While Express Entry draws have continued throughout the pandemic, Express Entry draws in 2021 were very different from pre-pandemic patterns. Prior to the pandemic, an Express Entry draw typically took place once every two weeks and candidates from all Express Entry programs were considered in each draw. In 2021, all Express Entry draws were restricted to candidates in either the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) or Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs).
This was a strategic decision made by IRCC in order to prioritize permanent residence applications from candidates who were already inside Canada in order to meet its high immigration targets while borders were closed. This is also why Canada invited more than 27,000 CEC candidates in a single Express Entry draw in February 2021.
Since September 15, 2021, Express Entry draws have been exclusively inviting provincial nominees. This is due to the existing backlog of immigration applications. IRCC cannot continue to issue large numbers of Invitations to Apply at this time as it does not have the capacity to process any new files. In a recent memo, IRCC has indicated that it will only resume all-program Express Entry draws once the backlog has been reduced — although they haven’t said how long this will take or how much of the backlog they need to get through.
IRCC has been working hard on clearing out this backlog. The department has spent more than CAD$15-million on overtime for its employees to work on this backlog between April and October of 2021 alone.