Limited Opportunities to apply for Permanent Residence through Express Entry until 2024

by Ronalee Carey Law

February 2022

Current to February 15, there are 198,061 applicants in the Express Entry pool. There has not been a draw for the Canadian Experience Class since September 14, 2021. There have been no draws open to the Federal Skilled Worker Program since December 23, 2020. We must look back to August 6, 2020, for a draw for the Federal Skilled Trades Program. That’s a lot of delayed hopes and dreams.

However, at least for some, there is hope that 2022 will be their year to acquire permanent residency in Canada. On February 14, IRCC announced the Immigration Levels Plan for 2022-2024. In 2022 the Canadian government plans to offer permanent residence to 55,900 individuals through the Federal High Skilled category. This number includes the spouses/partners and dependent children of applicants. 

In 2023, the target will increase to 75,750. By 2024 IRCC anticipates having processed all applications submitted through the 2021 temporary ‘TR to PR’ program. The Federal High Skilled category numbers will then resume closer to pre-pandemic levels, with 2024’s target set at 111,500.

An internal government memo that became public in January indicates that there are enough applications in the processing queue for IRCC to meet its Federal High Skilled category targets through 2023. The memo further suggests that based on current numbers in the Express Entry pool, a minimum CRS score of 500 would be required should the government resume draws. 

IRCC Minister Sean Fraser has said the department is looking at ways for Express Entry to become more flexible, allowing targeting of specific sectors and regions in need of workers. If such changes are announced, a lower CRS may be possible depending on the applicant’s employment history and whether they are (or will be) working in a geographical region of Canada with labour shortages. In an interview February 16, the Minister indicated that draws for the CEC would resume ‘in the near future.’ Further, the Minister has communicated with the Canadian Bar Association about ideas for creating a pathway for Canadian international graduates, similar to the 2021 ‘TR to PR’ program. 

Regardless of how the Canadian government decides to proceed, there will be consequences to individuals currently studying in Canada or holding a post-graduation work permit. 

The newly formed Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association, CILA (of which I am a founding member), has called on IRCC to offer bridging open work permits for CEC applicants in the Express Entry pool who are currently employed in Canada or re-introduce a one-time Extension to post-graduate work permit holders. Doing so would allow Canadian employers to retain their employees until they can apply for permanent residence. It would also reduce hardship to international students who would otherwise need to leave Canada and apply to return at a later date. However, introducing such measures will increase competition for those currently studying, as it will increase the pool of eligible CEC applicants. 

Another suggestion is to allow employers to obtain Labour Market Impact Assessment exemptions for PGWP holders. Those applicants with a positive LMIA backing up their employment would receive an additional 50 CRS points. Introducing this change would have the impact of driving up the minimum CRS score needed for the CEC.

Every solution will create its issues. One thing is sure; the pandemic’s impact on immigration to Canada will be felt for years to come.