ARCHIVED - Enhancing Express Entry through category-based selection to better meet Canada’s evolving economic needs 

How your views allow us to set priorities for the future of Express Entry

Our consultations on category-based selection in Express Entry are now closed. Thanks for engaging with us. Your feedback will be reflected in our consultation report.

Canada’s immigration system is critical to supporting our economic recovery and building a stronger Canada for all. With this in mind, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is looking at ways to transform the way we serve Canadians and clients, positioning our immigration system for the future to the benefit of all Canadians. As part of this broader strategic policy review, we are committed to making our immigration system more responsive to changing economic and labour market needs. We also want to build on the human capital approach that has been a hallmark of Canada’s successful economic immigration system. This includes enhancing Express Entry, the online system that IRCC uses to manage immigration applications from skilled workers, such as those with work experience in managerial, professional and technical or trades occupations. Learn more about how it works and the immigration programs managed through Express Entry.

We’re currently working to implement a new way of selecting candidates through Express Entry to support a range of economic needs and priorities, by creating categories that rely on key attributes. These attributes could include educational credentials, work experience, or knowledge of an official language. Until January 16, 2023, we’re looking for your feedback and suggestions as we consider immigration selection priorities that could help address chronic economic and labour force needs.

Building on past consultations

Every year, IRCC engages with a wide range of stakeholders from across the country to help shape a national vision for immigration and contribute to Canada’s Immigration Levels Plan. The Immigration Levels Plan details how many permanent residents Canada plans to welcome every year under the economic, family, and refugee and humanitarian programs.

Over the past 2 years, we learned a lot from your contributions to this annual consultation, including crucial insights as to where skill and labour gaps were most acutely felt in your sectors and regions.

These consultations on category-based selection in Express Entry build on those conversations and consider how we could select skilled economic immigrants within the broader parameters established by the annual Immigration Levels Plans, and economic priorities that could be supported.

The role of skilled economic immigration in addressing Canada’s economic challenges

An overview of Canada’s demographic and economic situation

Canada continues to face demographic and economic challenges due to our aging population, changing skills demands from technological advancements, and shifts in sectors. Immigration helps us address these challenges by welcoming newcomers who bring the skills our economy and communities need to recover and grow.

In Canada, birth rates are decreasing, currently at 1.43 children per woman in 2021, down from 1.61 children per woman in 2011. The share of the population aged 65 and older is increasing as the share of the working age population is falling. The current worker-to-retiree ratio is 4 to 1, and is expected to fall to 2 to 1 in less than 20 years, which could put pressure on social programs, since fewer workers will be contributing to their costs.

Furthermore, the Canadian economy continues to experience labour shortages in critical sectors as the global economy shifts toward greener, digital economies and automation. Ongoing and expected shortages result from skills gaps and mismatches, as well as increasing job vacancies in key sectors such as construction, healthcare, and in professional, scientific and technical services, which take longer to fill, given the need for specialized training.

Recognizing these challenges and the enabling role of skilled economic immigration in helping Canada to address them, the federal government recently announced a commitment to bring in 82,880 permanent residents through federal high-skilled programs in 2023.

How immigration supports economic growth

In the long term, increasing immigration, with a focus on economic classes, will help address labour market needs and support economic growth. The Bank of Canada has recognized that high immigration levels will boost labour supply and, combined with business investment, will result in a rise in labour productivity growth. According to Statistics Canada, from 2016 to 2021, immigrants accounted for four-fifths of Canada's labour force growth.

Immigrants are a central pillar of Canada’s economic recovery from the pandemic and future success: they are educated, fill targeted labour market shortages, and have the skills needed to quickly integrate and adapt to the Canadian labour market.

Canada has a variety of economic immigration programs designed to balance filling current job vacancies with selecting people who have the skills that will make them successful over the long term. Federal economic and pilot programs are complemented by regional immigration and pilot programs that support provincial and territorial jurisdictions in responding to their unique labour force and demographic needs.

Key insights about Express Entry

The Express Entry system manages some of Canada’s skilled immigration programs, and is designed to select individuals based on skills and abilities like official language proficiency, post-secondary education, and Canadian work experience. These are predictors of economic integration, with better employment rates and higher earnings.

