On Saturday, February 13, 2021, the Canadian immigration world awoke to a surprise from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Any candidate with a valid profile in IRCC’s Express Entry system with a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score of 75, and who met the eligibility criteria of the Canadian Experience Class, was issued an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for Permanent Residence. The invitations, which came in over a period of two days, translated to an incredible 27,332 Express Entry candidates being invited to apply for permanent resident status.


The Express Entry (EE) system is an online system used to manage economic class applications under the Canadian Experience Class, the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program, and certain Provincial Nominee Classes.

Within the EE system, skilled workers who meet the minimum requirements of an EE-eligible program can submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) to enter the EE system’s pool of candidates. Upon submission, a candidate’s EOI is scored based on factors such as their age, level of education, proficiency in English and/or French, work experience, and pre-arranged work in Canada, among other factors. This score, called a CRS score, will generally dictate which candidates will receive an ITA for permanent residence.

Every few weeks, IRCC issues a round of invitations, whereby all candidates in the pool with a minimum CRS score (called the ‘cut off score’) set by IRCC are invited to apply for permanent residence. While in general draws, candidates meeting the cut-off score for that round of invitation will receive an ITA regardless of program eligibility, since March 23, 2020, we have seen more program-specific draws whereby only candidates eligible under the CEC received an ITA.


Both the size and the nature of this round of invitations was unprecedented based on the history of the EE system.

In 2020, the EE cut-off score varied between a low of 431 on June 25, 2020, and a high of 478 on November 5, 2020. Generally, each round of invitations saw between 3,000 and 5,000 ITAs being issued. This pattern has held since 2015 when the EE system was launched and enabled candidates to predict the competitiveness of their CRS score based on past rounds of invitations.

The round of invitations issued on February 13, 2020, drastically changed this pattern. During this round, which represented the 176th issuance of invitations under the EE, any candidate who met the minimum requirements of the CEC and had a CRS score of 75 points or higher was issued an ITA. This CRS point score would have enabled most individuals with one year of qualifying work experience in Canada, who had met language testing criteria, to receive an ITA. Invited candidates with lower scores under this draw would therefore not be required to show proof of education, an arranged offer of employment, or any other factor which in the past, would have generally been required for a competitive CRS score. As such, this round of invitations resulted in virtually all CEC-eligible candidates in the Express Entry pool being invited to apply for PR status.

With such a large number of candidates meeting the cut-off score under this round of invitations, the number of invitations issued under this draw was over seven times what is normally seen.


On October 30, 2020, IRCC released an ambitious immigration levels plan for 2021-2023 which significantly increased targets from the previous immigration levels plan. In an effort to boost the economic recovery following the downturn caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic, drive future growth, and create jobs for middle-class Canadians, the new plan seeks to welcome 401,000 new permanent residents in 2021 alone, with figures increasing by 10,000 year-over-year. At the same time, IRCC has also prioritized the protection of public health by restricting the categories of foreign nationals eligible to enter Canada. In striking this balance, IRCC appears to be looking to meet these levels by enabling foreign nationals from within Canada to become permanent residents.

It is difficult to predict how this historical draw will impact future rounds of invitations under EE. With a six-month timeline targeted for 80 percent of applications processed under the EE, it would not be surprising if IRCC paused regular draws in the coming weeks or months in order to continue meeting this target. It is also unknown at this point whether IRCC will continue to issue ITAs to CEC-eligible candidates at significantly lower point scores than what was generally required, or whether this was a one-time strategy to capture the benefits of awarding permanent resident status to those who have already economically established in Canada and have obtained the required work experience. In either case, IRCC is likely to continue to draw from established pathways to permanent residence for foreign nationals already in Canada, in order to meet the immigration targets for 2021 and beyond.

The most recent round of invitations has demonstrated that the EE system remains a flexible and responsive tool used by IRCC to meet immigration targets and address dynamic priorities. Because draws are not announced in advance, even those candidates who would previously not have had a competitive CRS point score may wish to submit their profiles into the EE pool in order to benefit from any future draws conducted by IRCC. If you are interested in exploring your options to become a permanent resident, whether you are in Canada or abroad, please contact us for a consultation.


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