An IRCC internal briefing memo that has been obtained via an Access to Information Act request, states that in December 2020 Invitations to Apply for PR through Express Entry under the FSWP (Federal Skilled Worker Program) were paused due to travel restrictions preventing approved applicants from landing as permanent residents. This pause was extended into 2021 and now 2022 with its end scheduled for January 31, 2022. Now, it seems, IRCC has requested a further pause of Express Entry draws in an attempt to alleviate the severe backlog of applications.
Why Have ITAs Stopped Being Issued?
Whilst this initial pause enabled IRCC to create the TR to PR program (Temporary Resident to Permanent Resident), which helped to support 2021 admissions goals of new permanent residents by increasing the number of Canadian residents who could apply for permanent residence, it hasn’t done anything to help with the accumulation of Express Entry Federal Skilled Worker, Canadian Experience Class, and Federal Skilled Trades applications which are still in process. This has pushed the processing times for these applications way beyond the six month service standard to approximately 20.4 months for FSW applications. The memo predicts that processing times may even increase to 36 months throughout 2022 for FSW.
The memo, although redacted in various sections, also brings to the forefront the CRS (comprehensive Ranking System) and implies that once draws do resume, there are so many people in the pool (over 207,000 at the time this memo was written sometime in late 2021) that the lowest CRS score will be above 500 and remain high once draws begin again. It states that PNP (Provincial Nominee Program) invitations will continue.
What does this mean?
- Express Entry ITAs for FSW, CEC, and FST draws will likely remain paused for the foreseeable future.
- According to the memo, there are so many applications currently in process, that IRCC could meet their immigration goals through 2023 without inviting anyone to apply through Express Entry for PR until at least July 1, 2022.
- The current backlog is so long that even people invited to apply now for PR under the FSW would not even become permanent residents until 2023.
- The number of Skilled Workers originally planned to be invited in 2022 (110,000) could be reduced by up to 50%
- When draws do resume, the lowest CRS score is expected to stay over 500 for at least 6 months
What is FHS (Federal High Skilled)?
This refers to the grouping of Federal Express Entry programs: Federal Skilled Worker, Canadian Experience Class, Federal Skilled Trades
IRCC Internal Memo Re: Federal Skilled Worker and CEC Draws in 2022
The memorandum addressed to the Deputy Minister and the Associate Deputy Minister is reproduced below – Please note that all emphasis is ours:
[SUBJECT] Managing the Federal High Skilled Inventory – FOR DECISION
- The purpose of this memorandum is to seek your decision regarding an extension of the pause on Federal High Skilled Express Entry Rounds from November 1, 2021 to January 31,2022, based on existing large inventories and limited levels space planned for the Federal High Skilled (FHS) streams in 2022
- Travel restrictions that were in-place throughout most of 2020 and 2021 have led to the accumulation of a large volume of FHS applications in the processing inventory. This will continue to drive processing times up in excess of the six month service standard.
- At this time, the department projects that the inventory under the FHS streams (Federal Skilled Workers, Federal Skilled Trades and Canadian Experience Class) at the end of 2021 will be more than sufficient to meet admissions targets next year, under all of the scenarios currently under consideration in the 2022-2024 Multi-Year Levels Plan.
- The department has maintained a pause on Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) invitations since December of 2020, due to travel restrictions inhibiting the processing of overseas economic applications. In the spring of 2021, the Department created the Temporary Resident to Permanent Resident Pathway (TR2PR) and invited large numbers of Canadian Experience Class (CEC) candidates, in an effort to support 2021 admissions by increasing the number of Canadian residents who could apply for permanent residence.
- This led to significant inventory growth, which will need to be addressed in upcoming years. The inventory buildup has led clients, who previously applied through Express Entry streams, to face processing times in excess of the six month service standard.
- The number of FHS [Federal High Skilled] invitations issued from January 1, 2021 to September 20, 2021, will for the most part result in 2021 admissions. However, with the border effectively closed since March 2020 for overseas skilled workers, the FHS inventory grew significantly. In order to achieve the 6 month service standard and respect the FHS levels space planned in 2022, this inventory would need to be reduced by more than half before inviting any new clients to apply.
- Under current options being explored as part of the 2022-2024 Multi-year Levels Plan (MYLP), FHS is likely to face a significant reduction to accommodate other ministerial and departmental priorities. Under the current options, the FHS admission target could be significantly reduced with some preliminary scenarios seeing decreases by more than 50% of the 110.5k that was allocated in the previous plan. These reductions are due to admissions space required to accommodate the TR2PR stream and the resettlement of Afghan nationals to Canada.
- FHS rounds have been paused since September 20th. An estimated 76K FHS persons will be on inventory at the start of 2022, which is significantly higher than what is needed to meet 2021-2023 FHS admission targets, and therefore, no new FHS intake is required for at least the first half of 2022.
- FSW processing times are currently at 20.4 months (over three times higher than the service standard), and is expected to continue to grow as older inventory is processed. The FSW processing time is expected to rise to 36 months throughout 2022. For CEC, the processing time is 7.6 months.
- Given that existing inventory is sufficient to meet FHS levels space under all scenarios being considered for 2022, any FHS invitations issued between November 1, 2020 and January 31, 2022 will be processed outside of the six month service standard, and will not contribute to 2022 admissions.
- The size of the Express Entry pool has grown over the last year. This trend is expected to continue, with the pool growing to approximately 207,000 candidates by the end of 2021, even if invitations to apply are resumed at a modest pace.
- Given the current composition of the pool, the minimum Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score necessary to receive an invitation to apply would likely rise above 500 and remain high, regardless of whether invitations are further paused, or resume at a modest pace in the very near term. In both scenarios, the CRS score would likely remain high for approximately six months. Candidates with these scores have very high human capital, but also tend to be very homogenous (high language proficiency, education levels, significant work experience and potential arranged employment).
Huge thanks to immigration lawyer Steven Meurrens who posted this memo via Twitter.