Game Changer: Category-based draws coming soon to Express Entry

by Ronalee Carey Law

June 2023

After much anticipation, IRCC has announced a category-based selection for Express Entry.

Rather than only being selected based on program and comprehensive ranking system points, in the future, applicants can be selected based on French or English language ability, work experience in a specific occupation, or education. In 2023, the following categories will be used:

  • French-language proficiency
  • Healthcare occupations
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) occupations
  • Trade occupations
  • Transport occupations
  • Agriculture and agri-food occupations

Category-based rounds will be held in addition to general rounds (for all three programs managed through Express Entry) and program-specific rounds (for one of the three programs.) Though IRCC has announced the categories to be used in 2023, the type of invitations will not be published until the time of the round. This is not surprising; draws have always been veiled in secrecy.

Category-based draws completely change the game. In the past, I could estimate a client’s CRS points and give them a realistic opinion as to whether they should set up a profile. Now, for individuals who do not fit into any of the categories, it will be almost impossible to predict whether they will receive an invitation to apply for permanent residence. Currently, the information published by IRCC about the number of individuals in the pool and their scores does not include any information about their occupation or language abilities; there is no way of knowing how many applicants in the pool will be eligible for a category-based draw. In addition, we do not know what types of rounds IRCC will hold for the rest of 2023 and what the numerical allotment will be between types of rounds and the different categories. 

Further, are Express Entry occupation-specific draws good for Canada in the long run? Canada has built a diverse and skilled workforce by attracting smart people who raise smart kids. Some have argued that long-term immigration goals can’t be met by targeting primarily occupation-specific talent. The temporary foreign worker and provincial nomination programs already exist to fill these needs. If PNP quotas were higher, the provinces could more easily meet their labour market needs, leaving Express Entry for long-term human capital attraction.