Canada holds first Federal Skilled Workers-only draw in Express Entry history

Edana Robitaille
Published: February 2, 2023

IRCC held the fourth Express Entry draw of 2023 today.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) issued invitations to 3,300 candidates with a minimum Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score of 489. The draw was only applicable to candidates in the Federal Skilled Worker Program for the first time since Express Entry began in 2015. This was the second program-specific draw of 2023 following the results on February 1 in which only candidates who had already received provincial nomination obtained an ITA.

Express Entry in 2023

Typically, Express Entry draws take place every two weeks on Wednesdays. However, draws in 2023 have deviated from the routine seen since Express Entry was established in 2015.

The first draw this year, on January 11, occurred after an unexpected six-week pause following the draw on November 23. IRCC has implied in an email to CIC News that the pause was due to an IT system glitch caused by the implementation of NOC 2021.

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There were 5,500 candidates invited on January 11 with minimum CRS scores of 507. It was the highest number of candidates, with the lowest CRS cut-off score, since all-program draws resumed after an 18-month pandemic hiatus between December 2020 and July 2022.

There was another draw the following week on January 18 that invited the same number of candidates but with a much lower minimum CRS score of 490. This draw came as a surprise as IRCC does not usually issue ITAs to candidates in consecutive weeks.

IRCC holds Express Entry draw for PNP candidates only

Most recently, the February 1 draw took place after an expected two-week pause but was the first draw since June 2022 that invited only Express Entry candidates who had received a provincial nomination. It is unusual for IRCC to hold program-specific draws, even before the pandemic. With a few exceptions for the Federal Skilled Trades Program, nearly all Express Entry draws have been all-program draws.

IRCC has not held a PNP only Express Entry draw since the all-program draw pause during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pause, Express Entry draws continued for candidates in the Express Entry pool who had already received provincial nomination.

Candidates nominated by a province automatically receive an additional 600 CRS points on their Express Entry application.

What to expect next

Express Entry is likely to change this year following the royal assent of Bill C-19. The new law gives the immigration minister the authority to invite candidates to meet Canada’s economic priorities and fill urgent gaps in the labour force. It is expected that IRCC will begin holding draws that target specific attributes rather than issuing ITAs based solely on CRS scores.

IRCC recently completed public consultations on what the new attribute-based categories could look like. Candidate attributes could range from occupation, education, work experience or language ability. The department says new categories will be announced before the draws.

What is Express Entry?

The Canadian Experience Class (CEC), the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP). are all programs that fall under the Express Entry application management system. Additionally, Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) candidates in the Express Entry pool are also eligible under one of these programs.

The Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS), ranks candidates’ profiles and assigns points to candidates based on several factors. Those who receive enough points to reach the minimum cut-off CRS score will receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA).

After the candidate applies, the application is reviewed by an IRCC officer. They will decide if the candidate is approved. If approved, the candidate is now considered a permanent resident of Canada.

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