Express Entry Q2 2021: Canada breaks another record

Shelby Thevenot, Mohanad Moetaz
Published: June 30, 2021

The second quarter of 2021 was another record-breaker in the Canadian immigration world. Canada has invited 44,591 immigration candidates to apply for permanent residence through the Express Entry system.

The number of Express Entry candidates invited this past quarter tops the previous record from the first quarter of 2021, which was 44,124.

As of June 30, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has issued a total of 88,715 Invitations to Apply (ITAs) for permanent residents, smashing the previous record in 2017.

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What is Express Entry?

Express Entry is the name of Canada's online system for managing immigration applications. It is the most popular immigration process. In 2021 alone, Canada has set a target of welcoming 108,500 new immigrants through Express Entry-managed programs, more than any other immigration program.

The Express Entry system is used for applications to three Federal High Skilled immigration programs: the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Canadian Experience Class, and the Federal Skilled Trades Program.

Using this system, foreign nationals can submit a profile to the Express Entry pool to be considered for an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence.

IRCC decides on who gets ITAs by using the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). The CRS is a scoring matrix. It ranks profiles in the Express Entry pool based on a candidate's skilled work experience, education, age, and other factors. Skilled work is determined based on the National Occupational Classification (NOC).

IRCC issues ITAs to the highest-scoring candidates in the pool through regular Express Entry draws. After candidates receive an ITA, they can apply for Canadian immigration directly to the final decision-makers at IRCC. Although in Canada immigration is a shared responsibility between the federal and provincial governments, only the federal immigration department, IRCC, can approve permanent residency status.

Q2: Large draws, low CRS cutoffs

Every single draw since the start of 2021 has been program-specific. Typically, the pattern has been one Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) draw followed by a Canadian Experience Class (CEC) draw.

IRCC has been doing this in an effort to admit Express Entry candidates who are most likely in Canada, avoiding hurdles that come with inviting candidates who are overseas. In May, about 95 per cent of CEC candidates were in Canada, according to IRCC data. About 30 per cent of PNP candidates were in Canada during the same time frame.

IRCC held more draws in the second quarter, 14 compared to 10. The department had taken a break from holding draws in the first quarter after inviting every CEC-eligible candidate in the pool.

Furthermore, the draw sizes were greater. Aside from the giant February 13 draw, Canada started holding larger draws in Q2. Some CEC draws went up to 6,000 ITAs starting in April. In late June, a PNP draw breached the 1,000 mark for the first time ever.

With bigger draw sizes came lower CRS cutoffs. Since IRCC was taking more off the top, it allowed CEC candidates in the 300s to start receiving invitations. For CEC candidates, the CRS requirement has been on a downward slope since May. The latest draw only required candidates to have a CRS of 357. Without the February 13 draw, this would have been the lowest CRS requirement of any CEC draw ever.

Express Entry in the next six months

Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) candidates have not been included in the draws so far this year. Prior to the pandemic, FSWP candidates received nearly half of all ITAs.

Because of COVID-19, Canada has focused its efforts on providing pathways to permanent residents to immigration candidates who are already in the country. This way people would not run into as many coronavirus-related hurdles, such as service closures and Canada's travel restrictions.

Many FSWP candidates are overseas because Canadian work experience is not an eligibility requirement as it is for the Canadian Experience Class. About 95 per cent of FSWP candidates are overseas, according to IRCC data from May.

Last year, IRCC also took a break from holding all-program Express Entry draws, which include FSWP candidates. This was before Canada had any approved COVID vaccines and travel restrictions were even tighter. After Canada went into lockdown in March 2020, IRCC held the first all-program draw during the pandemic on July 8.

Now, public health measures affecting travellers are starting to roll back. June 21 was a big day for three reasons. One, the federal government lifted quarantine requirements for exempt travellers who were fully vaccinated with a Canada-approved vaccine. Two, the list of exempt travellers expanded to include approved permanent residents. And three, the feds lifted the flight ban on direct air travel between Canada and Pakistan. Although the measure still remains in place for flights from India, it is set to be revisited by July 21.

Furthermore, Canada has already reached a milestone of partially vaccinating more than 75 per cent of its population over age 12. More than 22 per cent of eligible Canadians are fully vaccinated. The government is aiming to fully vaccinate 75 per cent of the eligible population by the end of July.

With all this in mind, we can expect to see some all-program draws in the latter half of 2021. FSTP candidates may also get a draw of their own this year. If not, it will be the first time since 2017 that Canada does not hold at least one draw for these skilled trades candidates. About 56 per cent of FSTP candidates were in Canada this past May. Due to pent-up demand, these candidates outnumbered Provincial Nominee Program candidates in the pool.

Throughout the pandemic, the Canadian government has reiterated the need for immigrants to help support economic recovery. Nearly all Express Entry candidates end up with jobs in their first year after landing, according to an IRCC report. The Express Entry system is specially catered to skilled immigrants who can support Canada's demand for labour — and it's working.

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