Express Entry: The case for resuming invitations to FSWP and CEC candidates

Good assessment by Kareem El-Assal:

It is in Canada’s policy interests to resume Express Entry invitations to FSWP and CEC candidates in short order.

Upon its launch in 2015, Express Entry sought to invite the highest scoring candidates to apply for permanent residence. Its dynamic nature sought to end backlogs since IRCC only needs to process the applications of those it invited rather than processing every application it receives. Unfortunately, IRCC has departed from inviting the highest scoring candidates and backlogs have grown due to it shifting its resources to prioritizing permanent residence applications submitted within Canada as well as the processing of Afghan refugee applications.

Back in 2015, IRCC argued that using the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS)to score and rank candidates was the best way to identify new immigrants most likely to successfully integrate into Canada’s economy. The CRS was informed by many decades of Statistics Canada research and hence is meant to be a scientific way of selecting the Canadians of tomorrow. Thus, it is in Canada’s best interests to use the CRS as the main determinant for Express Entry invitations. One may even argue a stronger case can be made to stick with the CRS now, during an economically turbulent period, since Statistics Canada research also shows immigrants who land during a recession have weaker economic outcomes throughout their careers in Canada than those who land during stronger economic times.

An argument to stick to the CRS can also be made on grounds of fairness. Between 2015 and the end of 2020, IRCC had been overwhelmingly issuing Express Entry invitations based on CRS score but departed from this approach in January 2021 without warning. Many candidates entered the Express Entry pool after taking steps to maximize their CRS score or have taken steps since entering the pool to improve their CRS score. Such efforts have gone for naught through no fault of their own due to IRCC shifting the goalposts on them with no advanced notice (IRCC remains quiet on its Express Entry plans for 2022).

The growth in the Express Entry backlog was avoidable since IRCC made the deliberate choice to expedite CEC application processing while holding off on processing FSWP and other applications. In the second half of 2021 it was processing about 14,000 CEC applications per month and just 600 FSWP applications monthly.

The backlog of FSWP and other applications of skilled workers abroad is proving costly since it is resulting in weaker population, labour force and economic growth. Canada’s population growth is the weakest since 1915/16 and the country is currently grappling with the highest job vacancy rate on record with nearly 1 million jobs currently unfilled. Crucial industries across the Canadian economy from health care, to transportation, to agri-food, and many others are in dire need of more workers. It goes without saying then, it is in Canada’s economic interests for IRCC to get the application processing of skilled workers abroad back on track so they can soon arrive to alleviate the labour shortages that are slowing the country’s economic recovery.

Finally, the pause in CEC draws since September is also concerning from both economic and fairness perspectives. CEC candidates tend to work for Canadian employers and are able to remain with them indefinitely after getting permanent residence via Express Entry. Many CEC candidates risk losing their legal status due to the absence of Express Entry invitations which may force them to leave the country. This would result in less economic activity in Canada and contribute to additional labour shortages and pressure for Canadian employers. From a fairness point of view, it would not be right to also shift the goalposts on such individuals with no advanced notice, and ask them to leave the country, after they have spent years contributing to Canada’s economy and society.

Source: Express Entry: The case for resuming invitations to FSWP and CEC candidates

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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