Recent consultations outline the possibility of targeting Express Entry candidates who have key attributes such as occupation, sector, being a temporary resident, and French language proficiency.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) recently held consultations with the public and stakeholders to adapt the Express Entry application management system to better target Canada’s economic needs and labour shortages.
The department plans to do this by creating Express Entry categories that target key attributes such as educational credentials, work experience, or knowledge of an official language, rather than solely on a high score within the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS).
IRCC said it is considering inviting Express Entry candidates based on occupational background, sectors of the economy with labour shortages, whether candidates have resided in Canada as international students or temporary foreign workers, and the French-language proficiency of candidates.
Express Entry is a system under which skilled workers may apply for permanent residence through one of three immigration pathways, the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Canadian Experience Class, and the Federal Skilled Trades Program.
Currently, eligible candidates who apply for permanent residency through these programs are given a score using the CRS. Those with the highest scores are most likely to receive an invitation to apply (ITA).
The consultations were based on the success of the same method used for creating the annual Immigration Levels Plan, which sets Canada’s yearly immigration targets over three years.
The results of the consultations have not yet been published since the consultation process only recently ended on January 8, 2023. However, IRCC has said that targeted draws are likely to begin starting in spring this year. Once categories are decided on by the Minister, they will be announced before invitations are issued.
Selecting candidates based on work experience in a particular occupation or sector
IRCC is considering creating a category that includes work experience in particular occupations or sectors that are experiencing chronic labour shortages. As part of the consultation process, IRCC asked respondents to outline areas of the labour market experiencing long-term shortages and provide suggestions on how immigration can complement Canada’s existing workforce.
Between 2019 and 2021 of those candidates invited to apply for permanent residence through Express Entry, the most common primary occupations were:
- food service supervisors
- administrative assistants
- financial auditors and accountants
- retail sales supervisors
- software engineers and designers
- professional occupations in advertising, marketing and public relations
- computer programmers and interactive media developers
- information systems analysts and consultants
- user support technicians
- restaurant and food service managers
- administrative officers
Transitioning international graduates to permanent residence
IRCC says a potential category for selection in Express Entry focused on international student graduates could respond more directly to critical shortages. For example, a new Express Entry category could include graduates with a degree or diploma in in-demand fields from a Designated Learning Institution.
IRCC notes international student graduates are well placed for permanent economic immigration since they are proficient in at least one official language and have Canadian educational qualifications as well as work experience. They are often in their core working-age years, meaning they will be able to contribute to Canada’s economy for years to come.
Over 88,000 international graduates transitioned to permanent residence through Express Entry in 2021, an increase of 80% since 2017. Still, it can be time-consuming and difficult for someone to get permanent residence while in Canada on a Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP).
Transitioning temporary foreign workers to permanent residence
As with international student graduates, IRCC is considering creating a category that would enable more temporary foreign workers to become permanent residents via Express Entry. In the consultation, stakeholders raised the concern that current permanent residence pathways are not keeping up with the supply of temporary foreign workers capable of addressing Canada’s labour force needs in the long run. Temporary foreign worker programs provide access to global talent, which promotes economic growth as urgent job vacancies are filled.
In general, immigrants with previous temporary Canadian work experience have been found to have better labour market integration and are better equipped to transfer their skills when needed.
In 2021, approximately 168,600 people transitioned from temporary worker status to permanent residence, representing 64% of admissions in the economic immigration category.
Selecting Francophone and bilingual candidates
IRCC is also considering inviting candidates based on their ability to speak French. This could entail invitations to French-speaking and bilingual candidates alike.
In 2019, Canada launched the Francophone Immigration Strategy, which set a target of 4.4% of new immigrants outside of Quebec to be French-speaking by the end of 2023.
Of the 110,000 economic class francophone immigrants who settled in Canada between 2017 and 2021, only 30,000 chose to settle outside of Quebec. By inviting more francophone candidates through Express Entry, the government will be able to continue strengthening Canada’s bilingual character, as well as fill labour gaps in communities where speaking French is necessary for an occupation.
Canada’s labour shortage
The changes to Express Entry are in response to Canada’s aging population and one of the lowest global birth rates at 1.43 children per woman. As the population ages, there is increased demand for social services and a shrinking tax base. Without increasing immigration of skilled workers to support Canada’s social systems, such as healthcare, there would be serious difficulties in supporting the population.
Some of the most critical labour shortages have been made evident as the global economy shifts toward greener, digital economies and automation. The shortages are partly due to skills gaps and increasing job vacancies in key sectors such as construction, healthcare, and professional, scientific and technical services. All are sectors that require lengthy and specialized training.
Government mandate on immigration
In the most recent Minister’s mandate letter, a document that outlines the government’s priorities, the immigration minister must address these objectives, among others:
- address chronic labour market shortages and positioning for the future; and
- support Francophone immigration and economic growth in Francophone minority communities.
To help meet these goals, Bill C-19 received royal assent on June 23, 2022. Under the Bill, the immigration minister can invite candidates for Express Entry based on key attributes that will support an economic priority.
This does not mean that IRCC will no longer be using the Comprehensive Ranking System for Express Entry. Candidates who meet the criteria for a particular category would be ranked according to their CRS scores and the top among them will be invited to apply.
Category-based selection will only be for candidates who qualify for the programs managed under Express Entry.