Last week, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) organized its first Express Entry draw for all programs since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Before Canada imposed travel restrictions to help contain the spread of COVID-19, the federal government considered all eligible applicants in its biweekly Express Entry draws.
This meant that applicants eligible for the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) and the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) all had the chance of obtaining an invitation to apply (ITA) for a permanent residence if their CRS rating met IRCC cutoff requirements.
However, once Canada introduced travel restrictions against coronaviruses, IRCC began to organize draws specific to PNP and CEC, much to the disappointment of FSWP and FSTP applicants.
In 2019, the FSWP represented 45% of all ITAs issued by IRCC. The PNP comes second with 36%, followed by the PNP with 18% and the FSTP with 1%. Fortunately, last week’s draw provides lots of good news.
Right reasons to resume FSWP draws
The IRCC justified the program-specific draws because CEC and PNP applicants are more likely to be in Canada and, therefore, less likely to face challenges related to coronaviruses during their permanent resident applications and establishment process.
This rationale was problematic for several reasons.
The physical location of a candidate in the world is not determined by the Express Entry program for which they are eligible. A candidate may be eligible for CEC but currently lives abroad. During this time, a candidate for the FSWP can currently live in Canada. It was unfair to exclude candidates for the FSWP and the FSTP when other overseas applicants had obtained ITAs since March.
Second, the IRCC permanent residency treatment standard for applicants selected for Express Entry is six months or less. This gives overseas applicants such as the FSWP candidate sufficient time to navigate the potential coronavirus disturbance in order to submit a completed permanent resident application and hopefully complete their landing in Canada (assuming that flights are readily available and Canada relaxes its travel restrictions).
Even if a successful FSWP encounters obstacles in the coming months, IRCC has been very clear that it will accommodate applicants as much as possible so that applicants can achieve their immigration goals.
Therefore, there were few reasons to exclude applicants to the FSWP in the first place.
Third, the reason behinds this was that Canada wants a competitive immigration process where the highest-ranked applicants get ITAs. This approach, according to logic, is the fairest for the candidates, since they are all treated the same, and the best for Canada since the country selects the candidates most likely to succeed in its economy.
While it is understandable that the coronavirus has brought about changes in Canadian immigration policy, it is unfortunate that we have temporarily departed from the purpose of Express Entry.
FSWP candidates are excellent for the Canadian economy because they have very high levels of human capital. In fact, recent Canadian government research shows that FSWP candidates, like CEC and PNP candidates, integrate very well into the Canadian economy.
It is unfortunate that Canada has excluded such applicants in recent months. These FSWP candidates may have been doubly punished for other reasons. For example, a candidate who would otherwise have obtained an ITA may have lost CRS points after having had an additional year in program-specific draws.
Future for Express entry candidates
PNP applicants are not affected by the return to draw of all programs, as the 600 points, they earn through a provincial nomination effectively guarantee that they will receive an ITA.
Tension exists between the CEC and FSW candidates. The CEC-specific draws saw the CRS scores decrease.
While the CRS threshold was 471 before the pandemic, it fell to 431 during the last specific draw for the CEC on June 25.
The CRS has dropped because the bar for becoming eligible for the PTQF is higher than for the CEC.
To become eligible for the FSWP, a candidate must obtain at least a CLB level 7 on his official language test and he must obtain an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) for his studies abroad.
In addition, applicants to the FSWP can claim additional points for their spouse’s language skills.
On the other hand, CEC candidates with NOC B work experience can become eligible for Express Entry with a CLB level 5 and CEC candidates do not need to obtain an ECA to enter the Entry pool Express.
These reasons help us understand why the FSWP tends to increase the CRS thresholds when IRCC organizes draws for all programs.
Things to look forward in the next Express Entry draw
The pandemic created unpredictability in the world throughout 2020 and, as such, no one knows what the near future holds.
However, IRCC continues to do its best to provide peace of mind to applicants for immigration. Last week’s draw is proof that IRCC will start treating Express Entry applicants the same way no matter where they are in the world today.
This means that FSWP applicants should not hesitate to enter the Express Entry pool as soon as they can in order to give themselves a chance to be removed from the pool. Unlike the start of the pandemic, candidates can now take an IELTS or CELPIP test and obtain an ECA.
CEC applicants may fear that it is more difficult to obtain ITAs now. On the other hand, they should not lose sight of the fact that they are very competitive Express Entry candidates because of their Canadian experience. In addition, they must not forget that they benefited from a significant advantage compared to candidates for the FSWP during the draws specific to the program. Third, CEC candidates should also not rule out the possibility that IRCC may again organize CEC-specific draws during the pandemic.
Every immigration candidate wants to be treated fairly and, therefore, all program draws are the fairest way to treat those from the Express Entry group. Imagine how upset the CEC candidates would be if the IRCC only held draws specific to the FSWP. Therefore, the return to the draws of all programs should be celebrated by the candidates.
The last major reason for the celebration is last week’s draw which indicates that we are approaching normalcy.
The circulation of all the programs strongly suggests that IRCC believes that the immigration system will return to a semblance of normalcy in the coming months. IRCC would not have resumed invitations to the FSWP if it was not confident in its ability to process their applications for permanent residence within a reasonable time and if the FSWP and other applicants abroad could not attend Canada in the near future.
Returning to the normal immigration system is the thing that all express entry candidates – FSWP, FSTP, CEC, and PNP desperately want.