There have been numerous Covid-19 Canadian immigration casualties
Posted on - Jun 23, 2020

By Catherine Sas Q.C.

Catherine Sas Q.C.

At the end of 2019, Canada’s Express Entry economic immigration selection program had just completed five full years of operation. From the perspective of our Vancouver immigration law practice, it was operating smoothly.

Prospective economic immigrants to Canada would register a profile and be given a comprehensive ranking score (CRS) based upon their qualifications allowing immigration officials to set the selection point.

Not surprisingly, the Express Entry playing field changed with the emergence of the pandemic. Prior to Covid-19 the established pattern of selection was to provide a twice monthly open draw to all four Express Entry categories: the Federal Skilled Worker ( FSW); the Canadian Experience Class (CEC); the Federal Skilled Trades Program ( FSTP) and the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP). This pattern was altered on March 18, 2020 when the Express Entry draws began issuing alternate draws for PNP and CEC applicants only. The message was clear. Canada’s department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) would be issuing invitations to apply (ITAs) primarily to people already in Canada with Canadian work experience or supported by a Canadian employer. IRCC’s emphasis was on limiting cross border travel and supporting the Canadian economy.

This has been evident in the altered CRS scoring. For most of the past year, CRS scores for open draws hovered in the mid 400’s ranging from a low of 438 at the beginning of 2019, rising to a high of 475 near the end of the year. Early 2020 saw scores maintained between 470 and 473.

Then COVID-19 descended upon us and with states of emergency being declared across Canada’s provinces and territories in mid March, Express Entry also changed it’s mode of operation.

Concurrent with IRCC’s Covid-19 changes to Express Entry selection, the service partners in the Express Entry system – educational credential assessment (ECA) providers and approved language testing centres also suspended their operations worldwide. The ramifications of these closures were that new and future applicants would not be able to obtain the necessary supporting documents of a language test or an ECA in order to be able to register an Express Entry profile.

Again, not surprisingly, CRS scores to receive an ITA as a CEC applicant also started to drop – from a high of 473 on January 8 to a low of 437 on June 11th. The scores for PNP draws have fluctuated between a low of 698 and a high of 808. IRCC officials have indicated no intention to open up the issuance of ITAs to all four Express Entry categories for the foreseeable future continuing to focus on persons already within Canada. For approved PNP applicants currently outside of Canada, the option of coming to work in Canada is on hold at present.

Interestingly enough, notwithstanding the suspension of services from language testing centres and ECA providers, the pool of Express Entry applicants has continued to rise. The number of applicants in the Express Entry pool hovered between a low of 138,955 on January 6, 2020 to a high of 144,042 applicants on March 3, 2020.

Following the Express Entry Covid-19 response, the number of applicants has steadily increased to over 145,000 at each and every draw up until the most recent draws of May 28 (144,567) and June 11 (143,567). It remains to be seen whether the numbers of applicants in the pool will continue to remain at current levels or will ultimately drop off given the inability of prospective applicants to be able to register an Express Entry profile.

Express Entry was introduced on January 1, 2015 in order to allow Canada the opportunity of managing its immigration flow. By having applicants register a profile demonstrating their ability to meet the selection criteria of one of the four Express Entry application categories, IRCC is able to set the mark for which applicants they will select. IRCC’s response to COVID-19 confirms the overall success of the program to manage Canada’s immigration inventory and to select applicants that best suit Canada’s economic needs of the day.


Catherine Sas, Q.C. is a Vancouver immigration lawyer at Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre in Vancouver, BC Canada. Catherine has been practicing law for over 25 years, and has been voted Vancouver’s Best Immigration Lawyer by the Georgia Straight newspaper for 8 consecutive years.


To learn more about immigrating to Canada, becoming a permanent Canadian resident or bringing your family to Canada, email Catherine Sas or call her at 1-604-689-5444.

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