New IRCC data shows how the department is currently prioritizing Express Entry applications.

The data represents the number of permanent residence applications submitted under Express Entry that have been approved by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

Express Entry is the main way Canada welcomes economic class skilled immigrants. Candidates that meet the criteria of an Express Entry program can submit their profile onto IRCC’s website. Candidates receive a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score based on human capital criteria such as their age, education, language skills, and work experience. Approximately every two weeks, IRCC invites the highest scoring candidates to apply for permanent residence. Such candidates then have 60 days to submit their permanent residence application to IRCC. Once IRCC approves the application, a candidate receives a Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) which enables them to officially land in Canada as a permanent residence. The landing process can entail a COPR holder that was residing in Canada as a temporary resident converting their legal status to permanent residence. It can also entail an individual arriving from abroad with their COPR to become a permanent resident.

IRCC has made significant changes to its Express Entry policies amid the pandemic. The department is currently pursuing a plan to land 401,000 new permanent residents this year. At the start of 2021, it made the decision to focus on transitioning more temporary residents to permanent residence to give it a better shot of achieving its 401,000 immigrant target. As a result, it has only invited Canadian Experience Class (CEC) and Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) candidates under Express Entry this year. This is a major departure from precedent since the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) accounted for some 45 per cent of successful Express Entry candidates before the pandemic. IRCC has made this temporary shift in policy for two reasons. First, it argues that because some 90 per cent of CEC candidates currently reside in Canada during the pandemic, they are less likely to face COVID-related disruptions that would impede their ability to complete their permanent residence landings in 2021. Second, IRCC continues to invite PNP candidates to help provinces across the country address their labour market needs.

Another impact of this shift is IRCC has not been inviting the highest-ranking candidates among the entire Express Entry pool, as it did prior to the pandemic, but rather it has invited the highest-ranking CEC and PNP candidates. This has caused overall CRS cut-off scores to decline as the department aimed to invite as many CEC candidates as possible to support its immigration target for this year. The most notable draw of the year came on February 13 when IRCC invited 27,332 CEC candidates to apply for permanent residence, a feat it achieved by setting the CRS cut-off score at just 75. To put this into perspective, this draw was almost six times larger than the previous record (Express Entry has existed since 2015), and the cut-off score was nearly 400 points lower than what it usually was prior to the pandemic.

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