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Canada will be maintaining the same Express Entry categories this year.

According to an email alert from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), Canada will continue to invite Express Entry candidates through the following six categories:

  • French
  • Healthcare
  • STEM
  • Trades
  • Transport
  • Agriculture and agri-food

IRCC determines Express Entry categories based on Canada’s economic needs. They are chosen in consultation with stakeholders such as provincial and territorial governments.

Category-based draws are held alongside general draws, and program-specific draws such as those that target only Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) candidates.

Each year, IRCC must report to Canadian Parliament on the categories chosen for the previous year, why and how they were chosen, instructions to establish a category, and the number of invitations issued for each.

This year is going to set the stage for future category-based draws. Canada only introduced category-based selection in the second half of 2023. We have yet to see what a full year’s cycle looks like, and how and when the government will change Express Entry categories to reflect the new labour market reality.

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Category-based draws in 2023

In 2023, there were 17 category-based draws:

  • French category – 6 draws
  • Healthcare category – 3 draws
  • STEM category – 2 draws
  • Trades category – 2 draws
  • Transport category – 2 draws
  • Agriculture and agri-food category – 2 draws

None of the Express Entry draws in January were category-based draws, but on February 1, Canada held its first French draw of the year.

How category-based selection changed Express Entry

Since June 28, 2023 when the first Healthcare draw kicked off a new era of Express Entry, we have observed a change in the frequency of draws.

At one time, it was common to expect a draw every two weeks on a Wednesday. This pattern fluctuated and varied, especially during the pandemic. However, the two-week cadence has not been consistent since category-based selection began. The unpredictability of new Express Entry draws makes it even more difficult to forecast when the next draw will take place.

We will soon learn how category-based selection has changed Canadian immigration as more government data comes available. Since it takes about six months for an Express Entry application to be processed, those who applied via the first category-based draw may only start to get permanent residency in January or February of 2024.

How Canada chooses Express Entry categories

Category-based Express Entry draws are established by the immigration minister to meet an economic goal for Canada. IRCC can create categories based on criteria such as:

  • ability to communicate in an official language
  • work experience in a specified occupation
  • education

The specific categories are based on two key factors:

  • labour market information and projections
  • input from provinces, territories and other stakeholders

How to become eligible for category-based selection?

Firstly, you must be eligible for an Express Entry-managed program like the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Canadian Experience Class or the Federal Skilled Trades Program.

Once you are in the pool, you have to meet the minimum criteria to be eligible for the category, and be invited in a category-based Express Entry draw.

To get the latest update on category-based selection and learn the new Express Entry categories for 2024, create a free Moving2Canada account and sign up for our newsletter!

If you’re interested in moving to Canada but not sure which program you may be eligible for, check your eligibility for more than 20 Canadian immigration programs by taking Moving2Canada’s free Canada Immigration Quiz.

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