Canada has placed a temporary pause on invitations for new high-skilled immigrants through the federal component of the Express Entry system, representing a quarter of the annual intake, as officials struggle to tackle a growing backlog of applications.
An Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) memo seen by the National Post estimates the current inventory of high-skilled applications at 76,000. If every one of those application was successful, they would see the arrival of enough people to meet Canada’s levels targets into 2023.
In the first half of 2022, according to an internal memo from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), no new Express Entry draws for Federal Skilled Worker (FSW), Canadian Experience Class (CEC), and Federal Skilled Trades (FST) applicants would be held. According to the memo, FSW processing times might grow to 36 months by 2022, while total immigration objectives for Express Entry applicants will drop by roughly 50%.
The IRCC memo, written in November 2021 but only made public on January 19 after an access to information request, shows a significant shift in Canada’s immigration objectives. For many years, Canada’s Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSW) has been one of the most popular ways to recruit skilled people into the nation. And the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) has received a consistent stream of applications from eligible individuals with current or recent skilled job experience in Canada for more than a decade.
In order to facilitate admissions through the Temporary Residence to Permanent Residence Pathway (TR2PR) and the resettlement of Afghan people to Canada, FSW and CEC will be deprioritized in 2022.
Five important Express Entry updates for 2022 were highlighted in the IRCC memo.
1. For the first half of 2022, Express Entry draws for FSW, CEC, and FST will most likely be stopped.
“No new FHS intake is required for at least the first half of 2022.” — IRCC memo
According to the IRCC memo, so many Express Entry candidates have already been invited and have submitted PR applications that Canada could hold no draws in 2022 and yet satisfy its Express Entry admissions objectives. In November of last year, the IRCC estimated that there were around 76,000 Express Entry candidates in its database.
As a result, the IRCC has said that “for at least the first half of 2022, no additional FHS intake is necessary.” The Federal High Skilled streams, which comprise FSW, CEC, and FST, are referred to as FHS. Draws for provincial nominees, for example, will continue. Although immigration policy can change at any time, the IRCC’s inventory indicates that this is unlikely.
Nearly 200,000 Express Entry applicants will be left in the pool with no chance of being invited until at least July, and no certainty that draws would resume in July.
2. In 2022, the number of people eligible for Express Entry may drop by more than 50%.
“The FHS admission target could be significantly reduced […] by more than 50 percent.” — IRCC memo
In 2021, Canada admitted approximately 110,000 new permanent residents through Express Entry’s FSW, CEC, and FST programs. That objective might be decreased by more than half by 2022.
Through the FSW, CEC, and FST programs of Express Entry, Canada will accept roughly 110,000 new permanent residents in 2021. That objective might be decreased by more than half by 2022.
In 2022, Canada will refocus its efforts to resettle Afghan nationals, as well as the Temporary Residence to Permanent Residence Pathway (TR2PR) — a pandemic-inspired immigration pathway introduced in 2021 to allow more people living in Canada to become permanent residents while travel restrictions were in place — to accommodate large numbers of new immigrants. Many TR2PR candidates would have been ineligible for Express Entry if they had applied.
The FHS admission target might be drastically decreased due to the priority given to Afghan nationals and the TR2PR pathway, according to IRCC, “with some preliminary scenarios indicating drops of more than 50% of the 110.5K that was allotted in the previous plan.”
The revised goals will be announced in the following weeks, with Canada’s Immigration Levels Plan for 2022-2024 expected to be presented on February 8th.
3. When regular draws restart, the CRS score cut-off will most certainly increase over 500 points for around six months.
Although Express Entry draws for FSW, CEC, and FST applicants are unlikely to start until at least July, IRCC anticipates record-high CRS score cut-offs for at least six months when they do. According to the IRCC memo:
“Given the current composition of the pool, the minimum Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score necessary to receive an invitation to apply would likely rise above 500 and remain high, regardless of whether invitations are further paused, or resume at a modest pace in the very near term. In both scenarios, the CRS score would likely remain high for approximately six months.”
The CRS score cut-off is influenced by a number of things. While IRCC has supplied forecasts, the actual CRS score cut-off will not be known until all-program draws resume.
4. The time it takes for FSW to be processed is likely to climb to 36 months.
“The FSW processing time is expected to rise to 36 months throughout 2022.”
Many people who filed for PR under the FSW program have been waiting for their applications to be completed for more than a year. When Canada’s borders were blocked due to the pandemic in March 2020, many FSW candidates believed their applications were being pushed aside so that others might be processed. This is verified by the IRCC memo.
When this memo was prepared, FSW processing times were at 20.4 months. This is nearly three times the IRCC’s Express Entry service level, and processing times for FSW are projected to worsen.
“The FSW processing period is likely to grow to 36 months throughout 2022,” according to the IRCC memo.
The average processing period for CEC applicants is 7.6 months, which is substantially faster than the IRCC’s six-month requirement.
5. The PNP will continue to be drawn on a regular basis.
“In this case, all FHS intake (FSW, CEC, and FST) paused would be maintained while continuing with PNP invitations.”
Anyone who has been following Express Entry for the past few months knows that IRCC has continued to invite Express Entry applicants who have received provincial nominations. These PNP candidate draws are planned to occur on a regular basis through 2022.
How This Affects Candidates
The message for candidates is that this pause only represents about a quarter of Canada’s planned immigration intake for 2022.
Outside federal high-skilled workers, Ottawa still has places for a further 300,000 new permanent residents, more than 130,000 to come through economic categories.
These include Provincial Nominee Programs, the newly-permanent Atlantic Immigration Program, plus Quebec, which operates its immigration system independently and plans to welcome upwards of 70,000 newcomers in 2022. These immigration pathways are not part of the pause.