Canada is credited for having one of the world’s most immigrant-friendly policies, ranking fourth internationally in the Migrant Integration Policy Index. But the criteria used to prioritize applicants based on age leaves many at a disadvantage, even though they might have the qualifications Canada is looking for.
With immigration backlogs and several technical glitches on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) online portal during the pandemic, many have become ineligible for certain programs that consider age as a criterion.
When Pedro Carvalho arrived with his wife in 2017 from Brazil, the couple was in their 30s.
But after missing the Express Entry (EE) draw this year because of a technical glitch, Carvalho was skeptical about meeting the CRS cut-off score due to his age.
After the resumption of EE draws in July 2022, the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score has been on the higher end (above 500 points) in comparison to pre-pandemic levels, touching 557 on July 6th.
With high cut-off scores at the time, many like Carvalho were pessimistic and switched to another program called temporary resident to permanent resident program (TR to PR) to ensure they can stay in Canada as permanent residents.
“Now I turned 40, so I lost points. To be honest I don’t know what else I can say,” Carvalho said in an email to CTVNews.ca in August.
Rick Lamanna, director at Fragomen Canada, an immigration services provider, told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview that it can be frustrating for certain applicants waiting in the pool.
“They see themselves losing points every year because of these delays. They may have fewer points than they did a couple of years ago or even a year ago,” he said.
At first glance, age is not highlighted as a major criterion by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
But for certain programs—such as the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) or Canadian Experience Class (CEC)— the importance of being young becomes quite explicit, especially for applicants touching the 40s threshold.
A DEEPER LOOK AT THE POINT-BASED SYSTEM
Programs under EE include the FSWP, Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP), CEC, and a portion of the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). An applicant needs to be eligible for one of the above to enter the EE pool of candidates.
Canadian employers typically rely on EE designed to attract highly skilled foreign workers through its programs that lead to permanent residency (PR) and among these, FSWP, and the CEC are popular—both of which consider age as one of the core/human capital factors.
Lamanna says, while age can drop the score of a CEC or FSWP candidate, other factors can help raise CRS scores.
“However,” he said, “It is very difficult. Because applicants in their 40s lose a lot of points on age relative to people in their 20s or 30s.”
CRS is a points-based system that scores a profile to rank applicants in the Express Entry pool. To get an invitation to apply (ITA), the candidate should meet a score above the CRS score.
The maximum score in CRS is 1200 and this evaluation is based on several characteristics such as level of education, English/French skills, and work experience. If an applicant doesn’t meet the CRS score in a specific draw, he/she has to upload their profile again to be considered for the next pool.
POINT DROP FOR OLDER APPLICANTS
Not only that, starting from the age of 40, the points reduce by 10 versus 5 before the age of 40. While a 29-year-old can get a maximum of 110 CRS points for age, an applicant of a similar caliber approaching their 30th birthday may see a sharp decline. By the time they reach 39, just 55 points are available, and by the time they reach 45, there are no points.
Under FSWP, the applicant’s age is worth 12 per cent of the overall selection criteria on the selection grid. The FAQ section makes it clear that someone over the age of 47 will not get any points under the Age factor of the CRS, but may get points on other factors such as job offer, skills, and language abilities.
DOES CANADA NEED YOUNG WORKERS?
Immigration has played a critical role in Canada’s economy, providing a relatively young stream of workers. More than 80% of the immigrants admitted in recent years have been under 45 years old.
According to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), young immigrants are generally much more educated than immigrants nearing retirement and this is true for those entering the labour force.
With an aging native-born labour force and low fertility rates (roughly 1.4 births per woman in 2020), an inflow of immigrants has become increasingly important for Canada. The country suffers a shortage of skilled workers despite attempts to attract immigrants. According to the data from Statistics Canada, immigrants account for a little over one-quarter of Canadian workers.
Recent census data from 2021 shows that people nearing retirement outnumber those who are too old to enter the labour market in Canada. Additionally, rural populations are also aging faster than those in urban areas – partially due to the lower influx of immigrants.
The Canadian population is seeing a big shift, with baby boomers getting older, according to a report by Statistics Canada. The shift will have significant consequences on the labour market, services to seniors, and the consumption of goods and services.
A recent Census report by Statistics Canada shows that young immigrants are helping boost numbers in Canada’s population growth. Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) were between 25 and 40 years old in 2021, and are already the fastest-growing generation. In Canada, their numbers rose 8.6 per cent between 2016 and 2021 due to immigration, according to the StatsCan report.
But when it comes to the age factor in economic immigration, Canada is not alone.
Australia has age as one of the selection criteria for permanent residency and the age of the applicant should be below 45 years to apply for a PR visa. Germany recently introduced its version of the “green card” (known as Chancenkarte) to meet the country’s growing labour shortage. Three of the four criteria to be considered for the program include that applicant is below the age of 35.
BUT TARGETED DRAWS IN 2023 COULD BE A GAMECHANGER
Lamanna says as 2023 approaches, applicants need to brace themselves for specified targeted draws, which are designed to address the labour shortage that Canada currently faces in certain sectors.
The recently passed Bill C-19 allows invitations to those applicants under Express Entry that support the regional economic needs. The training, education, experience, and responsibilities (TEER) system would allow IRCC to invite applicants based on occupation, language or education rather than the traditional CRS score.
“While the issue of age is currently important, a bigger issue will be what happens when targeted draws occur,” he said. If someone is not in the pool of that specific occupation type, then applicants may be left in limbo and these could include those with higher CRS scores.
Lamanna said provinces have more autonomy in selecting people in certain occupations to help employers in certain jurisdictions. There is a risk-reward to targeted draws. It helps meet the labour shortage in specific industries such as health care, manufacturing and construction.
“The risk is there are people in the queue who know that at some point, they will be selected as long as they meet the CRS score. But if a minister shifts to occupation-based selective selection process, then people may be left wondering when their turn will come next,” Lamanna said.