What is Bill C-19, and how will it affect int’l students’ Canadian PR chances?

Bill C-19 and Canadian Express Entry
Canada's Bill C-19 officially passed last month, which introduced major changes to its immigration programme via the Express Entry pathway. Source: Andrej Ivanov/AFP

The will-they-or-wont-they guessing game on Bill C-19 in Canada has been finally put to rest. On June 23, 2022, the bill was officially passed and received royal assent — a move that would immensely alter the Canadian Express Entry system inviting temporary residents to apply for permanent residency.   

First tabled in April this year, the bill has been fervently discussed by lawmakers and immigration experts since it was proposed. The subject generated much attention since it was hinted, as the Express Entry invitation was temporarily paused to address massive application backlogs in the country’s immigration system until recently.

Last month, the Canadian Express Entry invitation reopened, with 1,500 candidates invited by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to apply for a PR.

More importantly, the draw included those applying through the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) — the route typically taken by former international students to become new immigrants. IRCC had not issued invitations to CEC candidates since September 2021, which placed those with expiring work permits at risk of losing their legal status

Express Entry is an online management system for three immigration pathways: the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP), and the CEC.

Under the system, candidates are given points based on factors such as education, work experience, and language skills, where they are then ranked under the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) in the Express Entry pool. Each invitation cycle will have a different cut-off score under the system.

Bill C-19, however, has reshuffled Canada’s PR criteria under the Express Entry. Here’s what we know so far:

Bill C-19 and Canadian Express Entry

The Canadian Express Entry system manages three high-skilled immigration categories into Canada. The invitations for permanent residency was just resumed in July 2022 after a temporary halt due to application backlogs. Source: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

What is the bill about?

Until Bill C-19 was approved, PR candidates in each draw are determined by the CRS, where the highest-ranking applicants are prioritised for invitations. The new bill confers IRCC greater power to handpick candidates from the Canadian Express Entry pool if they meet certain criteria that fulfil the country’s economic needs.

Essentially, this now means that Canada’s labour market will have greater weight in influencing the outcome of PR applications. Naturally, the amendment was met with swift criticisms over possible interest groups favouring a certain type of newcomer when it was proposed.

Addressing the matter, incumbent Immigration Minister Sean Fraser told CIC News in an interview: “If I sit at my office in Ottawa and start making decisions about what regions and what sectors should benefit from this new policy I would be going down a very dangerous path.”

He explained that amendments had been made to an earlier draft of the bill to emphasise a transparent selection process.

“I need to engage with people at a local community level. I need to engage with my provincial and territorial counterparts. I need to engage with business councils and sectors that have high needs so we can understand what their needs are,” Fraser said.

The bill is expected to fully take effect in a targeted Express Entry draw within the first quarter of 2023.

Canadian Express Entry changes: What it means for international graduates

Your CRS score for PR won’t matter as much as before 

The greatest overhaul that Bill C-19 will introduce to the Canadian Express Entry system is the possibility of those with high CRS scores getting passed over for a PR. Even if you’re the perfect candidate who’ve ticked all the right boxes to become an immigrant, IRCC might decide to pluck someone further down the ranking system if they can fulfil labour shortages in certain in-demand sectors.

Some degrees or work experience might be prized above others 

Since the new selection factor takes the labour market into account, those with degrees or work experience in fields with worker shortages will have advantages over other candidates in the system.

For instance, Canada has over one million vacancies across the country due to the pandemic. Accommodation and food services, healthcare, and retail trade are three sectors in need of workers — so a PR candidate with more knowledge and experience in these sectors could technically be favoured over a higher-ranked candidate with better educational qualifications. 

Bill C-19 and Canadian Express Entry

Once Bill C-19 is implemented, IRCC could target specific PR candidates in the Express Entry system based on Canada’s labour market and economic needs. Source: Pedro Pardo/AFP

Language skills could tip PR prospects in your favour

Official language proficiency is an important scoring factor in the Canadian Express Entry system. The more fluent you are in English and French, the higher your points in the CRS. While French isn’t a requirement and is rarely spoken in everyday Canadian life outside of Quebec, knowing it could boost your chances for a PR when Bill C-19 is implemented.

“The changes themselves would permit, for example, the minister to focus on all French-speaking candidates within the Express Entry pool,” Philip Somogyvari, an IRCC spokesperson, was quoted saying in CIC News.

“Theoretically, with the proposed authorities in use, if the minister chose to do so, the department would be able to conduct an invitation round that would virtually invite all of the identified French-speaking candidates within the Express Entry pool,” he added.