Canada’s immigration department has said that targeted Express Entry draws could start to take place in the spring of 2023.

Before these draws can take place, however, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) must engage in consultations.

In a call for public consultations that ended on January 8, IRCC called targeted draws “category-based selection” and said it will be “a portion of overall invitations to apply, and invitations based on the Comprehensive Ranking System scores and individual programs will remain.”

So, it seems like Express Entry won’t completely change as we know it. The IRCC webpage suggests that all program draws will still happen alongside targeted and program-specific draws (such as those that only invite Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) candidates).

While the consultation document is not set in stone, it can provide insights into what IRCC is considering for the future of Express Entry.

Priorities and categories for selection

IRCC identified the priorities that it will focus on this year. These priorities are listed in the immigration minister’s mandate letter set out by the government of Canada, currently run by the Liberal Party.

The 2023 priorities include:

  • addressing chronic labour market shortages and positioning for the future; and
  • supporting Francophone immigration and economic growth in Francophone minority communities.

In response to these items, IRCC named three possible categories that could be the targets of future Express Entry draws:

  • Selecting candidates based on work experience in a particular occupation or sector;
  • Transitioning international student graduates to permanent residence;
  • Transitioning temporary foreign workers to permanent residence; and;
  • Selecting Francophone and bilingual candidates (outside of Quebec).

Although Immigration Minister Sean Fraser has publicly alluded to the possibility of selecting candidates based on region, it was not mentioned in the consultation document.

Citing Statistics Canada, IRCC said the worst labour shortages are found in construction (trades), administrative and support services, waste management and remediation services, healthcare and social assistance, and other services except for public administration, which is considered a separate industry. Many of these vacancies are in occupations that would qualify candidates for Express Entry.

IRCC says it will determine categories for targeted draws based on labour market information in addition to feedback from provinces, territories, and other stakeholders.

“Once categories are decided on by the Minister, they will be announced before we issue invitations,” the webpage says, adding that an annual report to Parliament will include the categories and the rationale for choosing them.

IRCC says it will continue to report on the outcomes of Express Entry immigrants, and lessons learned through category-based selection will help inform future work on the Express Entry system.

Express Entry insights

The document also included a deep dive into the Express Entry candidates who received Invitations to Apply (ITAs).

According to IRCC, between 2019 and 2021, the most common primary occupations of Express Entry candidates were:

  • food service supervisors
  • administrative assistants
  • financial auditors and accountants
  • retail sales supervisors
  • software engineers and designers
  • professional occupations in advertising, marketing and public relations
  • cooks
  • computer programmers and interactive media developers
  • information systems analysts and consultants
  • user support technicians
  • restaurant and food service managers
  • administrative officers

IRCC noted that candidates working in occupations such as food service supervisors or administrative assistants received a higher proportion of invitations than previous years, due to the pandemic. Between 2020 and 2021, IRCC primarily targeted Express Entry candidates who were likely to already be in Canada.

The report also found that Express Entry candidates are highly educated. About 75 percent in 2021 held a post-secondary education credential of at least three years.

Most ITAs are given to candidates in their 20s and 30s. In 2021, 64% of invited candidates were between the ages of 20-29, and 19% were between the ages of 30-34.

Candidates also had high official language proficiency. About 83% had at least a level 7 Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) or the French equivalent. An additional 2,517 met criteria for additional points for French-language proficiency.

Is Express Entry paused again?

There has been no Express Entry draw at all since the glitchy draw of November 23, 2022. A number of Express Entry candidates and immigration professionals reported issues like candidates not receiving ITAs even though they met the criteria. The November 23 draw was the first Express Entry draw since IRCC adopted the National Occupation Classification (NOC) 2021. IRCC has not officially said the pause is due to the glitches.