When asked about when Canada would once again hold Canadian Experience Class (CEC) draws, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser replied draws would resume “in the near term” and said that he was looking into how to make the Express Entry system more flexible.
Fraser sat down with the president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, Goldy Hyder, for a discussion on Canadian immigration. The event was streamed on the Canadian Club Toronto website on February 16.
While the immigration minister said there was no announcement on when CEC draws would resume, he suggested that they would return “in the near future” and that Express Entry would start to look more normal in the coming years.
“We do need to resume, in the near future, draws for federal skilled workers,” Fraser said. “If you actually look at the immigration levels plan over the next couple of years the balance is shifting back and by year three… a record number of federal skilled workers, including through the Canadian Experience Class, will be welcomed to Canada.
By no means do I want to communicate that there will be any kind of abandonment of—what I would argue—is one of the most successful immigration programs anywhere in the world.”
Fraser also said he was looking to add more flexibility to the Express Entry system. He suggested that Express Entry could be used to respond to short-term needs including welcoming people into smaller communities, sectors in high demand, and “people who are coming from a particular region that has the kind of educational institutions that will train the workers we need in strategically important sectors.”
“Building this flexibility into the Express Entry system is something I’m personally digging into right now because I think it’s going to enable us to respond in a more nimble way when we do see the pace of transformation is only increasing over time,” Fraser said.
Fraser had previously hinted that occupation-specific Express Entry draws could be a possibility in the future.
Expanding pathways to permanent residence for international students and temporary foreign workers through Express Entry is one of Fraser’s priorities listed in his minister’s mandate letter. He is also tasked with ensuring immigration better supports small- and medium-size communities by expanding the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot and moving forward on the Municipal Nominee Program. Since taking office in the fall, Fraser has already made the Atlantic Immigration Pilot a permanent program, which was one of the other priority items specified in his mandate letter.
How Express Entry works
Express Entry was created to manage immigration applications for skilled workers who are eligible for at least one of three programs: Canadian Experience Class, the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), and the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP). Candidates who are eligible for one of these programs may become eligible for a Provincial Nominee Program (PNP).
Generally speaking, eligibility for Express Entry-managed programs depend on a candidates prior work experience in what are considered to be “skilled” occupations. If a candidate is qualified for an Express Entry-managed program, they can then get points for human capital factors like age, education, work experience, and official language ability among others. The highest-scoring candidates are invited to apply for Canadian immigration.
The state of Express Entry
Since September 2021, Canada has only been inviting PNP candidates to apply through the Express Entry system. Fraser has said on multiple occasions that the pause in CEC, FSWP, and FSTP draws is temporary, while Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) deals with the pandemic-related backlog of immigration applications.
As of February 1, about 64,890 FSWP and CEC candidates are waiting for decisions on their immigration applications. The 2022-2024 immigration levels plan is calling for fewer Express Entry immigrants this year than there are in the backlog. In 2022, Canada is expecting to admit 55,900 immigrants through Express Entry, not including PNP candidates. The following year, Canada is currently slated to welcome 75,750 Express Entry immigrants.
By 2024, Canada is expecting to welcome a record number of 111,500 immigrants through Express Entry.
Fraser will table the next immigration levels plan for 2023-2025 in the fall of this year. By then, the targets for 2023 onward could change.