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How to Get Express Entry to Canada: The Ultimate Guide

Welcome to the Ultimate Guide on Canada's Express Entry System. If you have any questions about the Express Entry process, chances are you will find the answers here. 

We will cover everything about Canada's most popular immigration system, from how it works to how you can apply and improve your chances of being selected. 

Do you want to immigrate to Canada? Make sure the answer is yes because once you start down this road, you won’t want to turn back.

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1. What is Express Entry?

wooden deck with chairs over looking lake | Canada Express Entry

It’s all in the name. The Express Entry System is Canada’s premier immigration vehicle. Made up of three federal immigration programs the system enables skilled individuals and their families to move to Canada as residents in as little as six months. The system was introduced in 2015 and has been increasing the number of applications it processes every year. It works by ranking potential applicants against each other using a points-based system. The highest-ranking candidates are issued Invitations to Apply (ITA’s) for permanent residency in Canada.

In late 2019, immigration minister Marco Mendicino made many hopeful immigrants very happy by announcing that over the following three years, Canada aimed to welcome just over a million foreigners and their families to the country. The Express Entry System was planned to contribute roughly one-third of that number, around 270,000 people. Now it is safe to say no one could have predicted a global pandemic in the year following his statement and how that target will be adjusted remains to be seen. The incredible thing is this; by 30 June 2020, just over 45,000 people had already been invited to apply for permanent residence. So, by the end of the year one of Canada’s immigration programs, amidst a pandemic, will likely have achieved its target of issuing 90,000 ITA’s.

Incredibly, in 2020 the Immigration and Refugee Council of Canada (IRCC) has, to date, issued 69,950 ITA’s, more than any year before. If there was any question about the continued intentions of the Canadian government’s massive immigration plan, that number surely puts it to rest.

2.How Does It Work?

Afrocan-american woman sitting at desk thinking | Canada Express Entry | How Does it Work?

1. Determine eligibility - The first step is to determine whether you are eligible for Canadian immigration and for this immigration program in particular. The two most vital questions you need to answer before you proceed any further are:

  • Do you have a criminal record? People with criminal records are deemed inadmissible to Canada. A possible exception is a DUI offence, for which you will be required to undertake rehabilitation.
  • Do you have any serious medical conditions? Some serious medical conditions may exclude you from being able to become a permanent resident of Canada due to the publicly funded government healthcare system.

If you answered no to both questions, let’s proceed to the three federal immigration programs that make up the Express Entry System:

  • Federal Skilled Worker Program - for skilled workers with qualifications and at least one year of foreign work experience in a managerial or professional occupation. You will need to meet minimum requirements with regards to skilled work experience, language ability and education not only be eligible for the program but also to be competitive in your pool of applicants.
  • Federal Skilled Trades Program - for candidates who are qualified in a skilled trade. Typically this will mean having a red seal certification and full journeyman status. Securing a job offer or being certified by a Canadian provincial, territorial, or federal authority is a requirement under this program. Canada is urgently in need of skilled trades workers.
  • Canada Experience Class - this program is reserved for applicants who would fall into one of the above two programs, but already have at least one year of experience working in Canada in their respective skilled occupations. The applicants in this pool are given preference due to the fact that they have demonstrated that they can live, work, and competently function as members of Canadian society.

2. Create an Express Entry profile online - If you are eligible for one of the programs listed above, you will be required to create a personal online profile. You will answer questions regarding your age, qualifications, work experience, marital status, and English or French language abilities. Your answers will be used to calculate a Comprehensive Ranking Score (CRS) for your profile. You may be required to submit supporting documentation for some of your claims, but usually, this comes in the following stage.

Your application will then be entered into a pool with other applicants from all over the world where it will be ranked against theirs based on your CRS score. You will only be ranked against other applicants from your selected program, not against all Express Entry applicants. Twice a month a draw will take place where a certain number of candidates from each pool are selected, based on their CRS ranking, and invited to apply (ITA) for permanent residency in Canada. It is at this stage that all supporting documentation will be required.

While your application is floating around your selected pool, you will be able to increase your CRS score by obtaining certain valued elements. These include scoring a better result on a language test, a job offer from a Canadian employer, and most of all a provincial nomination. It is important to note that it often comes down to one or two points being the difference between applicants. That is why maximizing your profile will be of utmost importance. We would highly recommend creating a profile on Canada Job Bank, a recruitment portal for Canadian employers looking for employees both locally in Canada and abroad. You will be able to transfer your job offer from the Canada Job Bank to your Express Entry profile for a boost in your CRS.

