Canadian Immigration: Express Entry Explained

Canadian Immigration: Express Entry Explained

Canadian Immigration: Express Entry Explained

Canadian Immigration: Express Entry Explained

Immigrating to Canada is a goal shared by millions around the world, so what can you do to distinguish yourself and improve your chances of success? Quite a lot, in fact. Join us on Thursday, March 8 at 10:00 a.m. EST for a live webinar featuring Canadian immigration lawyer David Cohen, who will teach you a few tricks of his trade, including:

  • Tips for perfecting your profile.
  • The advantage of proactive preparation.

As a senior partner at the immigration law firm Campbell Cohen, David has more than 40 years’ experience helping clients achieve their Canadian dream.

What You Can Expect

With its switch to the merit-based Express Entry economic immigration system in 2015, Canada’s immigrant selection process is now largely determined by so-called human capital factors that include age, proficiency in English and/or French, education, and work experience in Canada and/or abroad.

Express Entry is used to manage applications for three of Canada’s economic immigration categories: the Federal Skilled Worker Class, Federal Skilled Trades Class, and the Canadian Experience Class.

Under what’s called the Comprehensive Ranking System, or CRS, Express Entry candidates receive a core score based on their human capital factors and combinations thereof, up to a maximum of 600 points. This score, combined with possible additional factors, provides them with their ranking in the Express Entry pool.

The beauty of the Express Entry system for candidates is that it’s dynamic. This means your score isn’t fixed but can be improved if you’re willing to put in the effort.

There are benefits to submitting the most accurate profile possible (also, there are penalties for submitting an inaccurate profile). Here are a few of the points we will touch on in this regard:

Best language score possible: A Federal Skilled Worker candidate who is fluent in English but does not have a great language test score might enter the pool with only the minimum required proficiency. However, by improving their test results, candidates can increase their score by up to 118 points. It is also worth noting that for candidates with a spouse, there are 20 points available for a spouse demonstrating his or her language proficiency.

Get your education evaluated: A candidate in the Canadian Experience Class may enter the pool with no Education Credential Assessment (ECA) and then increase their score by up to 200 points by having a degree assessed. Even a Federal Skilled Worker candidate with two bachelor’s degrees might only have one of them assessed in order to enter the pool and be missing out on another possible 58 points for their second degree. Candidates with a spouse may also be entitled to 10 points for their spouse’s demonstrated education.

Declaring work experience correctly: A Federal Skilled Worker candidate may have claimed only one year of full-time continuous skilled work experience when entering the pool. But what if they also have a year or more of work experience in a different occupation, and several years of part-time work? For candidates who have never worked in Canada, leaving out this experience may cost them up to 25 points. Candidates with Canadian work experience may be depriving themselves of over 100 points.

Candidates should also determine the proper occupation classification for each year they worked and add years beyond the maximum CRS score. This is also important for Provincial Nominee Programs that may need a candidate with work experience in a specific occupation (IT manager vs. programmer, for example). For more on these programs, keep reading!

Proactive Preparation

“Be prepared” aren’t just words for Scouts to live by, but a motto for every candidate in the Express Entry pool. It’s important that you proactively prepare all the documents required should you receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) through Express Entry.

Here are some of the main points we’ll discuss on the topic of proactive preparation:

Express Entry’s 90-day ITA window: From the moment you receive an ITA, you have 90 days to submit your application for permanent residence. Some of the required documents can take a while to obtain, like work experience letters, so don’t wait until the last minute to request them. More than 40 percent of applications for permanent residence submitted in the first five months of 2017 were received in the last 30 days of the 90-day period, which is too close for comfort.

