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The shifting focus of Express Entry draws towards CEC and PNP applicants



IRCC planning to pace up its immigration program under Express Entry

The third quarter of 2021 shows a sluggish pace of immigration for candidates under the Express Entry Category. The previous two quarters were good on all the fronts. Thus, the Q3 results saw a lower number of invites. IRCC has invited nearly 20,981 Express Entry candidates to apply for permanent residence in July, August, and September. This is the lowest number since IRCC welcomed 18,000 applicants in the 4th quarter of 2019.


On 14th September, the total number of ITAs granted in 2021 topped the total number issued in 2020 for the whole year. Last year, IRCC awarded a total of 107,350 ITAs. With the last quarter to go this year, IRCC has invited a total of 109,696 applicants under the last Express Entry draw held on 29th September. Last quarter, IRCC held 12 draws, out of which seven were for PNP candidates and five for CEC class candidates. A vast majority of invitations were received by the CEC applicants, i.e., about 81%. In July, IRCC revised the proof of funding criteria for candidates in these programs, which was the sole action.

According to the internal sources, the IRCC’s operations staff devised a strategy to meet the 2021 admissions objectives by focusing on candidates already in Canada. In addition, the agency intended to host record-breaking CEC draw sizes of 6,000 for June and July, as evident from a document released on 8th June this year. The message was sent to request clearance for IRCC to continue holding 6,000-person invitation rounds, which began in April.

The huge round held on 13th February aided in reaching this year’s goal of 141,000 CEC applications. Going by the sources, IRCC accepted 25,000 CEC applications by the end of July to do this. According to the government, the time between invitation and admission for CEC candidates is four to eight months. Thus, those invited after July have a lesser chance of being admitted this year.


Any deviation from the department’s strategy to focus on immigrants in Canada, according to the document, will diminish productivity and might result in fewer admissions in 2021. As a result, they’ve increased their efforts to process CEC applicants to fulfil their goals for 2021. The IRCC is expected to face backlash from provinces, territories, and other stakeholders for admitting candidates with poor scores via the Express Entry route. As a result, they started looking at Candidates with a CRS score of 350 or more in the Express Entry pool. These candidates are more likely to have worked in a skilled craft or technical employment requiring an intermediate level of language abilities, despite having lower language competence on average. It suggests that their language skills were in line with the demands of their jobs.

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On July 22 and 24, the IRCC performed two draws for candidates falling near the 350s score. After July, the department planned to reduce the invitation size to around 2,500 CEC applicants biweekly. In this order, two 3,000-point rounds were conducted in August, and one 2,500-point round was held in September. As the pool of CEC candidates grew larger, the CRS score conditions for each draw were projected to climb, which they did. The cut-off for the 14th September draw was 462. According to IRCC, most of the CEC applicants who applied by September 2021 will be finalized and admitted in 2021. The operations sector had seized capacity from the international network at the time to boost CEC processing at the expense of other foreign economic categories. This was before authorized permanent residents were permitted to complete their permanent residence arrival in Canada.


According to the paper, in early 2022, depending on the COVID-19 scenario, the focus of final decisions may shift back to FSWP candidates. IRCC had an inventory of more than 58,000 FSWP candidates who could not enter Canada in June due to travel limitations that prevented authorized permanent residents from completing their landing in Canada. This does not rule out the possibility of FSWP draws before the end of the year, but it does imply that those who have applied can expect delays in processing their applications.

The message was written before Canada lifted travel restrictions on all holders of Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) on 21st June. In principle, this should make it simpler for IRCC to handle international Express Entry applications to meet its immigration targets. However, it appears that IRCC will continue to focus on processing for Express Entry applications as it did before 21st June.

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