Did COVID-19 change Canada’s approach to express entry system?

Here’s how it has been affecting EE process and more…

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused tremendous disruption in societies worldwide, and Canada is no exception. In the area of Canadian immigration, measures have been taken to deal with COVID-19, and this has caused real uncertainty for applicants and practitioners.

One area that may appear to have been less seriously affected by the pandemic, is the express entry system. In this category, immigration officials continue to hold draws and continue to process applications, so it might seem that not very much has changed. Is this still what we see when we take a more detailed look at the numbers?

Throughout 2019 and the early part of 2020 the express entry system was both stable and predictable. General draws were held regularly, and the points threshold required for selection stayed fairly stable, in the 460s – 470s. In spite of the predictability of these results they were not fully satisfying, because the points requirement was quite high – 460 CRS points is a difficult bar for many applicants to clear.

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic this period of stability has ended. Draws are still being held regularly, but their structure has changed. More importantly, at least at first glance, the points requirement has started to go down.   Does this mean that fewer people are creating profiles in the system? Does this mean that this is the time for applicants who couldn’t qualify before to seize an opportunity? It’s not that simple, but to understand exactly what is happening requires a more detailed look at the structure of the draws and the numbers.

The first, and most confusing change that has occurred is the change from ‘general; draws to program-specific draws. There is three official, and one unofficial Express Entry stream, the official streams are Federal Skilled Worker, Canadian Experience Class, and Federal Skilled Trades. Federal Skilled Trades is a smaller program that has historically had a specific draw for applicants twice a year. The two largest and most important streams are a skilled workers and Canadian experience. The eligibility requirements for these streams are different, but eligible candidates are scored using the CRS system and have been treated interchangeably in draws – there has not been a separate quota for each stream. The unofficial pathway is the Provincial nomination process. Applicants have to meet the minimum qualifications for one of the official streams, but once they do, if they apply and are selected by a province, they receive a substantial number of points in the scoring system. Historically provincially nominated candidates have also been treated interchangeably with the two major streams – they have no separate quota. That being said, the provincial nomination confers so many additional points that it is essentially a guarantee of being chosen.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the immigration authorities have stopped conducting ‘general’ draws, instead, when draws are held they are specific to one of the official or unofficial pathways. The total number of invitations that are issued however has not decreased. Before the outbreak, a general draw was typically held every two weeks, and often 3,900 invitations would be issued. Since the outbreak, there are still about 3,900 invitations being issued every two weeks, through a combination of single pathway draws.

This is not a situation, however, where fewer people are applying because of the pandemic, and the same number of an invitation being issued are driving the score down, it’s more complicated than that. Before the pandemic, the ‘general’ draws that were held were open to applicants in every stream. Since the pandemic though immigration officials have been holding program-specific draws, and they have not held a draw for one of the two major streams, the Foreign Skilled Worker stream. There have similarly been no opportunities for Foreign Skilled Trades. There are only two pathways that have received invitations since the outbreak, the Canadian Experience Class, and the provincial nominees.

With this understanding, it becomes more clear what the score threshold is declining, and how different groups of applicants are affected differently by the situation. Let’s look at them in turn.

Foreign Skilled Trades:

Applicants in this category are on hold. This is a low volume pathway under normal circumstances. Applicants have been eligible for ‘general’ draw, and that benefitted from twice-yearly program-specific draws. ‘General’ draws are no longer taking place, and the next program-specific draw is now overdue.

Provincial Nominees:

Applicants who have obtained provincial nomination have always been virtually assured of selection. This is still the case; officials are now conducting program-specific draws for these applicants. With the 600 points awarded to applicants just on the basis of provincial nomination these applicants are still virtually assured of selection and are still regularly receiving invitations.

Federal Skilled Worker:

This is a major category, and it is the category likely to experience the greatest negative consequences from the new selection practices. Applicants in this category were previously selected in ‘general’ draws. These draws have now stopped, and officials have not yet conducted a program-specific draw for this stream. The result is that no applicants in this stream are currently being selected. This also means that applicant profiles will remain in the pool, and new profiles are constantly being added. When selection in this category does resume there will likely be a substantial number of high scoring candidates in the pool, and the points required for selection are likely to be high.

Canadian Experience Class:

This class of applicants are currently at an advantage, but there is no way to determine how long this will last. This class is currently being heavily selected from program-specific draws. Applicants from this class are now filling both their own numbers and those that would previously have been chosen from the skilled worker class. This has resulted in a lower point cut off, and because this is occurring in program-specific draws, the lower cut off only benefits Canadian Experience Class applicants. These applicants will have an easier time being selected until the Foreign Skilled Worker Class returns – once this occurs however the backlog of high -scoring applicants in that class will likely drive up the point threshold for Canadian Experience Class applicants as well. Canadian Experience Class applicants are at an advantage now, but this is likely a temporary situation.


The COVID-19 outbreak has changed the Canadian express entry system. Provincial nominees have seen the least change, they are still virtually assured of selection.   Applicants in the skilled worker and skilled trades classes are now excluded from the system – likely because immigration officials are looking to minimize applicants from outside of Canada. Canadian Experience Class applicants are now at an advantage, more of these candidates are being chosen, and the points threshold is coming down. If and when normal conditions return the point total will likely come back up sharply, as there will be a backlog of high scoring applicants in classes that are currently not being selected from.


Recent EE Rounds of Invitations and Point Thresholds
Draw Type
Draw Date 14-May-20 447
13-May-20 718
30-Apr-20 452
29-Apr-20 692
16-Apr-20 455
15-Apr-20 808
09-Apr-20 464
09-Apr-20 698
23-Mar-20 467
18-Mar-20 720
04-Mar-20 471
19-Feb-20 470
05-Feb-20 472
22-Jan-20 471
08-Jan-20 473
19-Dec-19 469
11-Dec-19 472
27-Nov-19 471
13-Nov-19 472
30-Oct-19 475
16-Oct-19 357
02-Oct-19 464
18-Sep-19 462
04-Sep-19 463
20-Aug-19 457
12-Aug-19 466
24-Jul-19 459
10-Jul-19 460
26-Jun-19 462
12-Jun-19 465
29-May-19 470
15-May-19 332
01-May-19 450

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