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Were you expecting an Express Entry draw this past week? Same here, but we have come to learn that Express Entry draws are no longer following there established pattern of issuing Invitations to Apply every 2 weeks.

For starters, we are in a new era of Express Entry. On June 28, 2023, the long-anticipated category-based Express Entry draws officially began. These new types of draws complement the all-program draws, and program-specific draws, which have long been part of the Express Entry process.

The introduction of category-based draws brought an entirely new set of rules, where Express Entry candidates could be invited based on their French language ability or work experience in certain occupations.

When the idea was first introduced, immigrants and immigration professionals alike squinted their eyes at the new rules, unsure how category-based selection would change the intake system that they’ve known since 2015.

These days, we’re finding out.

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How category-based draws has affected Express Entry

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) had a busy first week when category-based draws started on June 28, 2023.

Since then, Express Entry draws have not happened every two weeks. The following calendar shows when draws have happened between June 1 and November 14, 2023.

The break in pattern began in June. Normally, we would have expected a draw the week of June 19. Instead, we got six draws over a 10-day period, then two more draws the week after for a total of eight draws in 15 days.

All went quiet for two weeks. Draws started again in the first week of August. There was one all-program draw on August 15, then it was over a month before the next Express Entry draw happened.

There were five draws over the two-week period between September 17 and 30. Although it appears that draws returned to a two-week cadence in October—albeit with a surprise PNP-only draw thrown in—the pattern hasn’t returned in November, so far.

What affects the frequency of Express Entry draws?

The frequency of Express Entry draws is entirely determined by IRCC. Historically, IRCC has not often pre-announced when it would hold draws, except in the cases of the first few category-based draws.

There are a number of factors that come into play when IRCC determines how often to hold Express Entry draws, including the following:

Technical issues

From time to time, IRCC experience processing issues which can postpone Express Entry draws. On November 29th, 2023, IRCC posted on their official X account that some applicants are unable to submit their Express Entry applications due to technical problems with the online form. Applicants with dependent children over the age of 18 and who reside in Canada are currently affected by this issue however it is unlikely that IRCC will hold additional draws until this issue is resolved.

IRCC confirm via X processing problems with Express Entry applications/ COuld this be why there has been no Express Entry draw in November 2023?
November 2023- IRCC X post confirming processing issue with Express Entry applications

Canada’s Immigration Levels Plan

Every year, Canada makes an Immigration Levels Plan. This multi-year plan sets out the goal for the number of new permanent residents Canada is expecting to admit over the next three years. IRCC may adjust the frequency of draws to align with the targets for Express Entry programs.

In the latest Immigration Levels Plan, the Canadian government maintained its ambitious immigration targets, overall aiming to admit 485,000 new permanent residents in 2024 and 500,000 in 2025 and 2026.

Express Entry targets increased from the previous levels plan. As it stands, Canada is now aiming to admit 110,770 principal applicants through Express Entry in 2024, then hold at 117,500 in 2025 and 2026 —a welcome development for Express Entry hopefuls.

The Immigration Levels Plan 2024-2026 also bodes well for Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) candidates—including those in the Express Entry system. In 2024, some 110,000 new immigrants are expected to come through the PNP, and it will become the largest economic immigration program in 2025 and 2026 with 120,000 new Canadian PRs each year.

IRCC’s processing capacity

In order to process immigration applications, IRCC needs staff. Since sending out Express Entry invitations to apply (ITAs) opens a flood gate of applications, IRCC may adjust the frequency of draws in an effort to not overload themselves, and process applications within the standard amount of time. For Express Entry, that’s 80 percent of applications in six months.

According to a March 2023 report, IRCC has more than enough staff to process Express Entry applications this year and into the next five years.

Canada government policies

Changes in immigration policies or priorities may influence how often IRCC holds Express Entry draws. The pandemic was an example of a time where the Canadian government was trying to limit travel in and out of the country. As a result, Express Entry draws during the pandemic typically targeted candidates that were most likely to already be in Canada: those eligible for the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) and those eligible for the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP).

And as with all government priorities, public opinion plays a role. Even during a precarious housing market in Canada, Canadians are still accepting of immigrants. A March 2023 Nanos study suggested 52 percent of respondents said immigration had a positive impact on Canada.

And finally…

Canada’s economic conditions

Canada’s economy has an important role to play in immigration as a whole. Express Entry is an “economic-class” immigration program, which means it has to respond to labour needs in Canada. It’s whole purpose of being is to supply the labour market with skilled individuals who want to live and work in Canada.

The economy not only fuels policy considerations, but it also has an impact on public opinion. One of the reasons that Canadians are so pro-immigration is because of the long-told narrative that immigrants fill gaps in the labour market, create jobs, and overall boost the economy.

Is public opinion changing about immigration in Canada?

This week, former immigration minister turned housing minister, Sean Fraser, said Canada won’t rule out adjusting immigration targets amid the housing crisis.

Fraser said the Canadian government has some “work to do” on its temporary immigration programs, which refers to study permit and work permit programs. Some of these, such as study permits, are not capped, meaning there is no limit to how many Canada can accept each year. However, Fraser said Canada does not necessarily need to reduce the number of new permanent residents each year, as about half of new PRs are already in Canada.

One of the first things the new immigration minister, Marc Miller, said after accepting the role was that Canada has no plans to decrease immigration—specifically referring to the number of permanent residents accepted each year. He has held true to his word with the publication of the new immigration levels plan.

Officials, such as Fraser and Miller, have been careful to not suggest immigrants and temporary residents caused the housing crisis. In the same conversation about adjusting immigration levels, Fraser also said it is important to address housing challenges by “increasing the supply” and to “remember that immigration remains one of Canada’s strongest competitive advantages in the global economy.”

Will Canada still hold Express Entry draws in 2023?

Express Entry is one of the main ways that immigrants come to Canada. Even Canada’s newly-crowned largest immigration program, the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), pulls candidates from the Express Entry system. Therefore, Canada needs to continue holding draws to align with provincial and territorial immigration goals.

IRCC also needs to consider immigration for next year. We are well past the six-month mark in 2023, meaning that new Express Entry applications will likely be processed in 2024 if IRCC is able to maintain its processing standard for new applications. Side note: you can check current estimated processing times on the IRCC website.

That means, ITAs issued from now until the end of the year will likely count toward the 2024 immigration levels plan.

Last year, in Canada’s 2023-2025 Immigration Levels Plan, the government called for 109,020 new permanent residents to be admitted through the three Express Entry programs: Federal Skilled Worker (FSW), Canadian Experience Class (CEC), and Federal Skilled Trades (FST).

In the Canada’s 2024-2026 Immigration Levels Plan, the government called for 110,770 new permanent residents to be admitted through the three Express Entry programs: Federal Skilled Worker (FSW), Canadian Experience Class (CEC), and Federal Skilled Trades (FST). While political discourse suggests that there will be no significant change to immigration targets, we cannot know for certain until the official Immigration Levels Plan 2024-2027 is released.

Canada will need to continue holding Express Entry draws to meet next year’s immigration targets, even if the government does decide to aim for fewer than 110,770 for 2024.

While we cannot predict the future frequency of Express Entry draws, it is certain that Express Entry will remain a critical tool for Canada to achieve its immigration objectives.

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