Saturday Surprise: Canada invites 27,332 Express Entry candidates in bold move

Kareem El-Assal
Published: February 14, 2021

In what has been a year full of surprises, even yesterday's Express Entry draw managed to catch all of us off guard.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) held a rare Saturday draw in which it invited a stunning 27,332 Express Entry candidates to apply for permanent residence.

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The first surprise is the sheer size of the draw. Since its launch in 2015, the largest Express Entry draws ever have issued 5,000 permanent residence invitations. In other words, yesterday's draw was nearly six times larger than the previous record.

Another major surprise is that IRCC decided to invite candidates with a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score as low as 75. This means they invited almost every Express Entry candidate that met the eligibility criteria of the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program.

Express Entry is a competitive system and prior to COVID-19, IRCC would only invite candidates with the highest CRS scores. Right before the pandemic, a candidate typically needed a CRS of around 470 to receive a permanent residence invitation. Getting a CRS of 470 or above usually means you have several years of post-secondary training and perhaps multiple educational credentials, several years of professional work experience, and a strong command of English and/or French. Yesterday's draw meant a candidate did not even need a high school education to be invited.

So what do we make of all this?

The biggest takeaway from this draw is that IRCC is serious about doing its best to achieve its Immigration Levels Plan target for 2021. It is aiming to welcome 401,000 new immigrants this year and beyond. This appears daunting in light of the current pandemic circumstances in Canada and around the world. Last year immigration to Canada fell to the lowest level since 1998.

IRCC only invited CEC candidates in yesterday's draw since it estimates 90 per cent of them are currently in Canada and hence, it will be easier to complete their permanent residence process now than it will be for candidates currently overseas. It is safe to say that IRCC expects to be able to transition these candidates to permanent residence later in 2021, otherwise it would not have held such a large draw. Canada's Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino has been hinting recently that IRCC will continue to rely on candidates in Canada to support its immigration levels targets.

We can continue to expect bold action from IRCC this year in fulfilment of this goal. The reason for this is there are not enough Express Entry candidates currently in Canada from which the government can rely on to achieve their 401,000 target in 2021. Put simply, we should continue to expect the unexpected.

Did you receive an ITA? Get Help Submitting your PR Application.

Another takeaway is that it is in each candidate's best interests to enter the Express Entry pool. Sometimes candidates opt against entering the pool because they believe their CRS score is too low or in recent times, because IRCC has given preference to inviting CEC and Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) candidates, rather than Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) candidates. However, Express Entry is unpredictable, and it is self-defeating to exclude one's self from the pool. You never know what IRCC is going to do, so enter the pool anyway and try your luck. Who knows, you might even get an ITA if your CRS score is as low as 75.

Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) candidates (who tend to make up the majority of successful Express Entry candidates), may be feeling demoralized right now. They also deserve to be invited to apply for permanent residence but IRCC is focusing on Express Entry candidates within the country. However, FSWP candidates should not lose hope for two major reasons.

First, IRCC will eventually draw FSWP candidates. As we saw last year, IRCC held PNP- and CEC- specific draws at the start of the pandemic but then closed 2021 by holding all-program draws. It is safe to say that the time will once again come for FSWP candidates to be drawn from the pool.

Second, yesterday's draw shows that the sky is the limit in terms of what IRCC is willing to do to achieve its immigration levels targets. If IRCC is willing to invite 27,332 CEC candidates in one draw, then there is nothing stopping them from also inviting massive numbers of FSWP candidates in the future. If you are an FSWP candidate, it is in your best interests to submit the strongest possible Express Entry profile so that you give yourself the best chance to receive an immigration invitation. After the Saturday Surprise, we cannot rule out the possibility of IRCC significantly reducing its CRS cut-off and significantly increasing ITAs for FSWP candidates during the pandemic. FSWP immigrants have long been, and will continue to be vital to Canada's prosperity.

Hence, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, let's keep IRCC's words in mind from the press release it issued yesterday: "IRCC will continue to accept and process Express Entry applications and looks forward to welcoming skilled workers from abroad when travel resumes."

In other words, don't lose hope.

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