May 2017 saw a record low minimum Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score of 413 for an all-program draw, while in April a single draw saw an all-time high 3,923 Invitations to Apply (ITAs).
Canada immigration authorities continued on the path to a total for 2017 of more than 75,000 ITAs, with a dynamic second quarter building on a fast-paced first three months.
There were also further tweaks to how points are awarded, showing the flexibility, the system gives to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to tinker with the scoring so as to ensure the right candidates are being selected.
Canada Express Entry is a system that selects the best candidates for immigration based on a multitude of factors used to gauge their worth to the Canadian economy.
Through the system, candidates are invited to apply to one of the three main federal economic immigration programs, namely Federal Skilled Worker, Federal Skilled Trades and the Canada Experience Class. Each province can also nominate candidates from the Express Entry Pool, with a coveted provincial nomination worth 600 CRS points.
The system was launched in 2015 and over the first two years was operated with a number of constraints. Backlogs of applications from the former system still had to be cleared. And certain anomalies had to be corrected. But as 2016 concluded and the backlog was cleared, Express Entry draws began seeing CRS scores fall consistently into the lower 400s, with higher ITA numbers in each of the frequent draws.
Express Entry: Invitations to Apply
The more than 50,000 ITAs issued over the first six months of the year dwarfs the totals for each of the previous two years and shows the system has kicked into top gear for selecting economic immigrants.
After the first quarter of 2017, the number of ITAs had already passed the whole-year totals for both 2015 and 2016. It is clear 2017 is the year Express Entry has truly started operating at full capacity.
In 2017 so far, Canada immigration authorities have issued 51,300 ITAs. At the same point in 2016, just 15,286 has been issued, while in 2015 the number had reached 12,883.
When you consider the numbers on a draw-by-draw basis, the 2017 is made even more clear. Not only is 16 draws the most for any six-month period so far, the ITA number were consistently more than double those issued in previous years.
It should be mentioned that draws 13 and 14 in the below chart were program-specific, meaning they were targeted at the provincial nominee programs and Canadian Experience Class respectively. More on this later.
Some of the reasons for the dramatic increase are laid out below:
- IRCC is aiming to receive near the upper target of its annual immigration levels for economic class immigrants, which will see more than 73,700 candidates arrive in Canada.
- The government now has a much clearer picture of how ITAs relate to submitted applications. It has two years of data showing how many candidates received ITAs but failed to submit their applications. The relationship between ITAs, completed applications and immigrants arriving in Canada is a key driver when setting ITA numbers.
- The processing time target of six months means the IRCC knows the candidates it is inviting now are likely to arrive in Canada in 2017, and therefore come under the 2017 target. Later in 2017, immigration officials must start thinking about 2018 immigration levels when considering draw sizes.
- The backlog of applications that formed under the previous system before Express Entry began is now clear. This means that every new federal economic class permanent resident must come through Express Entry.
Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) Scores
The dramatic increase in ITA numbers has forced down the CRS score, with a record low of 413 recorded in May 2017 as well as two instances where 415 was the minimum score.
It means candidates with lower scores than ever are achieving ITAs, making Canada more and more accessible to new permanent residents, who are residing outside Canada.
The final draw of the second quarter at the end of June 2017 saw the CRS score rise slightly to 449. This came after the IRCC left a month between draws to allow June 6, 2017 changes in the scoring system to take effect. That extra time allowed the numbers and standard in the pool to swell, providing many candidates with increased points for a sibling in Canada or high French language abilities and this raised the minimum CRS score.
The second quarter of 2017 also saw two unusual program-specific draws (numbers 13 and 14 on the above chart).
It is not the first time the IRCC has conducted a draw aimed only at provincial nominee programs (draw 13). This draw saw a minimum CRS score of 775 and 143 ITAs issued. This has the effect of creaming off all of the highest-scoring profiles in the pool, and giving the provinces the candidates they have selected for immigration. The 600 points for a provincial nomination is now the only way to effectively guarantee an ITA, after job offer points were reduced at the end of 2016.
Draw 14 represented a first, in that it was a draw aimed specifically at the Federal Skilled Trades program. The minimum points score of 199 meant candidates who previously had little hope of being invited to apply, were suddenly bumped up the immigration queue. It is another example of the flexibility of Express Entry, and how immigration authorities can identify a need and react quickly.
Canada Express Entry Changes
On June 6, 2017, Canada immigration authorities made further changes to how points are scored under Express Entry. As the data set available to immigration officials increases, they are able to see where changes need to be made to make sure the right candidates are being selected.
The IRCC has not been afraid to tinker, making major changes in November 2016 including reducing job offer points and increasing points for a Canadian education.
Three more Express Entry changes were made in early June. These were:
1) More points for French language
Candidates now score 15 additional points for a level 7 in listening, speaking, reading and writing in the Niveau de Competence Canadiens (NLC) combined with an English score of 4 or below in the Canadian Language Benchmark (Linguistique CLB).
Those points rise to 30 if the French level 7 is combined with an English level 5 or above.
The extra points are in addition to the existing language points. Up to 136 points can be awarded for a candidate’s first official language, and 24 points for the second.
2) New points for having a sibling in Canada
Canada immigration statistics show having a sibling accelerates integration – a key measure of a successful immigration system.
Therefore, candidates with a sibling living in Canada are now awarded 15 extra points under Canada Express Entry.
The sibling must be age 18 or older and be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. They must share a mother or father with the principal candidate or their spouse or common-law partner. The relationship can be blood, marriage, common-law or adoption.
The changes also included an end to mandatory job bank registration for all candidates without a job offer, although this does not impact points.
Express Entry in The Rest Of 2017
The IRCC must now have one eye on 2018 as it operates Express Entry in the second half of 2017.
The six-month processing time means candidates invited to apply now could land in 2018. The proportion landing as permanent residents next year will increase as 2017 continues.
Of crucial importance will be the immigration numbers plan for 2018, likely to be made public in the latter part of 2017. Immigration officials will likely already have at least an idea of where those numbers will be, allowing them to set draw sizes accordingly.
If regular, two-week draws continue as expected, the minimum CRS score should fall into the lower 400s again. It seems unlikely there will be a first all-program draw with a score below 400, but do not count it out at this stage.
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