Until this year, Express Entry was the primary means by which Canada accepted low-income immigrants.
The Canadian Experience Class (CEC), the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), and the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) all use Express Entry as an applicant management system (FSTP). A portion of the Provincial Nominee Program is also managed by it (PNP). It’s a point-based system in which qualified individuals are given a CRS score based on human capital variables like age, education, language skills, work experience, and more.
IRCC would invite the highest-scoring prospects to apply for immigration before the epidemic. Typically, these draws did not choose candidates based on their eligibility programme.
IRCC focused on inviting CEC candidates earlier in the epidemic to meet its aim of admitting a record-high number of immigrants in a single year despite travel limitations. Because CEC candidates are frequently already in Canada, they were not subject to the travel limitations imposed by Canada between 2020 and 2021. Last year, Canada welcomed almost 405,000 permanent residents, the biggest number in the country’s history.
IRCC has also focused on engaging PNP candidates to support provincial immigration targets during the pandemic.
Backlogs in the immigration system, including Express Entry, have come from the combination of this shift in Express Entry policy and pandemic-related issues. As a result, IRCC has not solicited FSWP or CEC applicants since December 2020 and September 2021, respectively.
The shortage of invites to the FSWP and CEC comes at a time when Canada is experiencing record labour shortages. Unemployment is at an all-time low, while job openings are at all-time highs.
International students who have graduated from a Canadian-recognized learning institution and are seeking a Post-Graduation Work Permit are the most common CEC candidates. The PGWP is an open work permit that allows international graduates to work in Canada for one year before applying for permanent residency. In general, you can only receive a PGWP once, which means that if you are unable to apply for permanent residence while holding the PGWP, you risk losing your work permit status until you can find another work permit that meets your requirements.
As a result, CEC applicants have been losing their work permits because they are unable to apply for a Bridging Open Work Permit (BOWP) while waiting for IRCC to process their permanent residence petitions due to a paucity of Express Entry Invitations to Apply (ITAs). The BOWP “bridges” the gap between the expiration of a work permit, such as the PGWP, and the candidate’s eventual receipt of permanent residence, as the name implies. The BOWP allows some permanent residents to keep working in Canada for any employer of their choice.
Between January and July 2021, IRCC issued an exception to its PGWP regulation by granting a one-time 18-month open work permit. The goal was to offer PGWP holders additional time to gain the necessary work experience to be eligible for permanent residence in Canada if the pandemic harmed their employment chances in Canada (e.g., layoffs early in the pandemic).
Between its inception in 1967 and the current decision by IRCC to focus on inviting and processing CEC candidates, the FSWP was the primary source of foreign skilled immigrants to Canada. Due to the ageing of Canada’s population and the pandemic causing dramatic changes in the labour market, this temporary pandemic-induced policy shift has limited the flow of foreign skilled immigrants into the Canadian workforce at a time when the labour market has been historically tight.
Meanwhile, IRCC is aiming for 55,000 permanent residents through Express Entry in 2022, which is nearly half of its 2021 goal. The temporary drop in Express Entry targets is to allow the government to wind down its Temporary to Permanent Residence (TR2PR) programme and focus on other priorities. Through the TR2PR initiative, IRCC encouraged up to 90,000 overseas graduates and vital workers to apply for a permanent residence between May and November 2021.
Express Entry landings are expected to increase over the next two years, according to the Immigration Levels Plan 2022-2024, with IRCC aiming to welcome more than 110,000 newcomers through Express Entry by 2024.
More applications are being processed at the IRCC.
The Express Entry backlog has been reduced by more than half, from roughly 112,000 persons in September 2021 to 48,000 people in March 2022, according to the IRCC. In the first quarter of 2022, it also increased the number of permanent resident choices made in comparison to the same period in 2021. Between January 1st and March 31st, 2022, the IRCC made 156,000 permanent residency determinations. In addition, in the first quarter of 2022, IRCC handled over 100,000 work permit applications, compared to 58,000 in the same period the previous year.