Hints at a possible overhaul in how the Express Entry system is used to select applicants and invite them to apply for Canadian permanent residence have been suggested in the Canadian Government's Budget 2021.
What is the Express Entry System?
The Express Entry system has been organizing and processing applications for people who want to immigrate to Canada since 2015. Eligible applicants apply to the Express Entry pool, where they are evaluated and assigned a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score. There are hundreds of thousands of Express Entry profiles in the system at any given time (at the time of writing, there are over 166,000 profiles in the pool). Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) holds draws throughout the year, issuing Invitations to Apply to a limited number of profiles and inviting those applicants to apply for permanent residence.
Since 2015, IRCC has only been concerned with the applicant's rank, taking into account their CRS score, with no regard for their skills and work experience background. The implication is that any high-scoring applicant, regardless of employment history, has the ability to economically establish themselves in Canada. While the current system may make applicants more likely to succeed in Canada overall, it has created a gap in the labor market, which was previously reliant on skilled foreign immigrants coming to Canada to fill specific shortages.
What Could a Change Look Like?
Although no official comment has been made, the language used in the Budget 2021 release suggests significant changes to the way the Express Entry system is used are on the way.
“The Government of Canada intends to propose amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to provide the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada with authority to use Ministerial Instructions to help select those candidates who best meet Canada’s labour market needs from among the growing pool of candidates who wish to become permanent residents through the Express Entry System.” - Government of Canada, Budget 2021
This means that applicants will be chosen from a pool based on their ability to fill a labor market shortage rather than their overall ranking in the system. This implies that an applicant's position in the pool will not be the final determinant of their success. Instead, a combination of their rank and specific work experience will be taken into account.
And, of course, because the emphasis is on labor market demand, the type of profile chosen may vary greatly from one draw to the next. We can gain insight into how IRCC may now use the pool by looking at how provinces use the Express Entry system to select applicants.
What Does This Mean for the Applicant?
Any applicant in the Express Entry pool should view this as a welcome change. Previously, an applicant was judged solely on how high they ranked as well as how high their peers ranked; however, they will now be given an additional path based on their work experience. While we cannot predict how the IRCC will select applicants to fill labor market shortages, we can assume that it will be based on their previous work experience and the corresponding National Occupation Classification (NOC) Code. This means that there is no way of knowing whether a specific type of work experience will be selected in the 12 months that a profile will be active in the pool, but it is certain that if it is not in the pool when the demand arises, it will not be selected.
When Will These Changes Likely Happen?
The budget refers to changes affecting the immigration plan of welcoming at least 1.2 million new immigrants to Canada from 2021 to 2023, implying that we can expect a change within the next couple of years. It is unlikely to happen, however, given the ongoing battle against the COVID 19 pandemic, which has resulted in a significant shift in Canadian immigration patterns as a result of global travel restrictions and advisories, but also large areas of worker shortages across Canada that must be addressed. As a result, we can expect to see these changes after the COVID 19 pandemic has passed.