3. Receiving your ITA - if you rank high enough, you will be issued an ITA in one of the bi-monthly draws. The cutoff scores vary depending on both the number of applicants in the pool and the number of invitations the IRCC decides to issue. The cutoff score typically hangs around 372 points, so it is vital that you investigate all the ways you can improve your CRS. If you want to keep up to date with the scores from the latest draws, you can follow us on Facebook or visit our webpage. When you receive your ITA you will have 90 days to formally submit your application together with any and all supporting documentation. From there on out, the processing time is around 6 months and if all your answers are true and verifiable, you will be awarded a certificate of permanent residency.



3. Express Entry Requirements

Man writing in journal | Express Entry Canada Requirements

So, what do you need to get started? There are three important documents that you’ll need to get in order to create your Express Entry profile. The documents do not need to be uploaded during this step, however, you’ll need the information on the documents to accurately complete your profile. Take a look below for more details.

1. Language test

All Express Entry candidates must show their level of proficiency in English or French or both (if applicable). In order to do this, candidates must take an approved language test and use the test scores when submitting their profile.

A language test assesses candidates’ speaking, listening, reading, and writing abilities and the minimum required scores for each language category varies between the three Express Entry-aligned programs.

Approved English Tests for Express Entry Immigration

To prove your proficiency in English you can take the following tests:


Note: Prepare for your IELTS test with our preparation course to score full marks in all categories.

Approved French Tests for Express Entry Immigration

To prove your proficiency in French you can take the following tests:


Approved English Tests
TestInstructions
CELPIP: Canadian English Language Proficiency Index ProgramYou must take the CELPIP-General test
IELTS: International English Testing SystemYou must take the General Training option
Approved French Tests
TestInstructions
TEF Canada: Test d’évaluation de français,Your test must include writing, speaking, listening and reading comprehension.
TCF Canada: Test de connaissance du françaisYour test must include writing, speaking, listening and reading comprehension.

2. Educational Credential Assessment (ECA)

An Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) is used to verify that your foreign certificate, diploma, or degree is valid and equal to a Canadian one. Although education is only a requirement for the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) it will benefit all Express Entry candidates with credentials to complete an ECA report since education plays a major part in your final CRS score.

Note: An ECA is not required for educational programs completed in Canada.

Designated ECA Organizations

You can apply for an ECA report for immigration purposes from any of the designated organizations listed below. Processing times and costs may vary by organization or professional body.


Designated Organizations
Comparative Education Service – University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies
International Credential Assessment Service of Canada
World Education Services
International Qualifications Assessment Service (IQAS)
International Credential Evaluation Service

Good to know: Those who qualify for the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) or plan to work in a regulated occupation such as medicine may need to have their skills and training assessed by regulatory bodies in Canada.

3. Passport Or Travel Document

A valid passport or travel document is required in order to submit an Express Entry profile.

Express Entry Canada Tip: Ensure that your passport, education report and language assessment results remain valid during your entire Express Entry process to avoid having to re-submit your profile or application when one or more of these documents expire.

Express Entry profiles for couples

If you are applying with your spouse or common-law partner you must decide which one of you will be the principal applicant ahead of time. It’s important to note that the vast majority of the CRS score will be based on the principal applicants’ credentials. You can use our CRS Assessment Grid to compare your credentials before you create your profile.

Complete your profile accurately

Carefully and consciously consider everything that you enter in your Express Entry profile. The majority of the important information that you enter into your Express Entry profile carries over automatically into your electronic Permanent Residence (PR) application. It may not seem like a problem until you are required to verify all your data with supporting documents during the final stage of your Express Entry immigration process.

Once you have all three of the required documents and decide on a principal applicant (if applicable) you can create and submit an Express Entry profile.

4. Express Entry Application Process

Canada Express Entry Ultimate Guide infographic | Canada Express Entry

If you receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA), you may submit an official application for permanent residence or sometimes referred to as the electronic Application for Permanent Residence (eAPR) within 90 days. The application is completed and submitted through the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) online web portal.

