Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Express Entry draws followed a relatively predictable pattern. Typically held every two weeks on Wednesdays, these draws featured over 3,000 Invitations to Apply (ITAs) for permanent residence, with Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) cut-offs of around 470 points.
The Express Entry system maintained stability since its introduction in January 2015. The Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) was close to achieving its goal of processing 80% of applications within six months, allowing for regular, expected ITA issuances.
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However, the pandemic brought unpredictability to Express Entry draws. The regularity of draws, draw types, ITA numbers, and CRS cut-offs became less consistent. In 2023, appeals occurred regularly until June, and with the introduction of category-based selection, their frequency increased. Between June 27 and August 15, 12 draws took place—far more than the usual 4-8 over a comparable period.
After a brief pause, IRCC resumed draws between September 19 and October 26, but it has yet to occur since. While the reasons for this pause remain unexplained, various factors may influence the timing of future Express Entry draws.
Objectives of the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada
The IRCC’s policy objectives extend to determining the nature of draws necessary to meet its goals. The Canadian immigration minister, mandated to boost the national economy, directs the issuance of invitations to newcomers possessing skills essential to addressing labor force gaps and contributing swiftly to the economy upon arrival.
Express Entry invitations to Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) candidates are pivotal for achieving these objectives. However, the decision-making process regarding candidate selection involves careful consideration, occasionally leading to pauses in Express Entry draws as IRCC evaluates its options. The minister must weigh whether to conduct all-program draws, encompassing candidates from all three Express Entry managed programs, or opt for program-specific draws or category-based invitations.
In 2021, IRCC aimed to land over 400,000 new permanent residents despite pandemic-related challenges. This was pursued through significant Express Entry draws for Canadian Experience Class (CEC) candidates, particularly advantageous as they were already in Canada, expediting the permanent residency process. More recently, with the introduction of category-based selection, IRCC has conducted draws aligning with broader policy objectives, such as:
- Promoting economic development across various regions in the country.
- Inviting candidates with high human capital poised to integrate into the Canadian labor market.
- Facilitating transitions from temporary to permanent residence.
- Strengthening Francophone communities outside Quebec.
- Inviting candidates with work experience in STEM, healthcare, transportation, agriculture, and skilled trades.
Impact of Staffing Changes on Express Entry Draws at IRCC
Personnel changes, such as appointing a new Immigration Minister, Deputy Minister, or other officials overseeing Express Entry, can have a notable influence. The adjustment period for staff in these roles is crucial.
IRCC is reorganizing following a report by former Deputy Minister Neil Yeates highlighting departmental inefficiencies. The report recommended restructuring IRCC based on lines of business. In an interview with Paul Wells, Deputy Minister Fox noted that the department is already implementing changes in line with some of the recommendations, leading to inevitable impacts on staffing within the department.
Effects of Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) and Express Entry Profile Adjustments
Periodic modifications to the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) and alterations in Express Entry profiles can impact the outcomes of Express Entry draws.
While not frequent, changes in how IRCC assigns CRS points to specific attributes can influence the frequency of Express Entry draws.
For instance, in 2020, IRCC raised the number of CRS points granted for French proficiency. Such adjustments necessitate technical updates by IRCC to ensure that all existing profiles reflect accurate CRS scores.
Additionally, IRCC had to phase out NOC Skill Types in favor of the new TEER system in the past year.
Technical Challenges Impacting Express Entry
Issues within Information Technology (IT), including glitches, represent another variable that can influence the Express Entry system.
Recently, IRCC acknowledged a glitch in the Express Entry profile builder, preventing candidates who received an Invitation to Apply (ITA) from uploading their final permanent residency application within 60 days. Responding to this, on November 29, IRCC announced on Twitter that affected applicants would be granted an additional 60 days for submission.
Introducing new systems can also lead to glitches, as observed in the aftermath of implementing category-based selection rounds of invitations. IRCC Deputy Minister Christiane Fox highlighted IT problems during a recent meeting of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
When confronted with such technical challenges, IRCC may postpone Express Entry draws until the issues are resolved. Notably, a hiatus in Express Entry draws occurred between November 23, 2022, and January 11, 2023, attributed to an IT problem related to updates to the National Occupation Classification (NOC) system. This glitch resulted in the issuance of ITAs to some ineligible candidates.