The profiles of candidates who are issued invitations to apply continue to reflect skilled candidates with the potential to integrate and contribute to Canada’s economy. Between 2019 and 2021, of those candidates invited to apply for permanent residence through Express Entry, the most common primary occupations were:

(Note: In 2020 and 2021, the targeting of invitations to apply for permanent residence to those candidates more likely to be physically located in Canada and therefore less impacted by border restrictions resulted in significant shifts from previous years in terms of occupational profile. For example, in 2020 and 2021, candidates working in Canada in occupations such as food service supervisors or administrative assistants received a higher proportion of invitations than in previous years.)

Candidates invited to apply also remain highly educated, with 75% in 2021 claiming to hold a post-secondary educational credential of at least 3 years. The majority of candidates invited to apply are in their 20s and 30s. In 2021, 64% of invitations were sent to candidates aged 20-29, followed by 19% aged 30-34. Candidates also have high levels of demonstrated official language proficiency. In 2021, 83% demonstrated at least a level 7 Canadian Language Benchmarks/Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens in their first Canadian official language, and 2,517 candidates who met criteria for additional points for French-language proficiency were invited to apply.

Workers with these skills are proven to be better able to adapt to evolving labour market needs over the long term. An evaluation of Express Entry (May 2020) found that principal applicants were generally outperforming their non-Express Entry counterparts, becoming economically established with high employment rates and employment income. For example, they were earning 20% more than non-Express Entry principal applicants.

What is category-based selection?

On June 23, 2022, legislative changes that allow Express Entry to better select candidates able to help meet specific economic goals received royal assent. This selection will be done by creating “categories” – in other words, by selecting immigrants based on key attributes that support identified economic priorities, such as educational credentials, work experience, or official language knowledge. For example, we could create a category for those with work experience in a particular occupation or with a particular educational background, or a category that could include multiple characteristics, such as international students who graduated with a particular degree or hold a certain language level. Candidates who meet a particular category would be ranked according to their Comprehensive Ranking System scores and the top among them invited to apply.

Category-based selection is limited to candidates who qualify for the programs managed under Express Entry, including: the Canadian Experience Class, the Federal Skilled Worker Program and the Federal Skilled Trades Program. It will comprise a portion of overall invitations to apply, and invitations based on the Comprehensive Ranking System scores and individual programs will remain.

The process of determining new categories

Categories for category-based selection will be determined by collecting data and analyzing labour market information, in addition to receiving feedback from our partners, including provinces and territories, and key stakeholders across the country. This input will allow us to explore whether category-based selection can be an appropriate tool to address identified needs and priorities, and whether other immigration tools may be more appropriate (such as temporary programs, federal pilots, provincial and territorial nominee programs, etc.).

Once categories are decided on by the Minister, they will be announced before we issue invitations. Each year, we will report to Parliament on the categories that were chosen during the previous year and the selection process, including the rationale for choosing them. The Department will continue to measure and report on outcomes of principal applicants coming through Express Entry, including those selected through category-based selection.

Lessons learned in implementing category-based selection will help inform future work on enhancing the Express Entry system.

Proposed priorities and categories for selection

This year, we’re focused on meeting economic goals and priorities set out in the Minister’s mandate letter and by the Government of Canada. These include:

To help fuel economic recovery and prosperity while also providing support to sectors and industries experiencing chronic labour shortages, category-based selection in Express Entry could be used to focus on Francophone and bilingual candidates, those with experience in select sectors and occupations, and international student graduates and temporary foreign workers.

Economic immigration plays an important role in fostering diversity, and we’re committed to addressing systemic racism, sexism, ableism and other barriers that currently exist. We have made a commitment to review our policies for bias and better understand their impact on our clients.

