It was the biggest year in the Express Entry system’s history despite the hits Canada took to immigration levels in 2020.
Canada finished off the year issuing 107,350 Invitations to Apply (ITAs) to Express Entry candidates. This was the highest invitation total since the Express Entry system was introduced in 2015 to manage the pool of candidates for Canada’s three Federal High-Skilled immigration programs— the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) and Canadian Experience Class (CEC)— as well as some of its Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP).
Canada’s immigration department, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) held 36 invitation rounds in 2020. This is 10 more than last year because in the early weeks of the pandemic IRCC was holding draws that only targeted CEC and PNP candidates. This was done in an effort to prioritize Express Entry candidates who were already in Canada.
2020 broke records in both biggest and smallest Express Entry draws ever. The smallest draw was a PNP only draw on April 15, where just 118 invitations were issued. Toward the end of the year, Canada started handing out 5,000 ITAs at a time. The increase in draw sizes may be an effort to reach next year’s immigration target of 401,000 new permanent residents. Those who apply for permanent residence after receiving an ITA are typically given a decision in six months, so those candidates who got ITAs towards the end of the year will start to become permanent residents in 2021.
Out of the 401,000 new immigrants expected for next year, Canada has allocated 108,500 to come through an Express Entry-managed program in 2021. These targets only go up in subsequent years, maxing out at 113,750 in 2023.
The increase in targets is due to the low admission levels Canada saw in 2020. Travel restrictions in Canada and around the world made it difficult for many to make their landing in Canada.
The year started off with consistently increasing draw sizes. The largest in the first quarter was on February 19, when IRCC issued 4,500 invitations.
There was a PNP-only draw on March 18, the same day Canada’s travel restrictions first went into effect. That draw only rendered 668 ITAs. This would be the first in a new pattern of Express Entry draws, where IRCC would hold a small PNP-only draw followed by a larger CEC-only draw. The two draw sizes would add up to a round number, oftentimes between 3,600 and 3,900.
There was one all-program draw in July, and another in August. Canada went back to holding consistent all-program draws in September. From then, the numbers climbed from 4,200 to a record-breaking 5,000 ITAs per draw.
There was only one Federal Skilled Trades draw in 2020. A total of 250 skilled trades workers were invited on August 6.
The Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score cutoff is determined by how many top-scoring candidates Canada decides to invite in any given round. The date and time of when the candidate entered the pool is a factor when IRCC applies the tie-break rule to candidates who are tied for the minimum CRS cutoff.
In all-program draws, it doesn’t matter what program candidates are in. IRCC just invites the top scoring candidates. PNP-specific draws typically have higher score requirements because having a provincial nomination automatically awards candidates an additional 600 points toward their CRS score.
CEC draws have lower score requirements because they are not competing with other high-scoring candidates in the FSWP or the PNP. FSTP draws have lower CRS cutoffs because Canada only invites a few at a time, and they make up a much smaller portion of the Express Entry pool of candidates.
The lowest CRS cutoff score for 2020 was 415, and it was a FSTP draw. The lowest CEC score requirement was 431 on June 25.
The CRS requirement dropped to 468 on December 23 for an all-program draw. Canada has not seen a CRS requirement for an all-program draw this low since October 2019.
In order to reach the targets for next year, Canada will have to approve about 8,946 Express Entry candidates per month. At two draws per month, that’s about 4,473 candidates.
To account for candidates who may no longer want to come to Canada, or who do not get approved, Canada will have to invite upwards of 4,500 candidates per draw in 2021.
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