Canada Express Entry: What Can We Learn From First All-Program Draw Since 2020?

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Canada immigration news: Ottawa’s first all-program Express Entry draw after a hiatus of more than a year and a half saw a cautious 1,500 Invitations to Apply (ITAs) issued, drawing the ire of social media users.

“Only 1,500 invitations after such a long wait is totally unreasonable and unfair,” complained one applicant on Twitter.

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Others foreign nationals hoping to immigrate to Canada clearly felt let down by the unusually-high cut-off score of the July 6 draw under the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS).

CRS Scores Demanded Likely To Drop Significantly In Coming All-Program Express Entry Draws

“The cut off is so high, most people won’t make the list,” tweeted one applicant. “Be more reasonable. Last year, the draws were below 300 points. Most people waited for almost a year and now you’re making it more difficult.”

The Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSW), Federal Skilled Trades Program (FST), and Canada Experience Class Program (CEC) all use the Express Entry system to draw from the Express Entry pool of candidates those with the required Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) scores needed to receive ITAs.

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Backlash to the first all-program Express Entry draw this year was so filled with vitriol that some of the comments on Twitter cannot be reprinted here.

The critics, though, are right about two things. 

The first all-program Express Entry draw by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) did come with an unusually-high CRS score cut-off and the number of ITAs was indeed much lower than most other such draws in recent years.

All-program draws, going back three years have required an average minimum CRS score of 472 points with a range of 469 to 478 points. None have broken the 480-point mark, let alone rise above 500 points.

FST Draws In 2020 Required Minimum CRS Of Only 415, And Draws In Previous Years Only 294 Points

Until this month, the most recent Federal Skilled Trades FST program draw, in August 2020, required a minimum CRS score of 415. Going back to 2018, the average CRS score required was only 335 points because in both 2018 and 2019 the required minimum was much lower, as low as 294 points.

An examination of past Canadian Experience Class and Federal Skilled Trades shows a good score to get an ITA for draws specific to those programs has been about 430 points.

After 19 months without an all-program draw, though, the number of applications from high-scoring applicants has undoubtedly built up and the IRCC is clearly trying to work its way through that backlog first before lowering CRS scores for subsequent draws.

Express Entry program applicants can expect the CRS cut-off to drop significantly in coming months – and many more of them can expect to receive ITAs as the year progresses.

By historical standards, the 1,500-ITA draw earlier this week was an anomaly, a cautious first step back into the all-program Express Entry draws. 

When Canadian immigration officials held two CEC draws under Express Entry in June last year, each of those saw 6,000 ITAs issued. In July, 2021, the IRCC followed that up with two CEC draws with 4,500 ITAs each.

But now the IRCC is facing a growing backlog of applications for citizenship and both temporary and permanent residence.

By the end of the first week of June, Canada’s backlog of immigration applications had almost hit 2.39 million, up almost 12.1 per cent, or 257,499 applications, from the slightly more than 2.1 million in the backlog at the beginning of May.

Cutting back on backlog is a top priority of the Canadian government.

Lower High-Skilled Immigration Levels Target

The smaller draw also needs to be set in the context of Canada’s reduced federal high-skilled immigration target for 2022.

In February, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced an overall immigration target of 431,645 for this year, but that only included 55,900 in the high-skilled category.

The previous three-year Immigration Levels Plan, unveiled in fall 2020, set a high-skilled target of 110,500 for 2022.

With programs such as the TR to PR Pathway making up some of the shortfalls, Ottawa chose to cut that number in half as it looks to manage the application backlog.

Under the current plan, high-skilled immigration levels will not return to over 100,000 until 2024, when the plan is to welcome 111,500 in the category.

Federal High-Skilled Immigration Levels Plan

2022 2023 2024
55,900 75,750 111,500

Trudeau’s Task Force, IRCC Officials Likely To Cut Backlog Of Applications As Year Progresses

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has gone so far as to set up a task force to tackle the delays in government services, including the processing of applications the IRCC.

“We know service delays, particularly in recent months, are unacceptable,” said Trudeau. “We will continue to do everything we can to improve the delivery of these services in an efficient and timely manner and this new task force will help guide the work of the government to better meet the changing needs of Canadians and continue to provide them with the high-quality services they need and deserve.”

As the country’s immigration official struggle under the weight of that backlog of applications, the IRCC has cut back on the number of ITAs it has issued. Immigration experts think this is also in part because Canada is likely to be able to meet this year’s immigration targets by processing some of the applications still left over from ITAs issued last year. 

In 2021, the IRCC issued 114,431 ITAs to prospective immigrants to Canada. So far this year, it had only issued 12,289 as of the end of the day on July 6. 

At that rate, Canada would only issue 24,578 ITAs this year, or a paltry 21.5 per cent of last year’s total. 

But IRCC officials say they are confident they will be able to deal with the multiple initiatives which have so far driven up the backlog of temporary resident visas and have already made headway in cutting back on the backlog of permanent resident applications.

“Supported by additional funding of $85 million from the 2021 Economic and Fiscal Update, we are continuing our efforts to reduce application inventories accumulated during the pandemic,” said Peter Liang, an IRCC spokesperson in an e-mailed response last month.

“The funding builds on the work that has already been done to reduce wait times, such as hiring new processing staff, digitizing applications, and implementing technology-based solutions such as digital intake and advanced analytics.”

Canada’s backlog of applications for permanent residency did, in fact, go down slightly during the month of May, nudging down a bit more than 1.5 per cent to 522,047 from 530,269 applications.

With that drop in the backlog of applications for permanent residency, Canadian immigration officials are expected to begin holding all-program Express Entry draws with much-larger numbers of people receiving ITAs once again in the second half of this year.

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