Rumour and response:
Express Entry and selection draws
by Michael Scott
The last 10 days have been filled with departmental mismanagement and rumours of a temporary pause in invitations to apply under the Express Entry. My first encounter with these rumours was in response to a client who was alarmed at the news he was hearing. My first reaction was to caution them that not everything they hear may be credible or true. After taking time to check out the news, I discovered that there was an unauthorized leak from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and that someone within the department had indeed released a November 2021 memo to the national press.
The focus of the unofficial news was that there is a backlog of 76,000 highly skilled applicants who represent potentially 23 per cent of new landings or 174,800 if they all ended in landings. But the total projected landings would be reduced by 50 per cent to accommodate Afghan refugees.
I was not surprised by the backlog because the department has been praising itself for reducing the backlog but introducing the online Expression of Interest or EOI to circumvent the notion of application submissions. Technically the government has argued that since 2015 there is no backlog when using the EOI. In my opinion, this usage always appeared as a slight of hand, but it is now becoming very public in terms of the leaked memo. There was nothing wrong with Express Entry using Comparative Rating System (CRS) points to measure the EOI submissions rate, but this system is apparently being overlooked for invitations in two streams – the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) – in favour of an emphasis on the Canadian Experience Class (CEC).
The threat of the proposed changes rings hollow when we consider that the department has been public in its overreliance on the CEC as the way to achieve the desired landings for 2021. Yes, the department did land over 400,000 immigrants last year and we know from past examinations that skilled immigrant applicants inside the country were the prime beneficiaries. IRCC was in the awkward position of trying to make up for the shortfall in landings in 2020 when only 184,000 landed, far short of the targeted 341,000. The November departmental memo did not add anything different but rather that the department must formulate a plan to deal with the Express Entry and the potential to bring in more needed skilled workers. The department can privately discuss the advantages or disadvantages of continuing to shelve EOI submissions for the FSTP and FSWP, but this potential source for needed skilled workers should not be shelved for long or ignored as the country moves to recover from the adverse effects of the COVID pandemic.
Minister Sean Fraser has now moved to clean up the panic caused by the leaked planning memo. First, we should understand that it was meant for internal discussion and may or may not form the framework for future departmental actions. We shall soon see the true intentions of the department with release of the Immigration Levels Plan 2022-2024 intended for February 2022. Minister Fraser assured the public that IRCC has no plans to cancel applications and will work to reduce the backlog of all immigration applications of 1.8 million, of whom roughly 120,000 fall under Express Entry.
The Minister put some of the rumours to rest in a meeting in late January 2022 with the Canadian Bar Association’s Immigration Section. He assured the CBA that IRCC does not plan to cancel and refund already-submitted permanent residence applications in order to reduce the backlog. Minister Fraser suggested the possibility of holding “occupation focused (Express Entry) draws responding to labour needs.” This idea has some merit and now it is time to see what IRCC puts on the table for the next draws, including those in both FSWP and CEC streams. It is clear from the government’s response that leaks and rumours aside, Express Entry is still here to stay in all streams, CEC, FSWP and FSTP. It is still one of most effective ways to attract the skilled workers the country needs in a post-pandemic world.
Michael Scott is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC, R525678) who has 30 years of experience with Immigration Canada and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program. He currently works as a licensed consultant with Immigration Connexion International Ltd. Contact him at 204-691-1166 or 204-227-0292. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.