ANALYSIS: The Minister’s comments on restarting skilled worker draws are consistent with backlog data and internal IRCC briefing materials.
In a recent interview, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser stated that the agency plans to resume Express Entry drawings for skilled workers in the spring.
Minister Fraser spoke with ApplyBoard in a virtual interview about international student issues. One of the minister’s responsibilities is to establish avenues for international students and temporary foreign employees to get permanent status.
The minister responded to queries in a chatbox about when Express Entry draws for Federal High Skilled candidates will resume at the completion of the interview. Candidates who are eligible for the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), and the Federal Skilled Trades Program fall into the Federal High Skilled category (FSTP).
Since December 2020, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) have not issued an Express Entry draw for FSWP candidates, and CEC draws have been on hold since September 2021. Express Entry candidates who may be qualified for immigration under these programmes are unable to apply without these draws.
Fraser emphasized that there was no major news, but that IRCC was planning to resume FSWP draws in the near future, with a target date of “sometime this spring.”
People working in Canada under a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP), which may be about to expire, were also recognized by Fraser. PGWP holders who do not have an Invitation to Apply (ITA) will be unable to apply for immigration and become eligible for a Bridging Open Work Permit (BOWP), which will allow them to stay and work lawfully when their PGWP expires.
A PGWP cannot be renewed or extended on its own. PGWP holders will need to seek a new work permit, abandon their jobs, or possibly leave the country when their current one expires.
“Right now, we’re looking at several solutions to ensure we don’t lose talent,” Fraser said. “We’ll have a lot more to say about this in the coming weeks and months.”
Why has FSWP draws been halted since 2020?
Because of their large number in the Express Entry pool prior to the pandemic, FSWP candidates were asked to apply for permanent residence more than any other Express Entry-managed programme.
The cause for the suspension in FSWP draws dates back to March 2020, when the global epidemic began. With rare exceptions, Canada closed its borders to international travel. Applicants eligible for permanent residency from any nation other than Canada and the United States who were not otherwise exempt were not allowed to finish their landing.
Because FSWP applicants are frequently abroad, allowing them for permanent residency would put them in a situation where they would be unable to finish their landing. Their Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) would expire over time, and they would be unable to become permanent residents if their document expired. Until June 2021, this measure was in effect.
IRCC concentrated its immigration efforts on admitting as many applicants who were already in Canada as possible in order to satisfy its immigration targets despite the travel limitations. To accomplish this, the department held massive Express Entry invitation rounds for CEC candidates and established the Temporary Residence to Permanent Residence (TR to PR) pathway.
This technique, however, resulted in a backlog of immigration petitions. The amount of FSWP and CEC applications in IRCC’s portfolio had grown to the point where the agency could no longer satisfy the six-month processing criteria. The FSWP processing period is predicted to increase to 36 months in 2022, according to the latest IRCC public records. The government website, however, does not represent this fact; Fraser had stated that the issue with the government website would be resolved in the coming months.
Why has CEC draws been halted since the fall?
In 2021, IRCC invited a record number of CEC candidates at once. In February of that year, IRCC sent out invites to all 27,332 CEC candidates in the Express Entry pool. The candidate who had the lowest score in the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) was invited. Approximately 6,000 CEC applicants were invited every two weeks over the next few months.
The inventory of CEC applicants rose to the point where IRCC could not satisfy the processing criteria, similar to what happened with FSWP candidates. Officials opted to put the program’s application intake on hold to give officers time to process the applications that were already in the system. According to both internal records and the official website, the processing period for CEC is roughly seven months.
Express Entry’s current state
Every two weeks, Canada holds an Express Entry lottery for Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) candidates. These candidates qualified for one of the federal High Skilled programmes and were subsequently nominated by the province. They were given 600 additional CRS points and the opportunity to be invited in a PNP-specific round of invitations after receiving the nomination.
These invitation rounds are expected to continue while IRCC works to clear the backlog in other programmes, according to internal papers.
In the IRCC backlogs, there are signs of progress.
According to the most recent IRCC inventory data, IRCC processed 4,000 FSWP applicants between February 28 and March 15, which is higher than it processed in a seven-month period in 2021. In 2022, Canada will have welcomed more FSWP immigrants than it did in the previous year.
As of March 15, there are 10,400 CECs still awaiting processing. IRCC was able to handle 4,751 CEC applications in 42 days. At this rate, IRCC may be able to eliminate the existing backlog by the spring.
According to a recently disclosed letter, FSWP will resume in 2022.
Through an access to information request, CIC News recently obtained an internal memo from January. IRCC writes in the concluding paragraph:
“Candidates in the pool, particularly those whose work permits are about to expire, will continue to have doubts about receiving an invitation to apply in the near future.” Candidates should compare their CRS score to the minimum CRS score required to get an invitation to apply in those rounds when the invitation to apply rounds resume later in 2022.”
IRCC’s position on resuming Express Entry rounds for FSWP and CEC candidates is explained in the memo, which is substantially redacted. IRCC will be able to resolve its inventory backlogs further if the hiatus is extended until at least March 31. The length of the hiatus will be determined by the IRCC’s changing priorities.
To accomplish targets this year, IRCC must resume FSWP and CEC draws.
IRCC must issue ITAs in 2022 in order to meet the 2023 Express Entry admissions targets under the 2022-2024 Immigration Levels Plan. It takes around a year for Express Entry candidates to submit a permanent residency application. They have 60 days to apply after receiving an ITA, and the application will take at least six months to process. They have a specific amount of time to land after receiving approval.
Another reason why IRCC is expected to host an FSWP or CEC draw in the coming months is to address the issue of workers losing their status in Canada. In the interview, Minister Fraser stated:
“I don’t want to see individuals leave who have a job, are contributing, and want to stay at the same time as I’m trying to solve the labour crisis by embracing immigration.”