The number of international students invited to immigrate through Canada’s Express Entry program dropped dramatically last year.
Data compiled by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada shows that both the proportion of Express Entry invitations and the number of invitations issued to people who graduated from a Canadian university or public college was lower in 2018 than in 2017.
Express Entry is the primary system that Canada uses to select immigrants who are not refugees and who are not sponsored by family members. Express Entry includes three programs: one for skilled trades people, one for skilled workers and one for applicants who have work experience in Canada. It also processes some applicants nominated by provinces. Express Entry is a points-based system in which candidates are scored on the basis of language skills, education, work experience and the probability they will adapt to life in Canada. The highest-scoring candidates are invited to apply for permanent residence.
The number of graduated international students successful through Express Entry dropped by 25 per cent last year, with only 22,897 invited to apply in 2018 compared to 30,650 in 2017.
The decline for former students comes as Canada has increased its quota of immigrants overall, and as the number of international students enrolled in Canada has surged.
There are several theories about why fewer students were successful in Express Entry in 2018.
It may be that the numbers were artificially high in 2017 because of pent-up demand. Express Entry did not award any points for Canadian education when it was launched in 2015. In late 2016, the system was changed to award points to candidates who had earned a diploma or degree at a university or public college in Canada. So, the 2017 number may include former international students who wanted to apply in 2015 and 2016 but were prevented from doing so by the points system.
Federal statistics also show that more students were trying to get an invitation in 2017 than 2018.
Vancouver immigration Will Tao theorized that the structure of the language points in Express Entry is holding back students who have spent less time in Canada.
“For many students, the difference of an arbitrary 0.5 score in listening could be the difference between immigration and having to return to their home country and possibly lose out on all the work they have done in Canada,” Tao said.
The Express Entry reports do not provide enough detail about the scores of international students to determine why fewer are receiving invitations.
Those reports also show that college students and university students are equally successful in Express Entry. About half of the 2018 invitations issued to candidates with Canadian education points went to candidates who did a one- or two-year program and about half went to candidates who earned a university degree in Canada.