As we reported in May, Canada introduced pivotal shifts in how it issues Invitations To Apply under the Express Entry system, which governs Canadian Experience Class and Skilled Worker permanent residence applications.

Transitioning from Points to Categories

Until recently, Canada operated its Express Entry system using a purely points-based mechanism. Candidates were allocated scores based on a multitude of factors, such as age, linguistic skills, and academic qualifications. Every fortnight, a select batch of the highest scorers would be granted the opportunity to apply for permanent residency. This approach was perceived as a means of sourcing the strongest candidates to propel Canada’s economic advancement across a wide range of skills. In other words, the Express Entry system did not select among specific professions or skill sets. Applicants with skilled work experience in any job position were able to receive an Invitation to Apply as long as they met the minimum point threshold for that particular fortnightly draw.

In May, the Minister announced that they would shift from a broad selection of applications based on points, to a selection process based on specific job titles that are in chronic demand. The new Express Entry selection process went into effect on June 28, 2023. The overarching objective behind this change is to remedy the persistent labour shortages that have plagued multiple sectors in the recent past.

Spotlight on Key Areas

IRCC is now favouring candidates who possess:

  • Proficiency in the French language: Recognizing the importance of bilingualism in the diverse Canadian milieu, candidates fluent in French may find the doors to permanent residency more welcoming.
  • Experience in Critical Fields: A bulk of the invitations will be directed towards those with recent experience in pivotal domains such as:
    • STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)
    • Health care: Addressing health care needs has been a top priority, especially in the wake of global health challenges.
    • Skilled trades: These involve specialized knowledge, often emphasizing hands-on expertise.
    • Agriculture: With Canada’s expansive farmlands, agriculture continues to be a cornerstone of its economy.
    • Transportation: Ensuring seamless connectivity across the vast nation is paramount.

Specifically, roles within the STEM sector, such as data scientists and software developers, are expected to account for a significant 28 to 31 per cent of all PR invitations this year.

The categories that IRCC prioritizes are based on the Government’s Canadian Occupational Projection System (COPS). The screenshot below shows which professions are experiencing labour shortages:

Screenshot 2023 08 30 at 10.18.20 AM
Screenshot 2023 08 30 at 10.18.20 AM

Impacts on Existing Applicants

The change in how Express Entry will select candidates brings about an element of unpredictability, contrasting with the previously established system. Candidates who filed applications and whose jobs are not based on one of the categories above may have to wait longer before they receive an Invitation to Apply. It’s important to note that the Express Entry system will still invite candidates who fall outside of the above professions, although there will be fewer draws that include such applicants.

The Road Ahead for International Students

Canada, with its world-class educational institutions, has always been a magnet for international students. A large segment of these students eyed their Canadian education as the first leg in their journey towards permanent residency. Yet, with the recent reshuffle in policy, the large number of international students focusing on business and related disciplines might confront potential roadblocks in their PR journey, since business related job positions are not currently favoured. The latter might lead to a trend shift, with a surge in enrollments in programs aligning with the newly emphasized categories.

Synchronizing with Canada’s Labour Desires

Although these changes to the Express Entry system seek to mirror the current labor requirements, the dynamic nature of job markets remains a concern and critics in the past have argued that the government cannot shift its policies at the speed that economic sectors change. Sectors currently in the limelight might wane in demand, potentially leading to an imbalance in talent allocation in the future. In addition, questions about the equitable treatment of applicants who have invested years and thousands of dollars to pursue Canadian permanent residence abound, since changing the rules for applicants who are already in the Express Entry system raises serious questions about the fair treatment of existing applicants.

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