The numbers released for Q1 by IRCC are quite exciting and very promising for Canada’s immigration target of welcoming 401,000 newcomers into the country by the end of 2021. Data shows that Canada issued the largest number of invitations in Q1 since 2015.
The first quarter (Q1) of 2021 saw a total of 44,124 Express Entry candidates receiving invitations to apply for permanent residency by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
This is the highest number of invitations ever issued since the launch of the Express Entry program six years ago, in 2015.
The Express Entry program was created to manage applications from economic class immigrants. There are two steps to the process.
Candidates are required to submit a profile in the Express Entry pool and demonstrate how they meet the eligibility criteria required for the skilled worker program they are applying under. They are given a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score based on human capital factors in their profile.
Once the candidate has met all the requirements, they are eligible for the bi-weekly Express Entry draws held by IRCC. In the past IRCC has only issued invitations based on highest CRS scores, however, the challenges presented by the pandemic has seen a shift in how they are approaching draws.
The requirements have been loosened and tweaked as IRCC has adopted a program-specific approach and has shifted its focus to nviting candidates who are already living in Canada.
As Canada enters a third wave for COVID, program-specific draws will likely continue to be the new norm for the foreseeable future.
Program-specific draws: the new normal in Canada?
Even through pandemic related travel restrictions and border closures, which have been in place for over a year now (March 2020), Canada has continued to hold Express Entry draws in an attempt to keep immigration flowing to the best of their abilities.
Most of the candidates who were newly approved for their PR have been unable to complete their landing in Canada as the only people who are exempt from travel restrictions are some temporary workers, certain international students or close family members of Canadian citizens or permanent residents.
IRCC has found a temporary solution to this problem by shifting their focus to program-specific draws. In pre-pandemic draws, all candidates who were in the Express Entry pool were given consideration.
However, in the last year IRCC is only considering candidates who can fill specific provincial labour market needs or candidates who are already living and working in Canada.
This shift has had the greatest impact on candidates who are eligible under the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP). Before the pandemic, the bulk of the invitations issued by IRCC went to FSWP candidates.
But since the pandemic, IRCC has only been holding PNP Express Entry and CEC draws, putting PSWP candidates at a major disadvantage.
Of the ten draws held in the first quarter of 2021, six of them have been Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) only (2,416 invitations issued) and four have been for CEC candidates (41,708 invitations issued).
Historic draw held on February 13, 2021
The bulk of the 41,708 invitations issued through CEC draws were given out on February 13, 2021 when IRCC held a surprise Express Entry draw and invited 27,332 immigration candidates to apply for their permanent residency.
Aside from the staggering number of invitations issued, several other factors made this a historic draw:
- It was held on a Saturday;
- Every eligible candidate in the Canadian Experience Class received an invitation;
- The minimum CRS score required was dramatically decreased to only 75 or higher! In the past CRS requirements for draws have been around the 400 points mark.
- This draw was five times bigger than the previous largest Express Entry draw when IRCC issued 5,000 invitations.
At this time last year, in Q1 of 2020, Canada had only issued 22,600 invitations to immigration candidates. Almost half the number we’re at this year.
This comes as no surprise since Canada made it very clear last fall during the unveiling of its Immigration Levels Plan 2021-2023, that immigration would be a top priority in the new year.
For 2021 alone, Canada is looking to welcome 401,000 new permanent residents. By focusing on CEC and PNP draws, the federal government is much more likely to hit this target as 90% of CEC candidates alone are already living in Canada.
Over the next three years, Canada is planning on welcoming over 1.2 million newcomers into the country.
Express Entry-aligned PNPs
Most of the provinces in Canada have a PNP stream that is aligned with IRCC’s Express Entry stream. This allows provinces and territories to select qualified candidates who already have an active profile in the Express Entry pool and who will meet their specific labour market needs.
The candidate in return receives 600 points in addition to their existing Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score virtually guaranteeing receipt of an invitation during IRCC’s next Express Entry draw.
The following provinces have all issued nominations to candidates in the Express Entry pool this year:
- British Columbia;
- Nova Scotia;
- Prince Edward Island;
As we roll into Q2 this trend is expected to continue.
Expectations for Q2 and beyond
If Q1 ended on a high note, Q2 started off with a bang by issuing 5,000 invitations to eligible CEC candidates in a new draw on April 1st, 2021.
If the trend we have been seeing last year and in Q1 of this year continues, we can expect IRCC to continue holding program-specific CEC and PNP draws in the coming months.
In an attempt to meet the target of 401,000 newcomers, the federal government is likely planning to issue the bulk of the invitations in the first half of the year so the candidates can officially become permanent residents by the end of the year.
IRCC did switch to all-programs halfway through 2020 and may choose to go that route this year again where the landing of candidates chosen from streams like FSWP will only be completed once travel restrictions ease.