Until this year, Express Entry was the primary method for bringing in low-income immigrants to Canada. Prior to the pandemic, IRCC performed biweekly Express Entry lotteries, inviting the highest-scoring individuals to apply for permanent residence regardless of their eligibility programme. FSWP and CEC candidates received the majority of invites, with only about 1% going to FSTP candidates. The IRCC planned to process permanent residence applications in six months.
At the commencement of the epidemic, in March 2020, IRCC held drawings in which only CEC and PNP candidates were invited. In light of COVID-19 interruptions, including Canada’s travel limitations, IRCC decided that inviting CEC candidates made sense because they were most likely to be able to transfer to permanent residency because they largely lived in Canada. PNP drawings were held to help provinces and territories meet their labour market needs around the country. FSWP candidates were also asked to participate in IRCC’s Express Entry drawings later in the year.
In January 2021, however, IRCC stopped inviting FSWP applicants and instead sent out a huge number of invitations to CEC candidates. The explanation for this shift, we later heard, was that IRCC sought to transfer as many in-Canada immigration applicants to permanent residence as feasible in order to meet its aggressive 401,000 immigration goal for 2021. Candidates for the CEC made up one-third of the 405,000 immigrants who arrived in Canada last year.
Between May and November of last year, IRCC launched a Temporary to Permanent Residence (“TR2PR”) programme to allow more international graduates and critical employees in Canada to apply for permanent residence. This was intended to be another approach to help the company meet its 2021 level goal.
The department’s backlogs have grown as a result of the concentration on CEC applicants and the start of the TR2PR programme, and it has fallen behind its service standard of processing Express Entry applications within six months. As a result, in September 2021, IRCC put a halt to invitations to CEC candidates.
Last month, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRCC) unveiled its new Immigration Levels Plan 2022-2024, which will restrict Express Entry admissions in 2022 and 2023 to allow the department to process all TR2PR programme applications within those two years. After the PNP, Express Entry will be the second most popular economic class admissions pathway. With over 110,000 immigrant admissions targeted by 2024, IRCC hopes to restore Express Entry as the leading economic class method.
The halt in FSWP and CEC applicants, as indicated in the memo, is causing concern among many potential immigrants. Between its inception in 1967 and the outbreak of the pandemic, the FSWP was Canada’s primary source of skilled worker immigration. Candidates for the CEC, on the other hand, risk losing their status and being forced to leave Canada. IRCC has not indicated whether a special measure will be implemented to allow CEC candidates to extend their temporary status until Express Entry resumes normal operations.