Visa Crunch

Amid Huge Immigration Backlog, Canada Plans To Extend Express Entry For International Students

There may be a light of hope on the horizon if your post-graduation permit work permit (PGWP) status in Canada is about to expire.

The Canadian government proposes to extend the Express Entry system, opening new avenues for international students and temporary foreign workers to seek permanent residency in the country, despite a significant backlog of almost two million immigration applications in the system. Express Entry is an online system that Canada utilizes to manage skilled worker immigration applications.

The Canadian Experience Class (CEC), the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), and the Federal Skilled Trades Program are three immigration programs overseen by Express Entry (FSTP).

Due to an increasing backlog of applications, the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has suspended the issuing of CEC invites, the most popular option for PGWP holders to get a PR through the Express Entry pathway, from September 2021.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser stated in a televised talk about the state of Canadian immigration on February 16, 2022, that CEC draws will restart “in the near term” and that the Express Entry system would be made more flexible.

“If you actually look at the immigration levels plan over the next couple of years the balance is shifting back and by year three… a record number of federal skilled workers, including through the Canadian Experience Class, will be welcomed to Canada,” the minister was quoted saying.

The immigration minister stated in his ministerial mandate letter in December 2022 that he would prioritize broadening the options for international students and temporary workers seeking PR status, whose right to remain in Canada has been hampered by IRCC processing delays despite their significant contributions to the Canadian economy.

The minister’s confidence in addressing the backlog in immigration application processing stemmed from a fear that Canada would lose qualified immigrants to nations modernizing their immigration systems to accept more entrants.

The Immigration Levels Plan 2022-24, which wants to accept 431,645 newcomers this year alone, was presented on Feb. 14, 2022, as Canada’s new plan to attract more immigrants in the future years.

The strategy involves refugee resettlement for people seeking asylum in Canada and tries to attract qualified employees to meet labour shortages caused by the pandemic. The majority of immigrants will be allowed under the new strategy based on their economic status.

Furthermore, since September of last year, Canada has only been asking Provincial Nominee Program applicants to apply through the Express Entry system, while admissions to other skilled categories such as the CEC, FSWP, and FSTP have been halted.

According to CIC News, as of February 1, 2022, about 64,890 CEC and FSWP candidates are still awaiting judgments on their immigration petitions. This year, the revised Immigration Levels Plan calls for fewer Express Entry immigrants than are now in the system’s backlog.

“PGWP holders count on being ‘landed’ under CEC, or at least eligible for a Bridging Open Work Permit (BOWP) prior to the expiry of their non-extendable PGWP. The current [Invitations to Apply] freeze threatens to derail the progress to permanent residence of these young, Canadian credentialed, skilled workers. It also harms their Canadian employers who want to keep them,” the Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association (CILA) expressed regarding the current status of the Express Entry pathway.

International graduates in Canada who are PGWP holders might be victims of resource misuse unless a specific and systematic solution to address low staffing in IRCC’s application processing is proposed, darkening their long-term prospects in the country.

The pause of Canadian Experience Class invitations, which has been in effect since September 2021, is causing major hardship for thousands of international students and immigrant workers who have spent several years making a contribution to Canada’s economy and society but now have fewer permanent residence options.

Legal Disclaimer: This article is provided for information purposes only.

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