Minister Fraser: IRCC’s Express Entry policy for 2022 is still being developed.

Notes from a meeting between Canadian immigration lawyers and Immigration Minister Sean Fraser add a layer of complexity to discussions about Express Entry in 2022.

According to Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is still examining its Express Entry strategy for 2022.

The most popular way for low-income immigrants to enter Canada is through Express Entry. Candidates who match the requirements for the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), Canadian Experience Class (CEC), or Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) can create an Express Entry profile on the IRCC website. They are given a CRS score depending on factors such as their age, education, language skills, and work experience, among other things. IRCC sends out invitations for permanent residence applications every two weeks or so. FSWP applicants were the primary recipients of Express Entry Invitations to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence prior to the pandemic.

Candidates for CEC received the most invitations during the pandemic. In an effort to alleviate its backlogs, IRCC has only held Express Entry lotteries for Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) candidates since September. The IRCC continues to perform biweekly Express Entry lotteries, the most recent of which was held on January 19.

IRCC is still weighing its Express Entry alternatives, but there are no intentions to cancel applications, according to Fraser.

The recent public disclosure of an internal IRCC briefing letter issued on November 24, 2021 has fueled conjecture about Canada’s Express Entry policy for this year. To allow IRCC more time to decrease backlogs, the memo considers extending the pause on Express Entry invitations to FSWP, CEC, and FSTP candidates until the middle of this year. However, because of the memo’s largely redacted nature, most of its context is lacking, leaving readers to speculate on how IRCC will manage Express Entry in the future. As of December 2021, there are 1.8 million persons in line for immigration applications, with 120,000 of them eligible for Express Entry.

In a discussion with the Canadian Bar Association’s Immigration Section on January 20, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser put some of the rumours to rest. The Immigration Section of the CBA represents Canadian immigration lawyers and meets with the government on a regular basis to discuss ways to enhance the immigration system.

IRCC has yet to schedule its next FSWP and CEC draws, according to the minister, although they are currently considering their Express Entry draw alternatives for 2022.

In order to decrease its backlogs, Fraser told the CBA that IRCC does not intend to revoke and refund already-submitted permanent residence applications. Since the Canadian government reduced its inventory roughly ten years ago, this has been speculated on social media.

Minister Fraser stated that IRCC is trying to stabilize application processing in order to eliminate backlogs, and that the Canadian government has just given an additional $85 million to help them achieve their goal.

Occupation-specific drawings suggest a future possibility.

According to CBA notes, Fraser indicated that IRCC is looking into the potential of having “occupation oriented [Express Entry] drawings responding to labour demands.”

In its Budget 2021, the Canadian government hinted at this possibility, stating that it wants to alter Express Entry to “select those individuals who best match Canada’s labour market demands.”

Express Entry invitations based on occupational history would be a first for the programme, but it would also use a long-standing method used by IRCC and provinces and territories for decades.

To be eligible for the FSWP in the past, individuals had to be employed in a high-demand National Occupational Classification (NOC) code. Currently, in order to pursue immigration through multiple federal and provincial paths, you must be eligible for a NOC.

Express Entry has managed FSWP, CEC, and FSTP candidates depending on their CRS score since its introduction in 2015, and more so during the epidemic, based on programme of eligibility. Prior to the pandemic, IRCC routinely encouraged individuals with the highest CRS scores, regardless of their programme of eligibility, to apply for permanent residence. This strategy was justified by the fact that those with the highest CRS scores had the best chance of integrating into the Canadian labour market.

In December 2020, IRCC held its last all-program draw. IRCC sent invites to CEC and PNP candidates who were qualified for Express Entry between January and September 2021. The reasoning behind focusing on CEC candidates is that they are most likely to be in Canada and hence would not be hampered by travel restrictions or other public health measures. The purpose of inviting PNP candidates is to allow IRCC to assist provinces and territories with their labour market needs.

The adoption of an occupation-based approach to Express Entry invitations would give IRCC another instrument to combat labour shortages. For arranged work, Express Entry already awards 50 or 200 CRS points, but most candidates can get a permanent residence invitation even if they don’t have a job offer. Only 16% of individuals who got an ITA in 2020 have secured work.

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