This year saw the resumption of Express Entry draws for the first time since 2020—what determines the CRS cut-offs, and can past scores tell us about the future?
Below are three programs managed by the Express Entry system:
- The Federal Skilled Workers Program (FSWP);
- The Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP); and
- The Canadian Experience Class (CEC).
Candidates within the Express Entry pool are issued invitations to apply (ITAs), based on their Comprehensive Ranking Score (CRS).
Roughly every two weeks, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) issues ITAs to candidates in the Express Entry pool who meet the CRS cut-off. This year, all Express Entry draws have been general, choosing candidates from the FSWP and the CEC.
CRS in 2022
As draws continued throughout the year, IRCC would increase draw sizes (eventually to 4,750 candidates in the most recent draw), while decreasing CRS cut-offs to below 500.
As Canada continues to grapple with a post-COVID reality, labor shortages remain high throughout the country. Canada has identified immigration as the primary means by which it can address urgent economic needs; likely a driving reason to Express Entry’s return, and the progressively lowering CRS score in 2022.
Can we use past scores to predict the future of CRS?
At first glance, it may seem a relatively simple task to predict future CRS scores based on previous cut-offs. As draws, increase and time elapses, the CRS cut-offs continues to drop. However, the situation is more complex in reality.
The problem with using past CRS scores to predict future ones is the lack of a clear pattern in how CRS cut-offs change. The graph below maps CRS cut-offs to their respective draws. Though we can observe a negative correlation, we cannot accurately map future CRS scores here, as there is not a consistent drop in cut-offs, from draw to draw.
Notice here how the trend line (yellow) deviates from the real-score gradient (white). This is due to irregular drop-offs in CRS (i.e.: between July 6th to the 20th CRS dropped by 15 points, however between November 9th to the 23rd CRS cut-off only dropped 3 points). If these drops were consistent, predicting CRS scores for the future would be much simpler.
Further statistical analysis shows that the standard deviation (the amount by which each score deviates from the mean) among Express Entry CRS cut-offs in 2022 was 21.6 points. As any candidate in the Express Entry pool can attest, this is a huge margin for error in prediction.
Another key reason that this is not a good method to predict CRS, is due to certain policy arrangements that impact the cut-off scores.
What impacts the CRS score cut-off?
The first, and perhaps most important thing to note, is that IRCC has complete control over what CRS cut-offs should be implemented. This means the department is under no obligation to follow patterns or trends; instead granted the freedom to choose CRS cut-offs and invite immigrants based on Canada’s economic needs.
Arguably the most dramatic example of this was in February 2021, when IRCC invited 27,000 new immigrants as part of the CEC, with a CRS cut-off of just 75—the lowest in Express Entry’s history.
The second factor to keep in mind is a rise in CRS score cut-offs due to certain kinds of applications already in process. For example, candidates in the Express Entry pool, with an enhanced provincial nomination through a Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), can earn up to 600 additional CRS points, just from their provincial nomination.
Similarly, candidates in the CEC often have both Canadian education and Canadian work experience; two factors that can dramatically increase CRS scores, and thus skew cut-offs for the entire Express Entry pool.
The future of CRS
While we cannot be exactly sure what the coming CRS cut-offs will be, there is one important policy change coming in 2023 that will make have major impact to the CRS’s impact effect on immigration: Bill C-19.
Passed in June of 2022, this bill allows the immigration minister the ability to create groups (based on policy aims) within the Express Entry pool and issue ITAs to the candidates within that group.
IRCC has already expressed its intent to pursue this measure in 2023, in order to help directly address economic needs by targeting specific in-demand professions occupations.
Under Canada’s Immigration Levels Plan, the country hopes to welcome 203,220 new immigrants under the Express Entry-managed programs, between 2023 and 2025.
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