Provincial Nominee Programs: Most Canadian provinces and territories have what’s called a Provincial Nomination Program (PNP) that allows them to nominate an allotted number of immigrants each year for permanent residence. Many PNPs have at least one stream that’s aligned with the Express Entry system, some of which operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Having the necessary documents ready to go when one of those streams opens is crucial because they tend to reach their quotas quickly. The payoff? An Express Entry candidate with a provincial nomination gets an additional 600 points towards their CRS score, putting an ITA well within reach. The following are examples of Express-Entry-aligned PNPs:

  • Ontario’s Human Capital Priorities Stream (opened multiple times in 2017)
  • Saskatchewan’s International Skilled Worker—Express Entry sub-category (opened five times in 2017)
  • Nova Scotia’s Demand: Express Entry (opened three times in 2017)
  • Manitoba Skilled Worker Overseas—Express Entry Pathway (new in 2018, already opened once)

Open Mind, More Options

Proactive preparation paired with an open mind in terms of where you’re willing to reside in Canada can increase your likelihood of obtaining an ITA. Toronto may be your first destination of choice, but PNPs in other provinces may offer a faster track to permanent residence. As noted above, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia have some of Canada’s most active Express Entry-aligned PNPs, and they could very well be your ticket to Canadian permanent residence.

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Improving Express Entry Comprehensive Ranking System Scores

Tips for Improving Express Entry Comprehensive Ranking System Scores

Tips for Improving Express Entry Comprehensive Ranking System Scores

Tips for Improving Express Entry Comprehensive Ranking System Scores

Improving Express Entry Comprehensive Ranking System Scores

In January of 2015, the government of Canada introduced a system called Express Entry to manage applications for three popular Canadian immigration programs: the Federal Skilled Worker Class (FSWC), Federal Skilled Trades Class (FSTC), and Canadian Experience Class (CEC).

Whereas the old system treated applications on a first-come, first-served basis, Express Entry involves the government selecting candidates from a pool on a priority basis, according to a ranking score, using a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). Points are awarded differently under the CRS than under the three immigration programs, and candidates have a large incentive to gain as many ranking points as possible. Doing so increases their chances of receiving the all-important Invitation to Apply (ITA) for Canadian permanent residence.

Express Entry candidates should know that increasing their score beyond the eligibility requirements is key, and that being eligible to enter the pool is a different thing than having enough points to obtain an ITA.

Distribution of Points within the CRS

The CRS awards points for a candidate’s age, level of education, language ability in English and/or French, work experience (both in Canada and abroad), whether he or she has a job offer in Canada, and whether a Canadian province has issued him or her a nomination certificate through one of the enhanced Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) categories. Additional points may be awarded to candidates who obtain a province-recognized certificate of qualification in a trade.

Certain factors, as well as combinations of factors, are rewarded more than others. Moreover, candidates with an accompanying spouse, common-law or conjugal partner (hereafter ‘spouse’) see a slight difference in how the various factors are weighted, as certain spousal factors are also taken into account.

There is a total of 1,200 points available, of which 600 may be awarded for a job offer or provincial nomination. Of the remaining half, up to 500 are available for human capital factors in their own right, and 100 for skills transferability combinations of those human capital factors. Of the 40 Express Entry draws that have taken place so far, 35 draws have seen ITAs issued to candidates who had neither a job offer nor a provincial nomination.

Increasing CRS Score

The nuances of the system dictate that there are numerous ways in which a candidate in the pool can increase his or her ranking. These nuances are important, as even a seemingly slight change in one factor—for example, improving a language ability from intermediate level to initial advanced—can have hugely positive effects on one’s ranking. Although many potential improvements may seem obvious, others are not so obvious.


Let’s first look at education, a highly valued factor under the CRS. There is much to consider on this front, but we’ll begin with candidates who enter the pool under the CEC program. Although FSWC candidates who studied outside Canada must prove their education credential(s) by way of an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA), CEC candidates may enter the pool without an ECA or Canadian credential. Some CEC candidates might enter the pool, sit back, and wait for an ITA. They could be waiting a long time, however, and often in vain, but they can increase their score by having their level(s) of education assessed. Doing so can bring up to 200 points—150 for human capital, with a bonus 50 in combination with Canadian work experience and/or language ability. Having a bachelor’s degree assessed can bring up to 170 points. So, educated CEC candidates in the pool with no ECA, I have a simple question: what are you waiting for? Get your ECA as soon as possible.