In considering your responses to this consultation, please keep the following questions in mind:

Priority: Addressing chronic labour market shortages and positioning for the future

Economic immigration is a key contributor to addressing labour market needs in the short-term, while helping position Canada for long-term economic prosperity. Labour market pressures are affecting nearly every sector of the economy and regions across the country, and economic immigration plays an important role in filling targeted labour market shortages. Economic immigration, both temporary and permanent, will continue to support the Canadian economy by filling jobs in industries and occupations where there are persistent shortages. The 2020 evaluation of Express Entry found that the majority of employers (78%) with knowledge of the Express Entry system indicated that it provides access to highly skilled and qualified workers to meet labour needs and address shortages. In the face of chronic shortages and changing economic and labour market needs, category-based selection will enable Express Entry to be a more responsive system. These changes, building on the human capital approach that has been a hallmark of Canada’s successful economic immigration system, will help economic immigration remain central to Canada’s future, including regional growth.

According to Statistics Canada, the most acute shortages are found in construction (trades), administrative and support services, waste management and remediation services, healthcare and social assistance, and other services (except for public administration, which is considered a separate industry as per the North American Industry Classification System). Many of these vacancies are in skilled occupations that Express Entry could select for. This was echoed by participants during our recent consultations on immigration levels.

Possible category: Selecting candidates based on work experience in a particular occupation or sector

A potential category for selection in Express Entry that includes work experience in particular occupations or sectors experiencing chronic shortages could be a way to improve the responsiveness of the economic immigration system. In your responses to this consultation, we would invite you to comment on those chronic, long-term labour shortages where permanent resident immigration could complement in-Canada solutions, with a focus on occupations or sectors most in need, the scope of current needs, as well as any equity considerations.

Possible category: Transitioning international student graduates to permanent residence

The International Student Program allows foreign nationals to enter Canada to study. International students bring many benefits to the institutions where they study, the communities in which they live, as well as the national economy. International students tend to be relatively young (nearly 90% are under 30), and therefore have the potential to help fill gaps in Canada’s aging workforce now and into the future. International students can apply for a post-graduation work permit or another work permit after they graduate, which can allow them to stay and work in Canada. International student graduates are also well placed for permanent economic immigration, since they are proficient in at least one official language and have Canadian educational qualifications as well as work experience.

In 2021, over 88,000 international graduates transitioned to permanent residence through Express Entry, an increase of 80% since 2017. Nevertheless, we have continued to hear from stakeholders on the desire to expand and simplify pathways to permanent residence for this group.

A potential category for selection in Express Entry focused on international student graduates could respond more directly to critical shortages that persist across various sectors and occupations. A possible category could, for example, include graduates with a degree or diploma in in-demand fields from a Designated Learning Institution.

In your responses to this consultation, you may wish to address issues such as sectors or occupations with the most critical needs (graduates with a degree or diploma in skilled trades, health or in STEM fields, for example), whether education and/or Canadian work experience must be recent, whether international students with limited to no Canadian work experience should be considered for eligibility, and the scope of overall needs. We would also invite reflections on how proposed responses could confront any existing barriers for international students, including those related to systemic racism, sexism and ableism.

Possible category: Transitioning temporary foreign workers to permanent residence

Temporary foreign workers are an important source of labour and talent for Canadian employers in industries experiencing difficulties attracting Canadians, when overall market conditions are tight (low unemployment or high job vacancies, for example) and/or in certain niche, fast-moving sectors like information technology. Temporary foreign worker programs provide access to global talent that drives foreign investment and job-generating enterprises, which in turn promotes economic growth. Immigrants with previous temporary Canadian work experience generally have better labour market integration, and are unlikely to experience the same degree of difficulty transferring their skills and experience when they look for a new job. In 2021, approximately 168,600 individuals transitioned from temporary worker status (as determined by prior work permit issuance) to permanent residence, representing 64% of admissions in the economic category.

As part of our consultations on immigration levels, we continued to hear from stakeholders that current pathways for temporary foreign workers to become permanent residents remain insufficient.

As with international students, a category for selection in Express Entry focused on transitioning skilled temporary foreign workers could improve responsiveness to chronic economic needs. Temporary workers are good candidates for permanent residency as they have a opportunity to find work in their fields (i.e., better job-skills match). Requiring experience in an in-demand field could address the most acute identified shortages.

