Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada announced on May 31 that draws focusing on five broad fields would begin in summer 2023.
Those fields – healthcare, STEM, trades, transport and agriculture – have been identified as having Canada’s most severe labour shortages.
Immigration Minister Sean Fraser says the move will allow Canada’s flagship programs to respond to those labour market needs more quickly.
To qualify, candidates require a minimum of six months of work experience in the last three years in one of the 82 occupations listed under the fields.
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There remain unanswered questions about what these draws will look like, for example, will IRCC target draws at the whole field, or select specific occupations for each draw?
But whatever the answer to those questions, it can be assumed that minimum CRS scores will be significantly lower than those for recent all-program draws.
Since the start of 2023, Canada has conducted eight all-program draws with minimum CRS scores ranging from 481 to 507, and averaging 489.
The scores have been on a downward trend but look unlikely to reach the lower 400s – last seen in the pre-pandemic days of Express Entry.
Occupation-specific draws look likely to change that.
When IRCC starts targeting NOC codes, candidates with work experience in those occupations are likely to get invited in that draw.
An experienced truck driver with a score of 250 could sit in the Express Entry pool indefinitely without getting an invitation in a world where only all-program draws were conducted.
From Canada’s point of view, it would get high-scoring candidates, but it wouldn’t get the right people to solve its truck driver shortage.
The new draws change that. In a draw targeted at truck drivers, every candidate in the pool with truck driver experience is in play. That does not mean they will all get an invite, but it does mean they all have a chance of getting an invite. In an all-program draw, most truck drivers have no chance.
That goes for candidates with experience in every other occupation on the list of 82 that was published on May 31.
Candidates Should Think Strategically
There is also the opportunity for prospective immigrants to be strategically minded about their applications.
With the requirement of six months of work experience, it is possible for a candidate to look at that list of occupations and decide to go out and get six months of work experience in one of the NOC codes.
There is slight risk attached to this – IRCC was explicit when it announced the list that those five fields and 82 NOC codes were for 2023 only.
However, while some codes may be added or removed for 2024, a labour shortage problem is not solved as quickly as that.
It can be stated with some confidence that the list of occupations for 2024 will not be dramatically different from the list for 2023.
There remains a lot of unknowns about Canada’s move to occupation-specific draws through Express Entry, including the frequency of the draws and the NOC codes that will be targeted.
By the end of the year, it will be clearer how often IRCC intends to use its powers to target occupations, and which occupations it will target more than others.
But what can be said with some certainty is that draws targeting specific occupations will have lower CRS scores than all-program draws.
If you are a candidate with the required six months of experience in one of the 82 occupations, you are now more likely to be successful in receiving an Express Entry invitation.
All will become clear over the next six months.