Express Entry Draw #297 and the Future of Invitations

On May 31, 2024, IRCC invited candidates in the Express Entry system in a rare Canadian Experience Class-only invitation. What does this tell us about where the future of Express Entry draws are heading?

Global Bridge Immigration

On May 31, 2024, IRCC conducted a rare invitation that included only Canadian Experience Class (CEC) candidates. First, let’s take a look at the numbers:


Express Entry Draw # 297:

• Program/category invited: Canadian Experience Class (CEC)

• Number of invitations issued; 3,000

• CRS score of lowest-ranked candidate invited: 522 points

• Tie-breaking rule: March 19, 2024 at 18:58:58 UTC


So, how rare was a draw like this? Well, throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, there were semi-regular draws for CEC only, which took place between March 23, 2020 and September 14, 2021. This included the highly unusual draw #176 which saw over 27,000 candidates be invited, and a lowest CRS invitation score of just 75 points. But, outside of this one-and-a-half year period, how often has there been a CEC-only draw? Twice: once very early on in Express Entry’s infancy, in February, 2015, and again just over a week ago.


So what do the CEC draws that took place during the Covid-19 pandemic and draw #297 have in common? We could assess that the CEC-only draws that occurred during the pandemic were an attempt to invite those who were more likely to already be inside Canada compared to Federal Skilled Worker or Federal Skilled Trade candidates, thus easing the transition – and in particular crossing the border and entering Canada during uncertain times – to becoming a permanent resident. However, with border crossings now open to accept new permanent residents in Canada, the reason for the recent CEC-only draw must be different. 


With the introduction of category-based selections in Express Entry one year ago to the day of draw #297, we have seen a shift in immigration priorities towards much more specific, targeted candidates. And, with the most recent draw, this apparently includes those with Canadian work experience who are likely already temporary foreign workers in Canada. This would seem to be in agreement with a survey IRCC conducted in spring, 2023 before formally introducing category draws. In their report, titled “2022-2023 consultations on enhancing Express Entry through category-based selection”, IRCC found that an overwhelming majority (93%) of respondents believed that increasing transitions from temporary foreign workers to permanent residence through Express Entry would have a positive impact. The respondents noted that temporary workers will more easily integrate, and that with workers already in Canada, there would be opportunities to avoid the burdensome process with recruiting foreign workers outside Canada. 


While “general” draws in Express Entry have still occurred since the introduction of targeted categories last year, the draws have been less frequent and have seen incredibly high invitation scores. For reference, the last “No Program Specified” draw prior to the introduction of Category draws occurred on June 27, 2023, with an invitation score of 486 points, where 4,300 candidates were invited. Since that time, there have been just 18 draws in almost one year under No Program Specified (which has now become labelled as “General”). In those 18 draws, the lowest invitation score has been 496 points, with the majority being well above 500 points.


Now, with this CEC-only draw, we may be seeing the start of a shift to further prioritize Express Entry candidates, where those with Canadian work experience are favoured over those without. At 522 points in the most recent invitation, it may still be quite difficult to be invited even with Canadian work experience, but if the alternative is not being invited in the first place under a different program of Express Entry like the Federal Skilled Worker program, at least if you are eligible under CEC there is a chance to be invited.


At the end of the day, who and how many candidates IRCC decides to invite and when is ultimately unpredictable. But to safeguard yourself against this unpredictability, perhaps the best advice is to actively try to increase your CRS score as high as you can, rather than waiting for a lower invitation score that may never come. At the same time, you could look into other potential immigration pathways. Who knows, there may be a PNP pathway or a Canadian employer looking for a worker with your exact background, willing to support your application for permanent residence. 


To check your options for economic immigration pathways, including Express Entry, PNP, or others, feel free to reach out to us!

Craig Lont / Associate RCIC
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