Immigrating to Canada After COVID-19

The department for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has released new details about the way they manage the profiles and applications submitted to the Express Entry System. The document in question, an internal memo, offers some insight about the decision-making related to the “Federal High Skill” categories, which include the Canadian Experience Class, Federal Skilled Trades and Federal Skilled Worker programs. Furthermore, the released document also provides some information about the high amount of FHS applications being handled at the moment, which could serve as a guide on what to expect in the near future regarding processing times.

Until now, the timeline for those who have submitted their application to any of the FHS categories with the intent to later apply for permanent residence has been relatively easy to predict. Every two to three weeks, the FHS categories issued a new round of Permanent Residence invitations to the applicants with the highest score. However, the global pandemic caused by COVID 19 has thrown this process into disarray, making it harder to rely on specific timeframes. The pandemic has also changed the way FHS draws were being handled. The Canadian Experience Class program, for example, has undergone notable changes in its point threshold to benefit its candidates, however, it has also paused all of its draws. These changes also affected the Federal Skilled Workers program, which has suspended its draws since 2020, despite the expectation that they would resume after Canada lifted its travel restrictions in September 2021. That means that, as of 2022, the Express Entry system has not offered new Permanent Residence invitations, with the only exception being the Provincial Nominee Program.

According to the memorandum, the draw suspensions stem from a policy decision meant to prioritize the applications for all candidates who’ve already arrived in Canada through programs like the Canadian Experience Class or the Temporary to Permanent Residence Pathway. The combination of all these changes and pauses have led to a high number of backlogged applications in the FHS programs, causing an increase of processing times for current submissions. As a result, program directors have recommended a reduction of up to 50% in FHS targets for 2022, which indicates further delays for immigrants in 2022.

Immigrants Under the Candidate Status

Since none of the programs mentioned previously have signaled an end to draw suspensions for most of the FHS programs in the near future, immigrants looking to settle in Canada should look for other alternatives, such as “enhanced nominations” issued by the Provincial Nominees Program. These “enhanced nominations” are linked to the Express Entry system, which could mean an important reduction in processing time for those candidates who apply. Notably, as of January 2022, the draws for the PNP are still ongoing.

Another notable impact that the large influx of applications has had on the Express Entry system is an increase in the level of competitiveness among the candidates, which has led the IRCC to consider a raise in the number of points needed to apply. While specific numbers haven’t been confirmed, the IRCC estimates that the new threshold for application will probably settle above 500 points. If this new limit is approved, the Express Entry pool draws will most likely benefit candidates with high language scores, high education levels, and previous work experience in Canada.

Hopeful immigrants who believe they won’t be able meet the new requirements for Express Entry should not be discouraged yet. While the pause of FHS draws and the potential increase in point limit have disrupted current application processes across the board, they could also bring opportunities for new and improved immigration programs. To take these opportunities, however, candidates should keep their documents valid and updated at all times, since programs like Temporary to Permanent Residence Pathway are quota based and generally announce their application period with little notice.

Immigrants interested in applying for Express Entry

Due to the high saturation of IRCC’s application inventory, new submissions to the Federal Skilled Programs should expect a processing time of almost 20 months, with the potential to increase up to 36 months over this year and the next. The Canadian Experience Class program has also seen delays in processing times, with a new estimate of 7 to 8 months. To prevent even further delays, all applicants should be aware of their document’s expiry dates to maintain their documentation valid throughout the duration of the process, especially after initiating contact with IRCC through their employer.

Federal Skilled Worker program applicants should be informed about the new processing timelines and expect to receive IRCC requests for updated documents. In some cases, visa offices may ask applicants to undergo a new medical exam during processing as well. Expired identity documents should always be provided to IRCC offices, while also ensuring that all other documents are still valid when submitting them for application.

Immigration policy is an extremely complex topic, but it doesn’t need to be for you. If you need assistance with your immigration process, you can contact us by following this link.