First of all, it is important to note that Express Entry is not an immigration program, rather, it is a system for accepting and processing applications for Canadian permanent residence. This system was implemented in January 2015 and while it took some time for Canadian immigration authorities to get used to it, they are now processing applications faster than ever!
The Express Entry system manages three different immigration programs. Each of these programs is merit-based, meaning that only the applicants with the best credentials will be invited to come to Canada.
1. Federal Skilled Worker (FSW): This program targets skilled workers with high-levels of English or French proficiency and education. As these workers are intended to join and contribute meaningfully to Canada’s workforce, applicants who are younger are preferred over older applicants. Notably, this program does not require any connection to Canada (relative in Canada, Canadian work experience, Canadian education, etc.), so foreign nationals living outside of Canada can be highly competitive.
2. Federal Skilled Trades (FST): This program targets workers with experience in skilled trade occupations. While language proficiency and education requirements are lower in this program, an applicant will only be accepted if they have an have an offer of full-time employment for a total period of at least one year or a certificate of qualification in that
skilled trade issued by a Canadian authority.
3. Canadian Experience Class (CEC): This program targets skilled workers with at least 12-months of skilled work experience in Canada. The program is still merit-based, meaning that higher English- or French-language proficiency and higher education is preferable, but it is less competitive than the FSW program.
To be considered for these programs, first a foreign national must submit an Express Entry profile. This acts as an Expression of Interest, indicating that they want to be considered for Canadian permanent residence. Then, approximately every 2 weeks, the Canadian government will issue a round of Invitations to Apply (ITAs) to those in the pool of candidates with the most competitive profile.
Receiving an ITA opens the door to a life in Canada – once you have an ITA you are eligible to submit your final application for Canadian permanent residence.
Over the course of 2017, there were more Invitations to Apply (ITAs) for Permanent Residence given than the total amount issued in 2015 and 2016 combined. What does this mean for Canadian immigration? Simply put, Immigration, Refugees, Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is prioritizing Express Entry as the main source of welcoming economic migrants to Canada and, as such, they’ve increased intake amounts.
This also means that the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) has become more lenient. This may continue to happen in 2018 as the Express Entry program has once again increased intake numbers. The Canadian government has pledged to accept over 1 million immigrants in the next 3 years with nearly 600,000 of those coming through economic programs!
In 2017, the minimum CRS score required to receive an ITA dropped to a record-low of 413 points in a draw in late May. This is approximately 50 points lower than the average score required to receive an ITA the previous year. It appears that, as the government is finally becoming comfortable with the Express Entry system, they are able to process applications much faster and issue a larger quantity of ITAs with lower requirements.
In 2018, if the trend continues, an optimistic view of Express Entry would see the CRS score fall even lower. While a CRS score drop cannot be guaranteed, it is an ideal time to submit a profile to the Express Entry pool.