In your responses, you may wish to comment on chronic and long-term needs that cannot be solved through in-Canada solutions, such as better wages and working conditions, or skills upgrading and improving productivity, including with capital and technological investment. You may also wish to comment on whether to focus on workers who are in Canada versus those with recent experience who may or may not currently reside in the country, considerations with respect to numbers, as well as any implications from a diversity and anti-racism perspective.

Priority: Supporting Francophone immigration and economic growth in Francophone minority communities

Linguistic duality and the strengthening of the country’s bilingual character are rooted in the vitality of official language minority communities. We’re committed to contributing to the development of these communities and supporting their economic prosperity, as well as encouraging Francophone immigration outside Quebec.

These commitments are anchored in the priorities of the Government of Canada and in the objectives of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Official Languages Act. Collaboration with various partners has helped shape our vision, described in our Francophone Immigration Strategy launched in 2019.

One of the primary objectives of the Strategy is to reach a target of 4.4% of immigrants outside Quebec who are French-speaking by 2023. As part of this year’s consultations on immigration levels, stakeholders expressed their support to expand opportunities for Francophone immigration and increase French-speaking admission levels. Between 2017 and 2021, nearly 110,000 Francophone or bilingual foreign nationals were admitted through economic programs, approximately 30,000 of whom intended to settle outside of Quebec. And in 2021, of the 4,185 French-speaking permanent residents admitted through economic programs who intended to settle outside of Quebec, 2,335 were admitted through the federal programs managed by Express Entry.

During consultations on immigration levels, employers and Francophone stakeholders have raised the fact that these levels do not fill labour shortage demands across the country, including in Francophone minority communities, and are insufficient to counter the demographic decline of Francophone minority communities. The magnitude of the issue and response to date have varied between provincial and territorial jurisdictions. While there is regional variation, there are reports of widespread difficulties recruiting workers in rural and remote areas, notably for specific occupations, such as French teachers and healthcare workers. Tourism and the service industry are also areas of high demand for French-speaking and bilingual workers.

Possible category: Selecting Francophone and bilingual candidates

Further increases in French-speaking candidates admitted through Express Entry could be an enabler of economic growth in Francophone minority communities. By designing a category for selection in Express Entry based on proficiency in French and experience in in-demand sectors or occupations, we could help fill persistent labour shortages in Francophone minority communities.

In your responses to this consultation, we would welcome your feedback on considerations such as the level of French proficiency required (and any specific requirements for certain trades or professions), experience in sectors or occupations with the most critical needs, whether to focus on those with Canadian credentials or with work experience in Canada (such as international students or temporary workers), and volumes. We would also welcome feedback on the implications of prioritizing in-Canada versus out-of-Canada French-speaking populations, including for diversity.

We want to hear from you

We’re interested in hearing your perspectives on economic immigration. More specifically, we would like to know which categories the Government should prioritize in order to help address chronic economic and labour force needs. By enhancing the responsiveness of immigration to the labour market, we can position Canada for long-term economic success, while boosting prosperity in regions and Francophone minority communities.

We developed questions that seek your reactions to categories we’re proposing, while also encouraging you to share your views on other priorities for consideration. We’re also asking for your feedback on how we could improve the consultation process in the future.

If you or your organization are interested in providing feedback, you can complete our questionnaire online or send us your answers by email.

Our online questionnaire may not automatically save your draft responses, so you may want to prepare your answers in advance. You can review the questions by downloading the questionnaire (PDF, 570 KB).

If you have any comments or questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us at:

Instructions and next steps

Thank you in advance for your participation! Your feedback is important to us. With the exception of questions 1 to 3, please note that you do not have to answer all of the questions. Feel free to answer only those questions that you or your organization would like to provide input or comment on, based on your experiences, thoughts and ideas.

You have until January 16, 2023, to share your answers with us.

We ask that organizations make one submission on behalf of their membership.

Your input will help inform the implementation of category-based selection in the next few years, and future engagement on this topic with interested individuals, organizations and groups. We will be in touch again after this consultation has closed to share what we’ve heard during this process, including results and findings.

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