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On May 31, 2023, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced a significant change in the Express Entry application management system. They will now conduct category-based selection draws to provide more opportunities to skilled workers in specific occupations who may not otherwise receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence. This change aims to support individuals working in Canadian industries facing or expected to face labour shortages.


The Express Entry system operates on a points-based system, where applicants earn points for personal characteristics including age, language ability, education, work experience (both inside and outside Canada), and arranged employment in Canada.

However, even with attributes like work experience and strong language skills, some individuals may not have enough points to receive an ITA for permanent residence. Consequently, eligible candidates remain in the candidate pool without the ability to submit an application. To address this, IRCC is introducing targeted draws to assist skilled workers in high-demand occupations who have a lower points score. This change provides more predictability for Canadian businesses in specific industries to invest in foreign talent, while reducing the burden and costs associated with ongoing work permit extensions and compliance administration.

What’s changing

Category-based selection draws will initially focus on industries with the highest demand, such as STEM occupations and healthcare professions, which are already experiencing widespread labour shortages expected to worsen due to increasing retirement rates.

The initial draws, scheduled for this summer, will prioritize individuals with specific skills, training, or language proficiency. IRCC will begin issuing ITAs this summer, targeting the following occupations:

  • Healthcare occupations
  • STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) occupations
  • Trade occupations (e.g., carpenters, plumbers, contractors, etc.)
  • Transport occupations
  • Agriculture and agri-food occupations

Furthermore, IRCC will also prioritize individuals living outside Quebec who possess strong French language proficiency.

Addressing labour shortages

Considering the Canadian economy’s reliance on immigration and the need for Canadian businesses to attract and retain foreign talent, this development strategically addresses labour shortages while showcasing the flexibility of the Express Entry system. The mentioned occupation categories will be targeted in 2023, alongside the continuation of general points-based and program-specific Express Entry selection draws.

For more details about the Express Entry system, permanent residence eligibility and applications, and/or eligibility for these category-based selection draws, please reach out to the Canadian immigration team at Baker McKenzie.