Visa Crunch

Canada Temporarily Pauses Federal Express Entry Invitations Over Huge Backlog

Canada has temporarily halted applications for new high-skilled immigrants via the federal component of the Express Entry system, representing a fifth of the yearly invitations, as authorities struggle to deal with an increasing stockpile of applications.

According to a report obtained by the National Post from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the current inventory of high-skilled applicants is 76,000. If every single one of those applications was approved, they would see enough people arrive to meet Canada’s immigration targets until 2023.

Every immigration application comprises an average of 2.3 new Canadians, therefore 76,000 applications equal 174,800 newcomers.

Given Canada’s persistent labour need, the IRCC says the October 2020 Immigration Levels Plan’s high-skilled immigration objective of 1,10,500 new permanent residents in 2022 could be lowered by fifty per cent.

This cut is intended to accommodate Afghan refugees and immigrants under the government’s Temporary Residence to Permanent Residence Pathway, which was developed during the COVID-19 outbreak to assist in meeting historical immigration goals. Because of COVID-19, Ottawa shifted the focus of Canada’s immigration system.

Due to international immigration restrictions, IRCC was unable to bring in newcomers directly from overseas, so it began targeting those already in Canada with temporary status.

The TR to PR Pathway sought 90,000 applications among skilled workers and overseas graduates, whereas the Express Entry system initially exclusively invited Canadian Experience Class (CEC) and Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) candidates, 80 per cent of whom were already in Canada.

Despite a brief comeback of invitations for Federal Skilled Worker Program candidates who are more likely to be overseas at the end of 2020, the last invitation for that program was sent more than a year ago. Invitations were only extended to CEC and PNP candidates in 2021.

Due to a growing backlog, IRCC stopped issuing CEC invitations in September 2021 and has only accepted PNP candidates after that.

Candidates should be aware that this suspension represents just around a fifth of Canada’s planned immigration intake for 2022. Aside from federal high-skilled professionals, Ottawa still has room for 3,00,000 additional permanent residents, with more than 1,30,000 coming through economic groups.

Provincial Nominee Programs, the newly permanent Atlantic Immigration Program, and Quebec, which controls its own immigration system and expects to accept up to 70,000 newcomers in 2022, are among them. These immigration routes are not included in the halt. Because of the scheduled halt in government high-skilled invitations, a qualified job offer becomes critical when moving to Canada.

Since COVID-19 necessitated the installation of international travel restrictions and the closure of the US border, Canada has used a two-step immigration procedure. The first stage is to get a job, and the second step is to get a permanent residence at a later stage.

With its recent declaration, Ottawa effectively extends that strategy. The reality is that Canada is experiencing a persistent labour shortage, with businesses unable to operate at their maximum potential due to a lack of employees. Applicants can enter on a work permit to fill those gaps and then move to permanent residence.

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 applicants most likely to be successful and ask them to apply. It initially worked. The queue was cleared, and processing times were cut from six months to a year.

Moreover, the fact that skilled worker invitations are once again being postponed is a sign of worrying mismanagement on the part of Ottawa and the IRCC. By establishing immigration quotas of more than 4,00,000, Canada’s federal government put itself under pressure to welcome a historic high of immigrants.

Therefore, it received a flood of applications in 2021 and will receive much more in 2022. Ottawa has indicated that the congestion is expected to worsen before improving.

Under incoming Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, it can be expected that the backlogs will get cleared over a period of time. It is just not acceptable to talk about federal high-skilled worker processing timeframes ranging from two to three years when the standard is six months. It erodes the legitimacy of the fundamental immigration system.

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