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How Does IRCC Choose When to Hold Express Entry Draws?

When to Hold Express Entry Draws

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Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Express Entry draws followed a relatively predictable schedule. Typically held every two weeks on Wednesdays, these draws featured over 3,000 Invitations to Apply (ITAs) for permanent residence, with Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) cut-offs of around 470 points.

During this period, Express Entry operated with stability, aligning with its policy objectives since its introduction in January 2015. Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) was on track to process 80% of applications within six months, allowing for regular ITA issuances and providing certainty to candidates.

However, Express Entry draws have become less predictable since the pandemic’s onset. There must be a consistent pattern regarding draw timing, type, ITA numbers, or CRS cut-offs. 

In 2023, draws occurred regularly up to June. Still, with the introduction of category-based selection, their frequency increased as IRCC aimed to address diverse policy goals, including labor shortages and Francophone immigration.

Between June 27 and August 15, 12 Express Entry draws took place, deviating from the typical 4-8 draws during a comparable period. After a pause of over a month, IRCC resumed with nine draws from September 19 to October 26. 

Since then, draws have yet to occur, and IRCC still needs to explain. Potential factors influencing draw timing include various considerations that IRCC has yet to clarify.

Immigration Levels Plan

The Immigration Levels Plan is an annual release by IRCC that establishes targets for the number of permanent yearly resident admissions to Canada over the next three years. These targets are categorized, with specific numbers allocated for Express Entry candidates.

2024, IRCC aims to admit 110,770 immigrants through Express Entry, followed by 117,550 in 2025 and 2026. These figures encompass principal applicants receiving Express Entry ITAs, their eligible partners, and dependents included in their permanent residence applications.

To meet these targets, IRCC continually assesses the number of pending permanent residence applications. If there are sufficient applications to fulfill current and upcoming year targets, issuing additional ITAs may be optional. 

Conversely, if the processing queue lacks adequate applications, IRCC may conduct more draws or increase ITA numbers. When determining ITA quantities for targets, IRCC considers both the current and upcoming year, recognizing that it takes six months to process a final application for an Express Entry candidate. Consequently, ITAs issued in the latter half of 2023 likely lead to a permanent resident completing their landing in 2024.

IRCC’s Policy Objectives

IRCC’s policy objectives involve considering the types of draws it conducts to align with its goals. The immigration minister, mandated to enhance the national economy, issues instructions to invite newcomers with skills to address labor force gaps and contribute swiftly to the Canadian economy after arrival.

Express Entry invitations to Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) candidates are crucial in achieving these objectives.  The decision-making process for inviting candidates requires careful consideration, occasionally leading to pauses in Express Entry draws as IRCC evaluates its options. Choices include all-program draws, program-specific draws, or category-based invitations.

In 2021, IRCC aimed to land over 400,000 new permanent residents despite pandemic challenges. Large Express Entry draws for Canadian Experience Class (CEC) candidates already in Canada were a strategic move to expedite permanent residency. 

With the introduction of category-based selection, recent draws cater to broader policy objectives, including promoting economic development nationwide, inviting high human capital candidates for labor market integration, facilitating temporary to permanent residence transitions, and supporting Francophone communities outside of Quebec. 

The focus also extends to inviting candidates with work experience in STEM, healthcare, transportation, agriculture, and skilled trades.

IT Issues

IT issues, encompassing glitches, present another variable influencing Express Entry. 

A glitch in the Express Entry profile builder recently led to a situation where candidates with ITAs could not submit their final permanent residency applications within 60 days. In response, IRCC granted an additional 60 days for affected applicants.

Changes to the CRS and Express Entry

Modifications to the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) and adjustments to Express Entry profiles can occasionally influence the conduct of Express Entry draws.

Though infrequent, alterations to how Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) assigns CRS points to specific attributes can impact draw frequency. This occurred in 2020 when IRCC increased the CRS points awarded for French proficiency. Such changes necessitate technical updates to ensure all existing profiles accurately reflect CRS scores.

Additionally, system transitions, exemplified by the shift from NOC Skill Types to the TEER system, are another facet of Express Entry profile adjustments.

Staffing Modifications At IRCC

New system rollouts can introduce glitches, as evidenced by IT problems following the introduction of category-based selection rounds. In such instances, IRCC may postpone draws until the issues are resolved.

Moreover, a hiatus in Express Entry draws occurred between November 23, 2022, and January 11, 2023, due to an IT problem linked to updates in the National Occupation Classification (NOC) system. This glitch led to the issuance of ITAs to some ineligible candidates.
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