Sharp Competition Keeps Express Entry Scores Higher

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Do Recent Trends Confirm a New Minimum CRS Score?

Canada’s Express Entry immigration system, whose fourth anniversary January 1st, has just passed a major milestone: more than 100 rounds of visa invitations.

To this point, past performance has not been a reliable indication of future results, as they say. Indeed, past performance has provided precious little indication of future results.

But that may now be changing.

Several trends are emerging, and the first and most prominent is towards increasing competition for Canadian permanent residency visas.

As we have long anticipated and frequently cautioned was coming, increasing competition for Canadian skilled worker visas has now arrived.

That fact it has arrived is now showing up in the numbers. 

Express Entry’s bumpy, volatile start

A key indicator in respect of competition is the Comprehensive Ranking System, or CRS, score, which is a central part of the Express Entry system.

This is the number that draws on personal and career factors, from age to education to work experience, to sum-up your competitiveness as a candidate.

By way of context, eligible visa candidates may have scores ranging from the 200s to 1,200, with most candidates achieving scores in the 300 to 600 range.

Following the introduction of the Express Entry system in January 2015, we saw high minimum CRS scores, low numbers of invitations issued, and a great deal of volatility in CRS scores from one draw to the next.

January 2015’s first-ever draw saw a minimum CRS score of 886, then scores dropped as low as 453, before bouncing back up to 755 by May, and then settling in the mid- to high-400’s to end the year.

Much of that score volatility was anticipated as the inevitable mopping-up from the legacy of the previous system.

Already by 2016, the draw scores saw markedly less volatility, and stayed in a range from 453 to 538.

Part of that decrease in score volatility can be attributed to the welcome use of special draws, which sees large numbers of Provincial Nominees (naturally the highest scores) and Federal Skilled Trades Worker applicants (the lowest scores) waived through. These special draws help trades candidates especially, as it provides room for lower-scoring, but nonetheless economically valuable candidates make it through the system.

Increasing CRS Scores

In the space of a few months in spring 2017, there were seven draws below 440, three below 420, and record low of 413 (for a regular draw).

These low scores were welcomed by many who’d missed out previously, and heralded by some as a sign of things to come – or as a hint at possible seasonal variability to look forward to in the draw numbers. 

However, those low scores now look like the exception to the rule.

As of December 18, and not counting special-purpose draws (for Trades Workers and Provincial Nominees), we’ve seen nearly 30 rounds of visa invitations, more than 80,000 invitations issued, and more than 12 months pass, since the last time minimum CRS score dropped below 440.

So outside of special draws, is 440 the new floor for minimum scores?

Possibly, yes.

And that’s not even the entire picture.

To appreciate why consistent scores in the 440’s point to increasing competition, its important to note that the trend in CRS scores is not the only factor at play.

Decreasing Volatility

We promise, we’re not numerologists, but have look as well at these groups of numbers, and try to spot the pattern:

  • 2000, 2757, 2801, 2871, 2772
  • 3035, 2991, 3264, 3202, 3409
  • 3877, 3687, 3796, 3665, 3923
  • 3753, 3749, 3884, 3611, 3644

So they range between 2 and 4 thousand. Otherwise, there is none.

Now look at these:

  • 2750, 2750, 2750, 2750, 2750
  • 3000, 3000, 3000, 3000
  • 3500, 3500, 3500
  • 3750, 3750, 3750, 3750
  • 3900, 3900, 3900, 3900

More or less the same range, but the difference couldn’t be more stark.

These numbers are sum totals of visa invitations issued, per draw. So for example, the most recent draw in this list saw 3,900 invitations issued.

And the groupings are important.

The first group of totals are the numbers of invitations issued, per draw, from the 20 draws prior to November 2017. Recall, that draw was the last time we saw a CRS score below 440.

The second group of totals are from the 16 the draws since November 2017, listed sequentially.

Demonstrably Increasing Visa Competition

So, not only has the minimum CRS score stabilised, but the number of applicants chosen per draw is also increasingly steady.

These trends could suggest that the Express Entry system -- and its operators – have matured, and are better able to control applicant flow. That may well be true in part: clearly there is more forethought and decision-making reflected in the more recent draw numbers.

But equally, the system will only be able to stabilise to the extent that it contains sufficient applicant volume to maintain minimum standard CRS scores, draw rate, and draw numbers.

Previously, there was push-and-pull between the IRCC hitting its prescribed immigration targets, and applicant standards (i.e. CRS scores), which dropped to record lows at those points when there weren’t sufficient higher-scoring applicants in the pipeline.

Apparently, not having sufficient numbers of high-scoring applicants is no longer an issue. And this is the case despite 2018 looking to be a record-setting year for the overall number of economic-class migrants accepted for visas.

For Canada, the sentiment will of course be, ‘long may this trend continue’. These number paint a picture of increasingly educated, experienced, and younger applicants hoping to get to Canada.

For applicants, by contrast, this is grim news for many.

More applicants will find it more difficult to succeed, which in turn heats-up the 'arms race' among applicants.

More hotly contested draws, and thus thinner margins between success and failure, will create disproportionate advantage to those who can afford the benefits to be had from higher education, and professional advice in the visa process.

And the competition for Canadian permanent residency visas is only just heating up.

If you are determined to make Canada your future home, consider this yet another important reason to get started today!

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