Express Entry: All About Category-Based Selection

Published on: June 5th, 2023
Last updated: July 14th, 2023

The IRCC has begun conducting category-based draws for Express Entry. This new process is a big change for Express Entry and has left many wondering what these new changes will mean for them when applying for Express Entry. 

The first-ever category-based selection for Express Entry has finally taken place, after nearly a year of anticipation. Since the passing of Bill C-19, targeted draws have been expected to begin this year, but before now there was no clear information on what these types of draws would look like. However, the IRCC has finally released more comprehensive information about these draws and what to expect, addressing many questions and concerns that many have. 

These new category-based selections will allow Canada to issue invitations to apply (ITAs) to prospective applications with specific skills, training or language abilities. This will better allow for the selection of applicants with the most in-demand skills to be chosen to receive permanent residence. Draws are expected to begin this summer 2023, though no exact date has been released as of yet. 

Here is everything you need to know about category-based selection for Express Entry (with updates as we learn them!)

What are the categories?

For 2023, the categories that have been chosen are: 

  1. French-language proficiency
  2. Healthcare occupations
  3. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) occupations
  4. Trade occupations
  5. Transport occupations
  6. Agriculture and agri-food occupations

 The categories can change on a yearly basis based on what is reported to parliament. Each year the IRCC will report: 

  • the categories they chose from the previous year
  • why and how they chose them
  • the instructions to establish a category
  • the number of invitations issued for each category

Who is eligible?

To be eligible for an invitation through a category-based round, all requirements for that round must be met. There are also specific conditions that must be met depending on the category that is being targeted. For the 2023 categories, eligibility includes: 

French-language proficiency: Must have a French-language test result that shows a minimum score of 7 in all 4 language abilities on the Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens.

Healthcare occupations: Have accumulated within the past 3 years, at least 6 months of continuous work experience (in Canada or abroad) in one of the 35 targeted NOC codes. 

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) occupations: Have accumulated within the past 3 years, at least 6 months of continuous work experience (in Canada or abroad) in one of the 24 targeted NOC codes. 

Trade occupations: Have accumulated within the past 3 years, at least 6 months of continuous work experience (in Canada or abroad) in one of the 10 targeted NOC codes. 

Transport occupations: Have accumulated within the past 3 years, at least 6 months of continuous work experience (in Canada or abroad) in one of the 10 targeted NOC codes. 

Agriculture and agri-food occupations: Have accumulated within the past 3 years, at least 6 months of continuous work experience (in Canada or abroad) in one of the 3 targeted NOC codes. 

Specific NOC codes are listed on the Canadian government’s dedicated page.  

Which category has the most jobs?

While all the categories have a number of in-demand jobs, healthcare occupations are particularly in-demand. In the fourth quarter of 2022, there were over 143,000 job vacancies in the Healthcare and Social Assistance category, making the job vacancy rate 6%. All provinces across Canada are facing labour shortages in the healthcare sector, however Ontario and Quebec are the highest with 55,000 and 40,000 job vacancies respectively.

Newcomers already make up a significant number of physicians and nurses. As of the end of 2022, 36% of physicians were born outside of Canada.

Here are the 35 occupations being targeted for healthcare workers:

Occupation2021 NOC Code2021 TEER Category
Audiologists and speech language pathologists311121
Dieticians and nutritionists311211
Education counsellors413201
General practitioners and family physicians311021
Instructors of persons with disabilities422032
Kinesiologists and other professional occupation in therapy and assessment312041
Licensed practical nurses321012
Massage therapists322012
Medical laboratory assistants and related technical occupations331013
Medical laboratory technologists321202
Medical radiation technologists321212
Medical sonographers321222
Nurse aides, orderlies and patient service associates331023
Nurse practitioners313021
Nursing co-ordinators and supervisors313001
Occupational therapists312031
Other assisting occupations in support of health services331093
Other practitioners of natural healing322092
Other professional occupations in health diagnosing and treating312091
Other technical occupations in therapy and assessment321092
Paramedical occupations321022
Pharmacy technical assistants and pharmacy assistants331033
Physician assistants, midwives and allied health professionals313031
Registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses313011
Respiratory therapists, clinical perfusionists and cardiopulmonary technologists321032
Specialists in clinical and laboratory medicine311001
Specialists in surgery311011
Therapists in counselling and related specialized therapies413011
Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners and acupuncturists322002

When will category-based rounds of invitations start? 

Category-based draws are expected to begin taking place this summer. More information will likely be made available in the next few weeks.

Will the CRS still be a factor for Express Entry?

Applicant’s Comprehensive Ranking System score (CRS) will still count, and be an important factor for Express Entry draws. Category-based rounds of invitations will invite the top-ranking candidates in the pool who are eligible for the category being targeted for that round. 

This will give candidates a better chance as their CRS score will only be ranked with those in that selected category rather than the entire Express Entry pool. 

What should I do if my occupation is not listed? 

In their announcement, IRCC confirmed that the category-based rounds of invitation will add to general and provincial rounds, suggesting all program draws will continue to take place. If your occupation does not appear on the demand list, you can still be considered for these general draws.  

Furthermore, provinces and territories will continue to use the Express Entry pool to source applicants. Candidates who have secured a provincial nomination have demonstrated they have the skills, education and work experience to contribute to the province or territory’s economy, therefore they will receive an ITA via the all program or provincial Express Entry draws. 

Will Express Entry still have other types of draws?

Yes, Express Entry will hold different types of draws throughout the year, not just category-based draws. There will be 3 types of rounds: 

  1. General round of invitations: General rounds of invitations invites the top-ranking candidates in the Express Entry pool who are eligible for 1 of the 3 Express Entry Programs. The 3 programs include the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) and the Canadian Experience Class (CEC).
  2. Program-specific rounds of invitations: Program-specific rounds invite the top-ranking candidates who are eligible for a specific Express Entry program. For example, the IRCC often has draws specifically for the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), where only candidates who are eligible for a PNP are invited.
  3. Category-based rounds of invitations: The Minister of Immigration will establish specific categories to meet specific economic goals across Canada. Once the categories are established, the top-ranking candidates in the pool who are eligible for this category will receive an invitation.

Category-Based Selection Will Help to Meet 2023 – 2025 Immigration Targets

Immigration has been a key strategy for the Canadian government to help address labour market shortages. The current immigration plan also aims to attract the skills required to fill critical sectors, such as health care, skilled trades, manufacturing and technology sectors. Category-based draws will help to address these shortages by allowing the government to target roles and industries facing the most severe shortages. 

Over the next three years, Canada will increase the number of new immigrants to the country each year. Canada will aim to welcome 465,000 new immigrants in 2023. The target will rise to 485,000 new immigrants in 2024. And it will again rise in 2025 to 500,000 new immigrants. 

What is Express Entry and How Can I Apply?

Express Entry is a system used by the Canadian government to manage applications for Canadian permanent residency. Express Entry uses a point-based system, the CRS, to rank candidates’ profiles. The system manages three main programs:

Applying to Express Entry is a two-step procedure. The first step is to submit your profile with the required documents. Required documents usually consist of language test results, educational credentials and passport or travel documentation.

After you submit a profile and receive an invitation to apply for Canadian permanent residence, you can submit your complete application for the IRCC to review. Your complete application should include supporting documents such as reference letters, additional identity documents, police clearance certificates, and results of a medical examination.

Interested in learning more about your options to enter the Express Entry pool? Complete our free online assessment form today!

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