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2022 Recent trends for the Express Entry system for Canadian permanent residence

An express clock

After a two-year hiatus, On July 6, 2022 the Canadian government has resumed inviting applicants from all over the world, through the Express Entry system’s Federal Skilled Worker category, to apply for Canadian permanent residence. Read on to find about what has changed.

Background about Express Entry

Canada’s Express Entry system, launched in 2015, is the fastest way a foreign national can obtain Canadian permanent residence, with standard processing times being only 6 months after an applicant submits their permanent residency application online, after receiving an invitation to apply (ITA).

There are two steps to participating in the Express Entry system – First, an individual creates an Express Entry “profile” and enters the Express Entry “pool” of candidates, and is given a score (called a CRS Score) based on the individual’s age, level of education, language proficiency, work experience, etc. – Second, the Canadian government conducts an Express Entry “draw” every two weeks and selects a set number of the highest-scoring applicants in the pool, in the order of their scores, to send an “invitation to apply”. Upon receiving the “invitation to apply,” the applicant can prepare and submit their permanent residency application. All of this process is done online, through the Canadian government’s web portal.

The Express Entry system is categorized into four “programs” –

  • Federal Skilled Worker program, open to professionals in a variety of fields from all over the world;
  • Federal Skilled Trades program, open to tradespeople in construction, electrical, agriculture, natural resources, manufacturing, and culinary industries from all over the world;
  • Canadian Experience Class, open only to applicants with 1 year or more work experience in Canada in the past 3 years;
  • Provincial Nominee Program, limited to applicants nominated by a specific Province in Canada.

A vast majority of applicants in the Express Entry pool fall under the Federal Skilled Worker program.

Changes to Express Entry after COVID-19

Until February 2020, the Express Entry “draws” were conducted in a relatively predictable manner, with a set number of applicants being invited every two weeks from all three programs including the Federal Skilled Worker. In 2018 and 2019, for example, between 2,700-3,900 applicants were invited every two weeks except for three draws in 2018 and two in 2019 dedicated to a specific program other than Federal Skilled Worker. The CRS score cutoff hovered around 440-475 for these all-program draws.

Starting from March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in restrictive immigration policies throughout the globe, the Canadian government completely stopped inviting candidates from the Federal Skilled Worker program, and limited the Express Entry draws to applicants already in Canada, under the Canadian Experience Class and Provincial Nominee Program.

Starting from September 2021 Express Entry draws became even more restrictive, to Provincial Nominee Program only, a small number of individuals specifically nominated by a province. This continued up till June 2022.

All-Program Draws Resumed Since July 2022

On July 6, 2022, amid a highly-publicized announcement by Canada’s Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, Express Entry draws for all programs including the Federal Skilled Worker category resumed after an 18-month hiatus. Evidencing the accumulation of candidates waiting for an invitation to apply, the CRS score cutoff for the July 6, 2022 draw was at an all-time high, with 1,500 candidates scoring at or over 557 being invited.

As of the time of writing, all-program draws have continued on a bi-weekly basis on July 20, August 3, and August 17, 2022, CRS score cut-offs slightly decreasing to 542, 533, and 525, but still remaining significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels.

What this Means for Prospective Applicants

It is certainly a welcome news for applicants living and working in foreign countries who hope to apply for permanent residency to Canada, now that they may expect to receive an invitation to apply (ITA) if their scores are above the threshold.

The high CRS score cut-offs may mean that invitations may be limited to a narrow group of candidates who score exceptionally high due to factors such as relatively young age, and high levels of language proficiency, education, work experience, bilingualism, or a job offer, at least for the short-term. It may take several months before the CRS score cut-off returns to pre-pandemic levels, where the program was accessible to a wider range of diverse professionals.

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