Immigration Minister of Canada Sean Fraser announced new plans to resume Express Entry invitations for FSWP and CEC candidates.
Minister Sean Fraser also stated that candidates with a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) will now be offered an open work permit extension of up to 18 months by the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
Until this year, Express Entry was the primary source of economic-class immigrants.
Express Entry Program is an online system used by the Canadian government to organize and process applications for skilled workers who wish to immigrate to Canada and acquire Canadian permanent residence status. Currently, the system manages three key federal economic programs:
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, IRCC invited candidates based on their scores. Highest-scoring candidates were issued an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residency. These draws usually did not invite them based on their program of eligibility.
In the earlier days of the pandemic, IRCC focused on inviting just CEC candidates to achieve its goal of admitting a record high number of candidates in a single year - amid the travel restrictions. But CEC candidates were not subjected to these restrictions placed between 2020 and 2021, as a majority of the CEC candidates were already present in Canada. This strategy helped Canada to welcome over 405,000 permanent residents in 2021 – the highest ever newcomer intake in its history.
IRCC also focused on inviting more PNP candidates throughout the pandemic to meet provincial immigration goals.
The shift in Express Entry policies alongside the COVID-19 pandemic challenges has resulted in a massive backlog within the Canadian Immigration System. This was the sole reason why IRCC put a hold on FSWP in December 2020, and CEC in September 2021.
This lack of FSWP and CEC candidates came at a time when Canada is dealing with a historic labor market shortage. A shortage where unemployment is at a record low and job vacancies are record high.
Most CEC candidates are usually international students that have graduated from a Canadian Designated Learning Institute (DLI). These grads usually go on to obtain a Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP). A Post Graduate Work Permit allows an international student who has graduated from a Canadian DLI - to remain in Canada and work full time after they complete a certificate, diploma, or degree that is at least 8 months in length.
Generally, candidates can only get a PGWP once, meaning candidates risked losing their work permit status if they failed to submit a PR application while holding a PGWP. The lack of Express Entry ITAs being issued resulted in CEC candidates losing their work permit status. CEC candidates were not able to apply for a Bridging Open Work Permit (BOWP) while they waited for IRCC to process their PR applications. A BOWP allows candidates to continue working for a Canadian employer of their choice during the time between the expiring of the work permit and the candidate receiving permanent residence.
However, between January and July 2021, IRCC made an exception by offering a one-time open work permit of 18 months in duration. This was to give PGWP holders more time to get the required work experience to be eligible for Canadian permanent residency.
Meanwhile, since its inception back in 1967, FSWP was the key source of foreign skilled immigrants to Canada until recently, when it focused on inviting and processing just CEC candidates. This temporary policy shift induced by the pandemic has resulted in a decrease in the number of foreign skilled immigrants into the Canadian workforce. Again, this was during a time when Canada’s labor market was tight – owing to the aging Canadian population and the COVID-19 pandemic.
IRCC is now looking to land around 55,000 Express Entry permanent residents in 2022, which is about half of its 2021 immigration goals. The reason for this decrease is that the IRCC wants to wind down its Temporary Residence to Permanent Residence (TR2PR) program and focus on other priorities. Back between May and November 2021, IRCC invited up to 90,000 essential workers and international graduates to apply for permanent residence through the TR2PR program.
According to Canada’s Immigration Level Plan 2022-2024, IRCC is seeking to welcome over 110,000 newcomers through Express Entry by 2024.
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