1. New measures
On May 31, 2023 Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) announced that new category-based rounds of invitation would take place through the Express Entry system. These category-based rounds of invitations have been designed to address the labour shortage that key areas of the Canadian economy had been facing, and to promote the settlement of French speakers in any Canadian province or territory outside Québec.
In addition to the French speaking category, IRCC identified 82 occupations in high-demand across 5 areas:
- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (“STEM”),
- Trades such as carpenters, plumbers and contractors,
- Transport, and
In order for a candidate in the Express Entry pool to receive an invitation to apply (“ITA”) through the French speaking category, the candidate must have scored at least 7 on the Niveaux de Compétence Linguistique Canadiens (also known as the Canadian Language Benchmark or CLB in the context of the English exams) in all 4 languages abilities. On the other hand if the applicant is aiming at receiving an ITA through any of the occupation-based categories, the candidate must have accumulated 6 months of full-time (or equal amount part-time) of continuous work experience in one of the occupations listed in that particular category, in the last 3 years preceding the date when an ITA will potentially be received.
2. Common misconception
It is important to bear in mind that for a foreign national to be in the Express Entry pool and receive an ITA pursuant to any of these new categories, the applicant must meet the legal requirements of any of the economic immigration streams processed through the Express Entry:
- Federal Skilled Worker Class (“FSWC”)
- Canadian Experience Class (“CEC”)
- Federal Skilled Trades Class (“FSTC”)
Once the applicant has met the requirements of any of the above-mentioned economic immigration streams, the candidate will enter the Express Entry pool and could receive an ITA pursuant to any of the new categories. As a way to illustrate the issue further, if a candidate has only worked in his entire life 6 months, continuously, full-time in Canada as a carpenter the applicant would not have met the requirements of the FSWC, CEC, FSTC, and as a result will not enter the Express Entry pool. In other words, the new categories act as supplement and not as a replacement of the economic immigration programs processed through the Express Entry.
3. What to expect next?
Regardless of the goals pursued by these category-based round of invitations, something is clear: the Express Entry rounds of invitations and the likelihood of someone with a high-score to receive an ITA has become very unpredictable. Perhaps the only exception to this would be having a nomination from a province that is linked to the Express Entry. Additionally, while rounds of invitations used to take place every other week (i.e. twice per month) on average and applicants and representative could plan to some extent when was it best to create an Express Entry profile, nowadays there could be months where 6 rounds of invitations are held.
Take the following example. Since the first round of invitation of the new category-based rounds of invitation took place on June 28, 2023, until the last one on August 3, 2023, a CEC applicant with a score of 491 points working as a Paralegal (NOC 42200) with prior studies in Canada, high proficiency in English (CLB 9) but no French skills, and 2 years of skilled Canadian work experience would not have received an ITA. Yet, a FSWC candidate with no prior studies in Canada, no Canadian work experience, intermediate language skills who had worked 6 months full-time, continuously as a carpenter (NOC 72310) in his/her home-country could have received an ITA with a score of 389.
Hopefully, the low threshold set by the occupation-based categories will not encourage applicants to misrepresent their work history and experience in order to game the system. It will not only affect the implementation of the immigration legislation and IRCC’s goals, but could represent in applicants seeing their immigration dreams shattered as their application will be refused and they could be banned from applying to come to Canada for 5 years.
Having said this, these new categories can be an impetus to gain new skills by either learning French or learning a new trade. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:
“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”