Big businesses facing sustained significant labour constraints were encouraged to learn Wednesday from Canada’s immigration minister that the country’s Express Entry system will resume normal operations and that more Canadian Experience Class (CEC) applications will be accepted shortly.
“We don’t have an announcement on the specific date of the next draw but I can reassure you we’re looking at resuming draws in the near term on the Canadian Experience Class for federal skilled workers,” said Fraser on a video conference call with Canadian Club Toronto.
While officials battled to address a mounting backlog of applications, Ottawa temporarily halted the distribution of invites for new high-skilled immigrants through the federal component of the Express Entry system in January, comprising a fifth of the planned annual intake at the time. Express Entry is a skilled worker application management system adopted by Canadian immigration authorities under federal economic programs.
This comprises the Federal Skilled Worker Program, Federal Skilled Trades Program, Canada Experience Class (CEC), and components of the Provincial Nomination Programs (PNP).
An Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) letter obtained by the National Post in January placed the number of high-skilled applications at 76,000 at the time. Each immigration application represents an average of 2.3 new Canadians, therefore 76,000 applications correspond to 174,800 newcomers.
The immigration minister emphasized the necessity of resolving the backlog in a timely manner in comments to the Canadian Club Toronto’s Jeanne Lam, who is also president of the online social reading platform Wattpad, on Feb. 16.
The immigration minister, on the other hand, cited the recently announced 2022-2024 Immigration Levels Plan, which reveals Ottawa aims to increase the number of new permanent residents coming through Federal High Skilled streams from 55,900 this year to 75,750 in 2023, and then 111,500 in 2024.
“By year three, there will be a record number of federal skilled workers, including through the Canadian Experience Class, welcomed to Canada,” he said.
“By no means do I want to communicate that there has been any kind of abandonment of what I consider to be one of the most successful immigration programs anywhere in the world.”
To fulfil short-term needs, the immigration minister went so far as to urge that the Express Entry system be expanded and made more flexible.
“Building this flexibility into the Express Entry system is something that I’m personally digging into right now because I think it’s going to enable us to respond in a nimbler way when we do see the pace of transformation is only increasing over time,” said Fraser.
According to Fraser, some of the potential options in changing the Express Entry system include incorporating ways to welcome people into smaller areas that have the capacity to absorb people due to sufficient housing and transit services.
“We can pivot to target sectors that are in the highest demand,” he said. “We can target people who are coming from a particular region that has the kind of educational institutions that will train the workers that we need in strategically-important sectors.”
Considering Canada’s persistent labour shortage, IRCC reduced its 2022 high-skilled immigration objective of 110,500 new permanent residents to almost half that number, 55,900, in the most recent immigration levels strategy. This cut is intended to accommodate Afghan refugees and newcomers under the government’s Temporary Residence to Permanent Residence Pathway, which was developed during the COVID-19 pandemic to assist in meeting record immigration targets. Because of COVID-19, Ottawa shifted the focus of Canada’s immigration system. Given the global travel restrictions, IRCC was unable to bring in newcomers directly from overseas, so it started targeting those already in Canada with temporary status.
The TR to PR Pathway sought 90,000 applications from qualified workers and overseas graduates, however, the Express Entry system initially only invited CEC and PNP candidates, 80 per cent of whom were already in Canada. Proposals were only extended to CEC and PNP candidates in 2021. Struggling with an increasing backlog, IRCC halted the issuance of CEC invites and has since exclusively invited PNP candidates.
Considering the temporary halt in these applications, Ottawa has set yet another record-breaking immigration target for this year, intending to welcome 431,645 new permanent residents. Up to 40,000 of them will be TR to PR program applicants from last year whose applications are still being processed.
Canada intends to welcome 83,500 new permanent residents through PNPs, 105,000 through family sponsorships, and 76,545 refugees and protected persons under family sponsorships. The Express Entry method was designed in 2015 to address the massive backlog and longer waiting periods that existed under the previous first-come, first-served immigration system.
Rather than processing each application in the order in which it was received, the new method allowed Ottawa to identify the people most likely to succeed and ask them to apply.
It initially worked. The queue was cleared, and processing times were decreased to six to a year. However, by establishing immigration quotas of more than 400,000, Canada’s federal government has put itself under pressure to accept a record number of newcomers. As a result, it received a flood of applications in 2021 and will receive much more in 2022.
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