Applicants will need to scan and upload copies of all supporting documents listed below.

Express Entry Document Checklist

The documents you need to submit along with your e-application are those that support the qualifications and other credentials claimed in your Express Entry profile as well as proof that you are not inadmissible to Canada. Documents provided must be in English or French. If they are not, you will need to have the documents translated by a certified translator.

1) Identity and Civil Status Documents

Passports

Include a copy of the biodata page of your passport or travel document as well for each of your accompanying family members.

Birth certificates

Include birth certificates for everyone included in your application. Adoption certificates are required if you have adopted children.

If you are a resident of a country that does not issue birth certificates, you can alternatively include a document (affidavit) that confirms the details of your birth.

Civil Status

Are you single, married, divorced, widowed, or in a common-law relationship? You must include proof of your civil status.

  • Single and never married: Usually no documents are required
  • Married: Marriage certificate
  • Common-law or conjugal relationship: Evidence of an authentic relationship such as shared ownership of a property or joint lease agreement
  • Divorced: Divorce certificate/s
  • Widowed: Marriage and death certificate

You may need to provide a combination of these documents. For example, if you are divorced and are now in a common-law relationship, you will need to include both your divorce certificate and proof of an authentic common-law relationship.

2) Language Test Results

As a general rule, always include a copy of your language test results. If your spouse or common-law partner completed a language test, be sure to include their results too.

Certain language testing centers give you the option to send your results straight to the IRCC, however, the IRCC prefer that candidates send the results themselves.

3) Education Documents

Include an original Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) report (if you have foreign credentials) along with the following documents to support the credentials you have claimed points for:

  • Copies of certificates, diplomas, or degrees for each completed program of secondary and post-secondary study
  • Copies of transcripts for each completed secondary and post-secondary program
  • If you have claimed Canadian educational credentials, you must provide proof of successful completion of the program

4) Settlement Funds

Express Entry applicants must demonstrate that they have sufficient funds to support themselves and their family members during their settlement into Canada. Applicants with valid job offers in Canada, as well as CEC applicants are exempt from this requirement.

Important

The number of family members includes both accompanying and non-accompanying dependents. That means even if your spouse or children don’t immigrate to Canada with you, your settlement funds must still reflect their share.

The figures below are in place as of January 1, 2020.

Canada Express Entry Settlement Funds Infographic

5) Work Experience Documents

This step is very important since Express Entry is purely a skilled worker-driven Canadian immigration program. You need to demonstrate proof of the work experience mentioned on your Express Entry profile. The IRCC will review your document to decide if the NOC code you claimed accurately represents your work experience. For these reasons you will need to provide:

Documents for foreign work experience:

  • Reference letters (for all jobs in the last 10 years)
  • Copies of your employment contracts and payslips (if possible)

Documents for Canadian work experience:

  • T4 tax information slips
  • Notice of Assessment and Option C printout from CRA
  • A copy of your work permit or employment authorization

6) Job Offers

You don’t need a job offer to immigrate to Canada via the Express Entry route. However, if you claimed points for a valid job offer from an employer in Canada on your profile, you must include a letter of employment and your LMIA-number, if applicable.

What’s a valid job offer? To be considered valid under Express Entry Canada, a Canadian job offer must be for a job that is:

  • Full-time and non-seasonal;
  • For a minimum of at least one year;
  • For a job offer at Skill Level 0, A, or B, according to the National Occupational Classification (NOC) system; and
  • Supported by a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), or exempt from needing one.

7) Documents to Prove You're Not Inadmissible to Canada

1. Medical examination confirmation (electronic copies)

You and all of your family members will need a medical exam even if they are not coming with you. This is to ensure that you will be able to sponsor your dependents in the future.

2. Police clearance certificates

You and all of your family members will need police clearance certificates from every country you or they resided in for six months or more since the age of 18. Avoid any delays by starting your police check as soon as you’re in the Express Entry pool.

8) Photos

Include 2 digital photos of you, your spouse or partner, and each dependent child.

9)Proof of Relative

If you claimed points for a relative of yours or your spouse or partners living in Canada, you must provide:

  • 1.Proof of their Canadian citizenship or permanent resident status
  • 2.Proof your relative is residing in Canada like utility bills, Canadian tax documents or banking records
  • 3.Proof of familial relationship.

