The Canadian government is planning changes to the Express Entry system, which would allow the immigration minister to invite candidates based on an economic goal.
Aiden Strickland, a spokesperson on behalf of the immigration minister, said in an email to CIC News that these proposed changes will improve Canada’s ability to select applicants that match its economic needs.
“Through our growing pool of candidates seeking to become permanent residents, this will allow IRCC to conduct targeted draws aimed at selecting those in the queue that have certain language skills or health care qualifications to name a few examples,” Strickland wrote. “This will be essential in addressing Canada’s labour shortages.”
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The changes are currently being discussed in the Canadian parliament. On May 19, Philip Somogyvari from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) presented the proposed changes to the Standing Committee on Immigration and Citizenship, a committee of elected officials that studies matters related to Canadian immigration.
Somogyvari, who is an IRCC Director General, explained the amendments would authorize the immigration minister to invite Express Entry candidates on a new basis, one that would support an economic goal identified by the minister.
“Eligibility requirements to be a member of a category would be established by the minister and could be based on factors such as work experience, educational background or language skills,” Somogyvari said.
“For example, if there was a desire to leverage immigration to support the growth of Canada’s tech sector, a category of Express Entry candidates would be created based on criteria such as their possession of work experience in their sector occupation and/or their possession of a related educational credential. Invitations could then be issued to the top-ranked candidates in that category.”
The draw details, including the unique eligibility criteria, would continue to be published on the IRCC website. The minister would also have to identify the economic goal they are seeking to support, and report annually to Parliament on the use of these draws. When asked by NDP immigration critic, Jenny Kwan, which occupations would be specified in these draws, Somogyvari said the government currently has no occupations listed.
Currently, the immigration minister does not have the ability to invite candidates from the Express Entry pool who have a particular work experience, educational credential, or who are French speakers destined to an official language minority community. If the proposed amendments to division 23 of Bill C-19 are passed, that could change.
“The changes themselves would permit, for example, the minister to focus on all French-speaking candidates within the Express Entry pool,” Somogyvari said. “Currently, while French-speaking candidates are provided with bonus points which will increase their ranking score, it may not invite all French-speaking candidates within the pool. Theoretically, with the proposed authorities in use, if the minister chose to do so, the department would be able to conduct an invitation round that would virtually invite all of the identified French-speaking candidates within the Express Entry pool.”
The process for determining which groups would be selected is still being developed. Somogyvari said the government would likely make such decisions after consultation with employer groups, stakeholders, the objectives within the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, Employment and Social Development Canada, and provincial and territorial governments.
Express Entry is an application management system for three immigration programs: the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), and the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP).
To immigrate through one of these programs, foreign workers must express their interest in Canadian immigration by completing a profile in the Express Entry system. Candidates who are eligible for one of the three programs get a score based on their work experience, educational background, language skills, age, and other factors. IRCC invites the highest-scoring candidates to apply for permanent residence.
Recently, IRCC has only been holding invitation rounds for candidates who have received a nomination from a Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). After accumulating a backlog in Express Entry applications during the pandemic, IRCC paused invitation rounds for the FSWP in December 2020, and then paused CEC draws in September 2021. Immigration Minister Sean Fraser recently announced that draws for these candidates would resume in July, and processing standards would return to six months for new applicants.
Somogyvari confirmed that the amendments do not impact existing or future processing times.
Kwan called for the government to list the groups that will be affected by the proposed act.
“I am troubled by the fact that there is no parliamentary oversight as to what these groups will be,” Kwan said to the committee. “There’s no process as to whether these groups will be fair, or how effective [the government] will be in selecting people who would provide economic contributions to Canada.”
“Without a transparent selection process where industries are able to provide formal submissions on which occupations are in need and an objective committee to determine the needs of these occupations, the process could become fodder for lobbying industries,” Kwan continued. “That’s not what we want. I think we need to have established criteria and a transparent process.”
The standing committee’s chair, Salma Zahid from the Liberal Party, agreed to request changes to the proposed amendments by May 27. The ministry of finance will receive the request, as it was the department that asked the immigration committee to conduct the study on the changes to Express Entry.
The letter will be received by the Standing Committee on Finance which will decide if the proposal in the letter should be converted into amendments to be proposed during its clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, which is scheduled to start on Monday, May 30 at 11 a.m.
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