As Canada grapples with COVID-19, amidst new and more infectious

variants entering the country, with no vaccine in sight for most of

the population, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)

made an unprecedented move towards the goal of 400,000 new

permanent residents in 2021. On February 13, in the latest round of

invitations issued to candidates in the Express Entry pool, 27,332

applicants were surprised with the highly coveted Invitation to

Apply. To put this in perspective, a usual number of invitations

ranges from 3,500-5,000 per draw. The cumulative score required for

a successful candidate is usually somewhere in the high 400s. On

February 13, the lowest-ranked candidate invited had a score of


What is the catch? As usual, it's complicated.

Only candidates in the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) were

eligible for this draw. This means that all skilled workers

currently outside of Canada had no access to the pool. The

reasoning behind this decision is likely twofold. Firstly, and most

obviously, increased concerns from all levels of government around

the risks of COVID-19 spreading further led to the implementation

of strict travel restrictions. From this perspective, it made sense

to limit the invitations to include only people already in Canada.

The second likely reason can probably be gleaned from recent

statements made by the Honourable Marco E.L. Mendicino, Canadian

Minister of Immigration, who had emphasized on a few occasions that

adaptability plays a key role in the selection of future permanent

residents. Put bluntly, foreign nationals who are in the CEC have

already been living here for a few years. They have likely come

here either to study at a Canadian post-graduate institution or

have been working in professional jobs in Canada. They have high

language scores in English or French and have already made several

steps toward building a community in Canada.

This was not the first time that IRCC has restricted the pool to

CEC candidates. In 2020, applicants who were not in Canada had no

access to the draws that took place between March and September.

Those draws, however, featured the usual number of invitations and

eligible ranking scores. This begs the obvious questions of what

prompted such a drastic change to the Express Entry pool process,

and whether this may happen again? A likely answer is that IRCC is

trying to clear the large backlog accumulated in the early months

of the pandemic, when the Ministry struggled to equip its employees

with proper tools to continue working remotely, while

simultaneously rushing to automate as many processes as possible.

IRCC's goal of 400,000 new permanent residents by the end of

2021 is rather lofty by usual standards, so this may signal a move

towards easing restrictions for candidates with Canadian

experience. Whether or not this kind of generous single Express

Entry draw happens again is anyone's guess, but what is

definitely clear is that there will be many more permanent

residency hopefuls receiving good news in the coming months.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general

guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought

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