There are other potential ways in which candidates from all three programs may claim additional points through education. For candidates with more than one post-secondary credential, getting each credential assessed is recommended. Canadian equivalencies may vary from one credential to another, the CRS awards points for multiple credentials, and any credential may help a candidate become eligible under a PNP. If an Express Entry PNP category opens and you need to react quickly, it is crucial to have a fully updated education section in your profile. Proving all your education, and not just what might be deemed the highest level, can be important in this regard.

Furthermore, completing an additional level of education can also be beneficial. Some candidates are only a few courses or months away from completing a degree, diploma or certificate that, when assessed, would help to improve their ranking under the CRS. Other proactive candidates may consider enrolling in a higher level of education, knowing that completing the program would increase their chances of realizing their Canadian immigration goals.


Language is another crucial factor, as it is worth up to 260 points. Fluent English and/or French speakers may have maximized their points potential on entry to the pool. Candidates with room for improvement in language test results, however, should consider preparing for and re-taking a test. Any improvement across any of the four abilities (speaking, writing, reading, and listening) may bring a corresponding improvement in CRS ranking, but the big payoff occurs when a candidate reaches initial advanced level (Canadian Language Benchmark 9) across the board. When this happens, he or she may trigger a higher threshold in the combination factors and receive up to 100 points, in addition to the points received for the language factor in its own right.

A final note on language—bilingual candidates should take language tests in both English and French. By not doing so, they are leaving up to 24 points on the table, unclaimed.


Although Canadian work experience is more valued than non-Canadian work experience, the latter is nonetheless a factor within the combinations. For example, a candidate with strong language skills (CLB 9 or better across the board), but who only has one or two years of skilled work experience outside of Canada, may be awarded 25 points. As soon as he or she adds a third year of experience, however, an additional 25 points may be awarded. So, a word to the wise—keep working!

For candidates with Canadian work experience, similar principles apply, only the potential for obtaining points is greater because of two things: Canadian work experience is valued as a factor in its own right (i.e., not only in combination with something else, as non-Canadian work experience is), and points may be gathered for up to five years of experience. If you’re working a skilled job in Canada, keep at it and ensure you maintain your legal work status throughout.

I would also advise candidates to update their profile with any additional work experience, even if it does not directly increase CRS score. I say this because doing so may help to make a candidate eligible for a PNP category. You may not increase your score by a few points today, but you may increase it by 600 points tomorrow.

Couples Increasing Their Chances

The improvements outlined above are applicable to all candidates, whether they have an accompanying spouse or not. Candidates with a spouse, however, may have additional potential for improving their CRS score because the spouse’s level of education, language ability, and Canadian work experience may all be rewarded. Up to 40 points may be awarded for the spouse’s factors, 20 of which may be awarded for language ability (and 10 each for education and Canadian work experience). Having a spouse sit a language test and/or obtain an ECA could bring hugely valuable points. Moreover, some PNP categories reward the spouse of an applicant for his or her education, work or study experience and/or language ability.

Furthermore, every couple should carefully review who should be the principal applicant. Indeed, there is nothing to stop both partners from each creating a profile. Consider the following scenario: a 36-year-old rocket scientist and his or her 29-year-old partner, who works as a cook, want to immigrate to Canada. The rocket scientist may appear to be the superior candidate, but, other things being equal, it is, in fact, the cook who would be awarded more points, simply because he or she is younger. We could substitute surgeon for rocket scientist and plumber for cook and the result would be the same. In addition, it should be noted that three years of skilled work experience is worth the same as 10 or 15 years, as the number of points awarded ‘caps out’ at three years. With this in mind, it is worth seeing if a candidate’s spouse can obtain more points as the principal applicant.

