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What Would Changes to the Express Entry System Mean?

In the Budget 2021 released by the Canadian Government, hints at a possible overhaul in how the Express Entry system is used to select applicants and invite them to apply for Canadian permanent residence have been suggested.

What is the Express Entry System?

Since 2015, the Express Entry system organizes and processes applications for people who wish to immigrate to Canada. Eligible applicants apply to the Express Entry pool which in turn is assessed and given a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score. At any one time, there are hundreds of thousands of Express Entry profiles in the system (at the time of writing, there are over 166,000 profiles in the pool). Periodically throughout the year, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) conduct draws, issuing Invitations to Apply to a limited number of profiles, inviting those applicants to apply for permanent residence.

In conducting draws, since 2015, IRCC has only ever been concerned with the rank of the applicant, taking into consideration their CRS score, with no regard to their skills and work experience background. The relational being that any high scoring applicant has the ability to economically establish themselves in Canada, irrespective of their employment background. And while the current setup may ensure applicants are overall more likely to succeed in Canada, it has left a gaping hole in the labour market, which was once reliant on skilled foreign immigrants coming into Canada to fill specific shortages.

What Could a Change Look Like?

Although no official comment has been made, the wording used in the Budget 2021 release suggests big changes are coming to the way the Express Entry system is used.

The Government of Canada intends to propose amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to provide the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada with authority to use Ministerial Instructions to help select those candidates who best meet Canada’s labour market needs from among the growing pool of candidates who wish to become permanent residents through the Express Entry System.

Government of Canada, Budget 2021

This indicates that applicants will be selected from the pool based on their suitability to fill a labour market shortage not their overall ranking within the system. This in turn implies the way an applicant ranks within the pool will not be the final determination of their success. Rather, a combination of their rank and specific work experience will be considered.

And of course, with the emphasis being placed on labour market demand, the type of profile to be selected may drastically change from one draw to the next. We can look to how provinces use the Express Entry system to select applicants for an insight as to how IRCC may now use the pool.

What Does This Mean for the Applicant?

This should be seen as a welcome change to any applicant in the Express Entry pool. When previously an applicant was judged solely on how high they ranked as well as how high their peers ranked, they will now be an extra path based on their work experience. While we cannot say with certainty how the IRCC will select applicants to fill labour market shortages, it will likely be based on their previous work experience and the corresponding National Occupation Classification (NOC) Code. With this of course means that there will be no way of knowing whether a particular type of work experience will be selected in the 12 months a profile will remains active in the pool, but it is certain that if it is not in the pool when the demand arises, there is no way for it to be selected.  

When Will These Changes Likely Happen?

The budget refers to the changes impacting the 2021 to 2023 immigration plan of welcoming at least 1.2 million new immigrants to Canada, suggesting we can expect a change within the next couple of years. It is however unlikely to happen amidst the ongoing struggle against the COVID 19 pandemic which has caused a great shift in Canadian immigration patterns as a results of global travel restrictions and advisories, but with it, large areas of worker shortages across Canada which need to be addressed. We can therefore expect to see these changes once the COVID 19 pandemic has passed.

Rebecca Major

Rebecca Major is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant and Director of Operations at Canadim Law Firm. She has spent the last 11 years of her career helping thousands of people immigrate to Canada.

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