The most efficient way to immigrate to Canada is via the Canadian Express Entry System (EES). It started in 2015 to enable skilled migrants and their families to move to Canada in six months. During the pandemic, the Canadian government allowed for an increased amount of permanent residence visas to be issued for potential immigrants already living and working in Canada while starting programs to fast-track essential workers and international students.
This led to a massive backlog of potential immigrants in 2021, and Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) changed their selection preferences, primarily giving Invitations to Apply (ITAs) to people already living and working in Canada. In the first quarter of 2022, Canada was only able to issue 7,257 ITAs compared to the 43,840 issued in the first quarter of 2021.
However, all is not lost. By following the guidelines below, you can have the best chance of getting express entry to Canada.
Step 1: Get an ITA
To have the best possibility of receiving an ITA, you must follow the application process to a tee. The most important part of the process is ensuring your eligibility for immigration. There are many eligibility categories you must fulfill.
The two major issues that may make you ineligible for the Express Entry Program are:
- A criminal record
- A serious medical condition
Step 2: Choose your Express Entry Program
If you're not affected by either of these issues, create an Express Entry profile and apply to one of three Express Entry programs.
- This program has a minimum requirement based on age, skilled work experience, education, language, adaptability, and a valid job offer.
- All of your attributes are valued in a points system out of 100 with a pass mark of 67.
- This program allows entry to skilled workers with a valid job offer for one year minimum or certification in a skilled trade given by a Canadian provincial, territorial or federal authority.
- These jobs are ranked under the National Occupational Classification (NOC).
- This class covers those who have had at least one year of work experience in Canada in their skilled occupation.
If you're eligible for one of these categories, you can apply for the Express Entry pool online. Based on the above criteria, your eligibility will be calculated to create your Comprehensive Ranking Score (CRS), which ranks you against other Canadian immigration applicants. You should have a comprehensive understanding of how the CRS works to get the best possible score.
Step 3: Fulfill Language and Education requirements
To be considered eligible for Express Entry to Canada, you will have to meet Canadian standards with regard to your qualifications and language ability.
The next step in your application process is the Canadian language tests. English speakers must take one of the following tests to determine their language level according to the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) through one of the following tests:
- This is the leading English proficiency test in Canada.
- This is the most recognized test within the Express Entry system.
The IELTS score is more relevant as it’s far easier to convert to a CLB. You need a minimum CLB score of 7 to apply for FSWP or a CLB minimum score of 5 for the FSTP. For the best chance to fulfil your IELTS requirement for Express Entry, we recommend you take our IELTS preparation course which provides exercises and tips to prepare for the test.
If you can fulfill your IELTS requirement for Express Entry, it’ll count towards your CRS. There are also tests for French speakers. The best language scores are given to those who score well in both English and French tests.
The French tests are:
- TEF Canada: est d’évaluation de français
- TCF Canada: Test de connaissance du français
A huge component in the success of your application for express entry to Canada is to pass an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA). You must prove your qualifications are valid and equal to or relative to a Canadian qualification. This massively affects your final CRS score and the success of your application. If you want to apply for the FSTP, you must be assessed by a Canadian regulatory body.
Invitation to Apply (ITA)
When you get your CRS score, you can see if you've met the requirements of the program you've applied for. You’ll then enter into the Express Entry pool where you must keep up to date with the Express Entry draws. Those happen every two weeks and will alert you if you‘ve been sent an ITA for permanent residence in Canada. The CRS requirements change with each draw so if you didn't qualify for this particular draw, it doesn't mean you won't ever be eligible.
Step 4: Provide Documentation
Once you've made it through the pool and have been sent your ITA, you have 60 days to assemble the documents needed for your application to be accepted. To apply for express entry to Canada, it's pivotal you have relevant, up-to-date and valid documentation.
What you’ll need is as follows:
- Birth Certificates
- This can be replaced with an affidavit if necessary.
- National Occupation Classification (NOC)
- Education Credential Assessment report (ECA)
- Proof of civil status
- Recent language tests
- Proof of settlement funds
- Verification that you're eligible to enter Canada
- Police clearance certificates
- Results of a medical exam ordained by certified health officials
- Work experience documents Reference letters (for all jobs in the last 10 years), copies of all employment contracts and payslips
- Two digital photos of you, your spouse or common-law partner, and dependent children
- Canadian job offer*
- Letter of employment
- Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) number
- Provincial Nomination*
Once everything has been scanned and uploaded to the IRCC web portal, the difficult part is done. That said, this isn't the time to relax. There are plenty of ways to improve your CRS score to give your application its best shot.
Step 5: Keep Your Details Up To Date
Once you've completed your process, submitted your application and improved your CRS score, all that's left is the Express Entry processing time. The Canadian government is far more efficient than most and will likely process your application in under 6 months. There are a few things that extend the Express Entry processing time which you should watch out for, such as:
- Unverified information
- Security or criminal issues
- More background checks are needed
- Unclear family situation
- Incomplete divorce or adoption proceeding
- Unresolved child custody issues
- More documentation or an interview is required
Most of these factors stem from insufficient information from the applicant. You must keep your information or anything that could affect your CRS score up to date via the IRCC Webform. Check your application status online via the IRCC secure accounts portal.
Express Entry processing times change depending on the number of applications, pressure on the system and number of applicants allowed to receive ITAs.
Express Entry Application Costs
The Express Entry process has several costs involved that you must pay for your application to be processed successfully. This is why it's imperative that every step of the Express Entry Process is done correctly. The costs you will incur are:
Before entering the Express Entry pool, you must pay for:
- Educational Credential Assessment (ECA)
- Language test(s)
After that, you must pay certain government fees:
- Processing fee
- Right of permanent residence fee
- Additional costs for children
- $230 per child
On top of these, you must pay additional costs:
- Police clearance certificate(s)
- Depending on your country, it can be up to over $100
- Medical report
- Legal Representation or Consultancy
- Depending on the case
Do I Need a Job Offer to Qualify for Express Entry?
No. However, it’ll boost your CRS score by 10 - 200 points, depending on the job. Not having a job offer may damage your score but you’ll still be able to get a passing score if you score highly in all of the other categories.
What is the Maximum Age to Be Able to Apply for Express Entry to Canada?
There’s no maximum age but if you’re 45 years or older, you won’t score any CRS points. However, if you’re over 18 and under 45 you will score points based on both your youthfulness but also your experience. As a result, those between 20 and 29 score maximum points.
Do I Get Permanent Residence Through Express Entry?
Yes, your ITA is for a permanent residency visa. The express entry system is designed to give applicants a permanent residency visa if they’re able to pass the vetting process. This is why it takes months to go through.
To get express entry to Canada, you’ll need to prepare, be patient, put in a lot of care and focus. If you're an eligible applicant, it can be the fastest way to get your Canadian visa. However, it falls to the luck of the draw. It’s pivotal to do as many tests, checks and procedures as possible. You must meet requirements like the IELTS requirement for Express Entry. Show your best self to the Canadian authorities and, who knows? You could be in Canada before the Express Entry processing time of 6 months.
We know this can be a long, complicated and stressful process which is why you can use the Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCICs) we work with to help you along. Fill out one of our application forms today to start your journey. Bonne chance!