Express Entry in the first half of 2023 has been a fascinating period characterized by various developments and changes. The program, which was temporarily halted during the COVID-19 pandemic, has gradually resumed its operations and witnessed fluctuations in draw sizes, Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) scores, and the frequency of draws.
Draw sizes increased incrementally while the CRS scores slightly decreased with each draw. However, the start of 2023 brought some unpredictability, with an unexpected six-week pause in draws. The first draw of the year, held on January 11, invited a higher number of candidates (5,500) than any single draw in 2022.
Throughout the first half of 2023, draw sizes varied, reaching a low of 589 Invitations to Apply (ITAs) on May 10 and a high of 7,000 ITAs in three consecutive draws in March. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has issued a total of 58,849 ITAs so far in 2023, surpassing the 35,750 ITAs issued between July 6 and November 23, 2022.
The minimum CRS scores also exhibited wide variations during this period. Most other draws had minimum CRS scores between 485 and 490. The differences in scores can be attributed to various draw types, with PNP-only draws typically having higher cut-off scores due to the added 600 points awarded to candidates nominated by a province.
The frequency of draws has not strictly adhered to the pre-pandemic bi-weekly schedule. IRCC has the discretion to hold draws whenever necessary, and the immigration minister determines the timing and number of candidates invited. While Wednesdays were previously the established draw days, the pattern has not been consistent in 2023. March witnessed four draws, taking place on the 1st, 15th, 22nd, and 29th. Additionally, the draw on June 21 did not happen as planned, but IRCC compensated by holding an all-program draw on June 27 and a draw for healthcare workers on June 28, issuing a total of 4,800 ITAs in those two draws combined.
The year 2023 introduced new draw categories based on discussions with provincial governments and stakeholders.
These categories include healthcare, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professions, trades, transport, agriculture and agri-food, and strong French language proficiency. The first-ever category-based draw for healthcare professionals took place on June 28, with 500 ITAs issued. IRCC also announced plans to hold Express Entry draws for eligible candidates under the STEM category during the week of July 5. These new categories align with IRCC’s objective of meeting the permanent resident admissions targets outlined in the immigration levels plan for 2023-2025, while also promoting francophone immigration in French-speaking minority communities outside of Quebec.
However, invitations issued later in 2023 may not count as admissions until 2024 due to IRCC’s six-month service standard for processing permanent resident applications.
Furthermore, major immigration policy developments in Canada will impact the future of Express Entry. On July 16, IRCC will introduce a new open work permit for H-1B visa holders in the United States. These individuals, who already have an advantage in obtaining permanent residence through Express Entry, will be able to earn additional CRS points if they gain Canadian work experience. This initiative is part of the Tech Talent Strategy, which aims to attract more H-1B visa holders and provide them with opportunities in Canada’s tech sector. Additionally, IRCC announced increased flexibility for work permit holders to study in Canada, allowing them to earn additional CRS points for studying in an eligible program.
In conclusion, the first half of 2023 in Express Entry has witnessed a mix of predictability and unpredictability. The program has resumed its operations and experienced fluctuations in draw sizes, CRS scores, and the frequency of draws. With the introduction of new category-based selection draws and other policy developments, the second half of 2023 holds potential for further changes and opportunities in Canada’s immigration system.