Why start the Express Entry process in 2021?
Canada has set out to welcome at least 401,000 immigrants annually beginning this year, with over one-quarter set to arrive through the Express Entry system.
The immigration department is already starting the year off strong. On Saturday, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) held a historically large Express Entry draw with a historically low CRS requirement. There were 27,332 principle applicants invited, who only needed a CRS of at least 75. These candidates needed to be eligible for the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) in order to be invited.
In addition to CEC-specific draws, IRCC has also held draws targeting candidates who received a nomination from a Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). After the February 13 draw, the number of ITAs issued was more than triple what it was at the same time in 2020.
It goes without saying that Express Entry is unpredictable, but we do know that Canada has committed to welcoming 108,500 newcomers through Express Entry-managed programs in 2021. Travel restrictions are standing in the way of achieving this ambitious target, but the immigration minister has said that efforts will be focused on finding pathways for temporary residents in Canada to transition to permanent residence.
If you are in Canada, now is the time to get your profile in the Express Entry system, as long as you are eligible. While your profile is in the pool waiting for an Invitation to Apply (ITA), you can always take steps to improve your Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score, like submitting new language test results or Educational Credential Assessment.
What if I am not in Canada?
IRCC will welcome skilled workers from abroad when travel restrictions are lifted, according to a media release.
Travel restrictions are in place as a public safety measure, and they will be removed when the government decides that the benefit of welcoming foreigners outweighs the risk of spreading COVID-19. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly promised that everyone in Canada who wants a vaccine will be able to get one by the end of September, 2021. This is not to say that restrictions will end at this time, but it is reason to be optimistic for widespread immunity in Canada.
When deciding on the best time for you to submit your profile into the Express Entry pool, consider that the process can take months from the time you decide you want to immigrate to Canada to when you are actually approved for permanent residence.
In order to enter the pool through the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), the most common pathway for those abroad, you need your language test results and an Educational Credential Assessment, which can each take a few months to complete.
If you get an ITA, you will have 90 days to apply for permanent residence. After you submit your application, IRCC's processing standard is six months.
If your application is approved, you get your Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR), which is valid until your medical exam or passport expires. This is the stage of the process that is currently hindered by travel restrictions. COPR holders who were approved after March 18, 2020, are generally not allowed to come to Canada. In order to cross the border and complete their landing, they must be exempt from travel restrictions for some other reason, like coming for essential work, or to reunite with family. They may also be allowed in if they are coming to Canada from their home in the U.S. However, they cannot transit through the U.S. from another country.
These are the things to consider when deciding if you want to start the Express Entry process from abroad. Canada has a huge promise to keep, so we can expect to see more large Express Entry draws that may even have lower CRS requirements— depending on how many people are in the pool and how big the draws are. Canada is making it clear that now is not the time to travel, but with vaccines being rolled out all over the world it is just a matter of time before borders reopen.
When borders reopen, the FSWP will play a key role in achieving Canada's immigration targets, as it was the lead category of Express Entry immigrants prior to the pandemic, and has been the lead category of skilled workers to Canada since the FSWP was launched in 1967. Under its 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan, Canada aims to welcome over 400,000 immigrants per year with an average of 110,000 annually set to arrive through Express Entry.
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