ANALYSIS: Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Canada is on track to shatter its Express Entry record.
Canada is on pace to issue 100,000 or more Express Entry invitations in 2020.
This would be remarkable, considering the negative impact that COVID-19 is having in Canada and around the world.
Prior to Canada imposing travel restrictions in March 2020, immigration minister Marco Mendicino announced the country would target 341,000 new permanent resident admissions in 2020.
In fact, Canada’s Immigration levels Plan 2020-2022 set a target to welcome 91,800 immigrants to Canada through Express Entry.
Express Entry is the main way Immigration, Refugees and Canada (IRCC) manages economic class immigration applications. The economic class accounts for nearly 60 per cent of all new immigrants welcomed by Canada each year.
By the middle of March, Canada realized it needed to implement special measures to contain the coronavirus, which meant restricting entry into the country. This has resulted in significant uncertainty for the immigration system. In April 2020, Canada’s immigration levels plummeted, and they still remain low.
Moreover, many individuals who have already received confirmations of permanent residence (COPRs) are unable to travel to Canada at the moment for a variety of different reasons. For instance, some people have expired COPRs and are unable to travel to Canada. Also, people who got their COPR after March 18 are currently banned from coming to Canada due to travel restrictions.
Nonetheless, the ongoing Express Entry draws that have taken place on a bi-weekly basis since the start of the pandemic have been a pleasant surprise.
Whereas there was belief at the start of the pandemic that Express Entry draws may be temporarily paused or they would see fewer invitations issued, the exact opposite has occurred.
Instead, we are seeing record-breaking Express Entry draws with Canada emphatically indicating it still plans to welcome high levels of immigration after the pandemic is over.
On October 14, Canada held its largest Express Entry draw ever.
The draw marked one of just two occasions in which Canada issued Invitations to Apply (ITAs) for permanent residence to 4,500 Express Entry candidates. These candidates will now be able to apply for permanent residence and, if they are abroad at the moment, these candidates will eventually be able to build a life in Canada once coronavirus travel restrictions are relaxed for COPR holders.
So far, Canada has issued 82,850 Express Entry ITAs this year. Recently, draw sizes have seen between 3,900 and 4,200 invitations issued per draw.
If things go according to plan, IRCC will also conduct Express Entry draws on October 28, November 11, November 25, December 9, and December 23.
If IRCC invites 3,900 candidates in each of the remaining five Express Entry draws in 2020, then it will issue a total of 102,350 invitations by the end of this year.
Even if draw sizes are smaller, and IRCC issues an average of 3,500 ITAs per draw, Canada will still exceed 100,000 ITAs by the end of 2020.
So, what does this all mean?
Again, it shows Canada is very committed to welcoming more immigrants to support its economy, despite the disruptions caused by COVID-19.
It also indicates that IRCC believes it will be able to process permanent residence applications within a reasonable amount of time. IRCC’s processing standard for Express Entry is six months or less for 80 per cent of applications.
One may also read in between the lines and assume that the larger draws are a sign that IRCC expects successful candidates will be able to enter Canada in 2021, otherwise, what is the point of inviting them to apply for permanent residence right now?
Another possibility is that IRCC is holding larger draws since Canada has temporarily reduced its refugee intake due to the pandemic. Canada was aiming to welcome nearly 50,000 refugees in 2020 but this will no longer be the case. The larger draws may also be a function of other economic class programs such as the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), Quebec’s immigration programs, and other federal programs also falling short of their immigration targets in 2020 due to COVID-19.
One thing is for sure. That is, IRCC will provide us with a clearer picture of their Express Entry objectives when they announce their 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan at the end of October.
Given the recent record-breaking Express Entry draws, it seems increasingly likely that Express Entry and overall immigration targets will remain high in 2021 and beyond.