anyone other than an authorized representative to provide immigration advice for a fee. You should be dealing directly with an authorized rep (not an assistant or other staff member) when your personal situation and future immigration status is being assessed to determine your eligibility under Canada’s immigration programs. Authorized reps for Canadian immigration are licensed consultants, Canadian lawyers, Quebec notaries or Ontario paralegals.
At this point, you are probably asking yourself, “How do I know if my immigration consultant is real?”
You can check to see if your consultant is licensed on the College website:
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. It is impossible to guide anyone unless numerous specific details of their situation are explored, including the situation of their spouse or common-law partner. During the consultation, you should gain an understanding of which Canadian immigration program you qualify for, and you should understand how/why you qualify. They can also tell you the process of getting into the pool, your chances of getting an invitation and the later express entry cost if you do get an invitation. But the key is your CRS score. Most reps have an assessment sheet that they use to determine your points, 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.
As indicated, an Authorized rep should be able to assess your personal data to calculate your CRS points before an Express Entry profile is submitted. If the person you are working with doesn’t know how to calculate your CRS points on their own, then you should find a different rep.
Judgment is called for, but practitioners are very skilled at predicting points. For example, only an estimate can be given of your language ability at this stage, but this factor can be easily worked into the calculation as a professional will be familiar the Canadian Language Benchmark and what those standards signify. They can also predict points based on what your educational credential assessments should prove once you order them. Most importantly, they can assess the applicable NOC Code (National Occupational Classification) for every part of your work experience, which is absolutely key. And they will also know if you may be a good candidate for another avenue such as a Labour Market Impact Assessment.
These predictions can be used to calculate an approximate CRS score for your situation, and, most importantly, the maximum points you would likely have (say, if your language test was perfect). This data can help you decide whether or not it makes sense for you to spend the time and money getting more formal documents to enter an Express Entry profile. When this kind of information is provided, booking a paid consultation with an expert as your first step can be seen as a truly money-saving technique for you, as you won’t be wasting funds on assessments that aren’t helpful or necessary for your specific situation to pursue an express entry program that will not work for you.
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 the Express Entry program. That is enough to give you an idea if you should spend more money pursuing Permanent Residence through Express Entry 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.
4 Steps to take if you are a victim of immigration fraud
If you recognize yourself in one of the scenarios described in this article, here are steps some steps you can take.
a. 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.
b. Contact your existing representative, request a refund.
Get in touch with whomever you have been working with so far to express your concerns 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 ranking system CRS 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.
c. 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 homepage for the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants as well as each Provincial Law Society 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, will investigate 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, fewer options are 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. The federal government runs the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre people can report to. You should also inform the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants of the unlicensed practitioner as they do have some authority to try and shut down these “ghost consultants” as well.
d. 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. Millions of people worldwide are interested in Canada’s Express Entry system. 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.
It is clear the Express Entry system is more complicated than it seems. It is a good idea to research the program before you consider submitting an Express Entry profile (and getting that costly language test or ECA) in order to understand your personal situation and be certain the professional you are working with is operating in your best interests.
If you work in a skilled occupation, The Way Immigration would be pleased to discuss your realistic options for immigrating to Canada under the Express Entry system. A consultation with our licensed RCICs will provide you with your Comprehensive Ranking Score, plus an understanding of how your score was calculated, and whether or not your score is sufficient to achieve Permanent Residence. If not, what steps might you take to improve your score? If there is no realistic hope to qualify through Express Entry, we will do our best to assess other federal immigration programs or provincial options that could provide you with a better chance of immigrating to Canada.