Provincial Nominee Programs

Each of the above sections has touched on the reality that every improvement to a candidate’s profile may also bring the candidate closer to being eligible to apply to an Express Entry PNP category—and this is really where the big gains are to be found. We’re talking about 600 points, an ITA at a subsequent draw, and a straight pathway to permanent residence. To achieve this, however, it’s important to display your full education and work record, stay up to date on Canadian immigration news, and have all your documents ready and reviewed in preparation to make an application promptly. PNP categories often open and close quickly, sometimes within days or even hours.

Saskatchewan’s Express Entry-aligned PNP category, for example, has opened and closed seven times since it was first introduced last year. Not only that, but it recently changed its eligible occupations list—a change that came with no prior warning. Candidates who are not ready to apply to a PNP, or who do not keep their profile up to date, are in a far worse position than organized, knowledgeable candidates.

Combinations Are Key

As I have outlined above, the skills transferability factors (also known as combinations) are an oft-forgotten or underestimated area for boosting a CRS ranking. I can’t stress enough how much these combinations may be the key to success. Very often, candidates are so wrapped up in one or two areas that they miss the forest for the trees, so please consider combinations when looking at improving your CRS score.

Obtaining a Job by Networking and Visiting Canada

Obtaining a Canadian job offer from abroad is a difficult, though not impossible, task. The task becomes far more realistic, however, if you network, make connections, and secure interviews. Employers generally prefer to meet with potential employees in person, and therefore potential candidates in Canada have an advantage. Serious candidates for immigration to Canada should consider taking the time to make a visit to Canada in preparation for the major life decision they are taking. Before coming, they can set up interviews and networking opportunities, perhaps even coordinate the visit with a job fair or similar recruitment event.

Not only would visiting Canada increase a candidate’s chances of landing a skilled job, it may also increase their PNP options, as certain PNPs reward individuals for their previous visit(s) to a province.

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New Canada Express Entry draw continues record low start to 2018

New Canada Express Entry draw continues record low start to 2018

New Canada Express Entry draw continues record low start to 2018

New Canada Express Entry draw continues record low start to 2018

CRS cut-off score of 444 in latest Express Entry draw and 2,750 candidates invited to apply

The Government of Canada has invited 2,750 Express Entry candidates to apply for permanent residence in a draw that took place January 24.

The Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) cut-off score for this draw was 444, a reduction of two points from the previous Express Entry draw on January 10, which had a CRS cut-off score of 446.

As with the five previous draws, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) employed a tie-break rule. In this case, the time and date of the tie-break was January 17, 2018 at 12:33:00 UTC. This means that all candidates with a CRS score above 444, as well as those candidates with scores of 444 who entered their profile in the Express Entry pool before this time, will receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA).

Both the first and second draws of 2018 already have CRS scores well below the first two draws of 2017, which went on to set a number of Express Entry records.

Sixteen draws over the first half of 2017 eventually led to a record low CRS cut-off score of 413 on May 31.

As part of its three-year immigration levels plan unveiled last November, IRCC has set an admissions target of 74,900 for Express Entry for 2018, an increase of 3,200 over its target for 2017.

If the higher admissions target for 2018 translates into more frequent draws, that could also mean further record-breaking CRS cut-off scores.

The start of 2018 has also seen activity among Express Entry-aligned Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) streams in Manitoba and Ontario. Such PNPs are becoming an increasingly popular fast-track option for Express Entry candidates.

On January 22, Ontario’s Human Capital Priorities Stream issued 340 Notifications of Interest to Express Entry candidates who had submitted their profile between January 1 and January 19. On January 11, Manitoba’s Express Entry Pathway issued 155 Letters of Advice to Apply to Express Entry candidates who have also submitted a profile with the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program (MPNP).

Express Entry candidates with a provincial nomination receive an additional 600 CRS points, putting them well within reach of an ITA in a subsequent draw.

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