2023 Express Entry year in review

Edana Robitaille
Published: December 26, 2023

2023 has brought significant changes to Canada’s Express Entry application management system.

In the first half of 2023, Express Entry continued with many of the patterns established in 2022 following the resumption of Express Entry draws after an 18-month pause. Draws were either all-program, Provincial Nominee Program-only or, in one instance, Federal Skilled Workers only.

Draws typically took place every two weeks, but sometimes occurred more frequently. Of note, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) invited over 21,000 Express Entry candidates throughout four draws in March 2023. The second-highest number of Express Entry candidates ever invited in a month.

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Category-based selection rounds of invitations

In May, IRCC introduced six new categories for Express Entry draws. This was expected following a change to the Immigrant and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) in June 2022 that grants the immigration minister the authority to issue ITA’s to candidates who have specific attributes, rather than an overall high CRS score.

The new categories target candidates who have attributes that help IRCC meet its mandates to promote French outside of Quebec and to use immigration to strengthen Canada’s labour force and economy. The categories are:

  • Healthcare
  • Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professions
  • Trades, such as carpenters, plumbers, and contractors
  • Transport
  • Agriculture and agri-food
  • Strong French proficiency

The first category-based draw took place on June 28 and invited 500 healthcare professionals to apply. Since then, IRCC has invited more than 16,000 Express Entry candidates through category-based selection.

Draw types

Of the 42 draws in 2023, the majority were all-program draws that considered candidates from the Federal Skilled Worker Program, Federal Skilled Trades Program and Canadian Experience Class. However, IRCC did not issue any ITAs to FSTP candidates in 2023.

In total, 19 Express Entry draws were all-program, 5 were PNP-only, one was FSWP-only and the remaining 17 were category-based selection draws.

CRS Scores

Recent data from IRCC shows that most Express Entry candidates who received an ITA between January and September 2023 had a CRS score between 451-500 (26,070) and 11,640 had scores ranging from 501-600

Another 12,590 had CRS scores between 900 and 1,200 (the maximum possible score). These were most likely candidates who had received a nomination through the PNP, which adds 600 CRS points to an existing CRS score.

Based on draw type, the lowest CRS for an all-program draw was 481 on March 29 when 7,000 candidates received ITAs. The highest was  561 on December 6 when 4,750 all-program candidates received ITAs.

Among candidates who received ITAs in draws for Provincial Nominee Program-only draws, the highest CRS score was 791 on February 15 in a draw for 699 candidates. The lowest was 691 on May 10 in a draw for 589 PNP candidates.

There was one draw for Federal Skilled Workers with a CRS of at least 489 on February 2 for 3,300 candidates.

Among category-based selection rounds of invitations, the lowest score was for candidates in the only draw for agriculture and agri-food occupations with a score of 354 on September 28. IRCC invited 600 candidates to apply.

The highest score this year for a category-based occurred twice. On July 5, 500 candidates in STEM occupations with a minimum score of 486 received ITAs. On October 25, 300 French-language proficiency candidates received ITAs in a draw with the same minimum score.

Frequency of draws

Between January and June, Express Entry draws regularly took place every two weeks, and sometimes every week.

Following the introduction of category-based selection draws, it became more difficult to predict when IRCC would issue ITAs. However, ministerial instructions show that since July, there has been a trend toward one week each month in which there are three or four separate Express Entry draws between Tuesday and Thursday.

The highest volume of draws was in December when there were seven draws between December 6-21. The second highest volume was in five draws from July 4 to 12.k. September also saw five draws over two weeks and there were four draws in October. Again, three of them took place within one week.

Draws were paused between October 26 and December 6. IRCC did not confirm a reason but there are many possibilities such as an ongoing IT glitch, staffing issues or if the department had already reached the Express Entry targets outlined for the year in the Immigration Levels Plan.

Summary of Express Entry draws since June 2023

DateDraw TypeNumber of ITAsMinimum CRS
Dec 19Trade occupations1,000425
Dec 18All-program1,325542
Dec 8STEM occupations5,900481
Dec 7French language proficiency1,000470
Dec 6All-program4,750561
Oct 26Healthcare occupations3,600431
Oct 25French language proficiency300486
Oct 24PNP-only1,548776
Oct 10All-program3,725500
Sept 28Agriculture and agri-food occupations600354
Sept 27French language proficiency500472
Sept 26All-program3,000504
Sept 20Transport occupations1,000435
Sept 19All-program3,200531
Aug 15All-program4,300496
Aug 3Trade occupations1,500388
Aug 2French language proficiency800435
Aug 1All-program2,000517
July 12French language proficiency3,800375
July 11All-program 800505
July 7French language proficiency2,300439
July 6Healthcare occupations1500463
July 5STEM occupations500486
July 4All-program 700511
June 28Healthcare occupations500476
June 27All-program4,300486
June 8All-program4,800486

Looking ahead to 2024

According to the recently released Immigration Levels Plan 2024-2026, Canada will admit 110,000 new permanent residents through Express Entry in 2024.

In 2023, IRCC targeted 82,880 Express Entry candidates for admission. Between the first draw of the year on January 11 and the December 21 draw, the department issued 110,266 ITAs.

This does not necessarily mean that all candidates will be admitted to Canada by the end of the year as it can take up to six months for IRCC to process an Express Entry application. Many of the ITAs issued in 2023 will count as admissions in 2024.

Also, there is a possibility that the minister will change the current categories for category-based selection. This depends on the findings in IRCC’s yearly report to Parliament and feedback from IRCC stakeholders such as provincial and territorial governments and settlement services.

These stakeholders are best placed to evaluate how Express Entry candidates integrate into the local labour force and economy and if they have been able to find employment in their field.

If the minister deems that the current categories do not fulfill IRCC’s mandate to invite the candidates most likely to support Canada’s economy, he may create a different set of categories.

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