In early 2023, Canada intends to hold targeted Express Entry draws.

The IRCC anticipates that Express Entry reforms will be implemented in the first quarter of next year.

According to a spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), Express Entry draws for candidates based on labour market goals will begin in the first quarter of 2023.

"As required by legislation, the Department intends to consult a wide range of stakeholders to inform new Express Entry categories, and is preparing for technical implementation in the first quarter of 2023," IRCC said in an email to CIC News.

 Bill C-19, which was recently passed, empowers the immigration minister to invite Express Entry candidates based on criteria that support regional economic needs. It enables IRCC to hold Express Entry invitation rounds based on a candidate's occupation, language proficiency, or educational attainment, rather than their Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score.

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The new legislation also requires the minister to conduct a public consultation process and to report the draw details, including economic goals, to parliament on an annual basis.

Why would you change Express Entry?

In a recent CIC News interview, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser explained that without the amendments, the Express Entry system does not allow IRCC to tailor Invitations to Apply (ITAs) to meet in-demand skills or qualifications.

If there are a lot of applications in one sector, but this sector does not have high needs in Canada, the Express Entry program will likely bring in individuals who do not perfectly fit the Canadian economy's needs.

As we saw throughout the pandemic, IRCC demonstrated that it can invite as many candidates as it wants in any programme it wants. One notable example occurred on February 13, 2021, when Canada invited every Canadian Experience Class (CEC) candidate in the pool, totaling over 27,000 invitations.

With the legislation in place at the time, IRCC was able to shift its strategy in the face of COVID-19 travel restrictions, inviting Express Entry candidates based on which programme they were eligible for. This was initially done to target Express Entry candidates who were eligible for either of two programmes: the CEC because these candidates were most likely already in Canada and thus not subject to travel restrictions, or those who had a nomination from a Provincial Nominee Program (PNP).

However, prior to the passage of Bill C-19, IRCC was unable to target Express Entry candidates in the pool based on their occupation, language ability, or educational credentials. Although PNPs have more specific criteria for inviting eligible Express Entry candidates, the system itself lacks such a mechanism. PNP candidates must complete a separate application process with a provincial or territorial authority in order to receive a PNP and thus support a regional need.

Fraser previously told CIC News that the goal is to prepare newcomers for success in the communities where they will live.

"I expect we'll see a potential increase in retention rates because people are coming in knowing they have opportunities because that was the basis of their invitation to apply," Fraser said.

The minister also acknowledged the importance of an open and transparent selection process. One of the bill's early detractors claimed that it would allow special interest groups to lobby the government to invite a specific type of Express Entry candidate. This is why an amendment was proposed requiring the minister to hold a public consultation with stakeholders to gather information on how the draws can be held to support an economic goal.

The bill's actual language is as follows: the Minister must engage in a public consultation process with stakeholders, including provinces and territories, industry, unions, employers, workers, worker advocacy groups, settlement provider organisations, and immigration researchers and practitioners, to obtain information, advice, and recommendations on labour market conditions, including occupations expected to face shortage conditions, as well as on immigration researchers and practitioners.

Fraser warned that making decisions about which regions and sectors should benefit from the new policy from his office in Ottawa would be very dangerous. Getting in touch with people in my community and communicating with my colleagues at the provincial and territorial levels are crucial. It is imperative that I meet with business councils and sectors with high needs in order to gain a deeper understanding of their needs."

Meanwhile, all-program draws continue.

IRCC held its first all-program draw since December 2020 on July 6, which means that candidates were invited regardless of which Express Entry-managed programme they were eligible for.

A total of 1,500 applicants were invited, with a minimum CRS score of 557.

The next Express Entry draw is scheduled for July 20.