10) Provincial Nomination

If you achieved a provincial nomination you must include a copy of the nomination certificate that the province or territory sent you.

Get expert assistance with your Express Entry application. Let our immigration specialists optimize your chances of success!



5. CRS Score

Two women helping each other up cliff while hiking | Comprehensive Ranking System | Canada Express Entry

The Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) is a tool used by the Canadian government to rank people who apply for permanent through one of the three Canada immigration programs managed by the Express Entry system through. Canada’s Express Entry draws are competitive which means that only those who are able to acquire the CRS cut off score or higher will receive ITAs for permanent residency. Applicants are ranked on factors such as skills, education, language ability, work experience among other factors.

How are CRS Points Calculated?

Express Entry Canada applicants can receive a maximum of 1,200 CRS points which are broken up into two main sections:

  • Core points = 660 points; and
  • Additional points = 600 points

Core CRS Points

You can earn Core CRS points for the following:

  1. Skills and experience factors
  2. Spouse or common-law partner factors eg. language skills and education; and
  3. Skills transferability eg. education and work experience.

Additional CRS Points

You can earn Additional CRS points for the following:

  1. Canadian degrees, diplomas or certificates;
  2. A valid job offer;
  3. A nomination from a province or territory;
  4. A brother or sister living in Canada (citizen or permanent resident.
  5. Strong French language skills.

CORE POINTS + ADDITIONAL POINTS = TOTAL SCORE

You can score points under these four main categories:


SECTION A - Core/Human Capital
CriteriaMaximum Points With SpouseMaximum Points Without Spouse
Age100110
Education140150
Language Skills(English/French)150160
Canadian Work Experience7080


SECTION B - Spouse or Common-Law Partner
CriteriaMaximum Points
Education10
Language Skills(English/French)20
Canadian Work Experience10


SECTION C - Skills Transferability
EducationMaximum Points
Language Skills(English/French) + Education50
Canadian Work Experience + Education50
Foreign Work ExperienceMaximum Points
Language Skills(English/French) + Foreign Work Experience50
Foreign Work Experience + Canadian Work Experience50
Certificate of Qualification (Trades)Maximum Points
Language Skills(English/French) + Education Certificate50


SECTION D - Additional Points
CriteriaMaximum Points
Brother and Sister Living in Canada15
French Language Skills30
Post-Secondary Canadian Education30
Arranged Employment200
Provincial Nomination600


So now that you’ve completed your online Express Entry profile, it’s time to kick up your feet and wait for your ITA, right? Wrong! Unless you already have a really high score, there’s always a way to improve your CRS score and with it your chances of immigrating to Canada.

6.FAQs

boy sitting looking at sunset | Canada Express Entry Frequently Asked Questions

1. How Much Does it Cost to Get Express Entry to Canada?

There are various fees that will need to be paid at different stages of the process. Take a look at our all-inclusive table below:


Canada Express Entry Costs
Before Entering Express Entry Pool
ItemCost
Educational Credential Assessment (ECA)
Required for FSWP candidates, and recommended for FSTP & CEC candidates, who studied outside Canada
$200+
Language test(s)$200+
Additional Items & Costs
Police clearance certificate(s)Depends on the country. May range from free service to up to $100 or more.
Medical report$200+
Representation by a lawyer or regulated consultantRanges depending on case by case basis
Government Fees
Processing fee$825
Right of permanent residence fee$500
Addition of accompanying spouse/partner$825 for processing fees, $500 for right of permanent residence fees
Addition of dependent child(ren)$225 per child

2.How Many Points Do You Need to Immigrate to Canada?

This of course depends on which Canada immigration program you choose and the average score of the applicants you are ranked against in your draw pool. If you are applying through the FSWP you will need to score at least 67 out of 100 points to qualify. This is scored differently to the Comprehensive Ranking System. The CRS cut off scores have ranged between 431 and 808 so far this year, but on average the cut-off score over all Express Entry draws held in 2020 has been 551 CRS points.

3. Do I Need a Job Offer to Qualify for Express Entry?

No. Although you technically don't require a job offer to move to Canada via the Express Entry system, it will certainly help boost your CRS score by an extra 10 - 200 points.

4. What is the Maximum Age to Be Able to Apply for Express Entry to Canada?

There is technically no maximum age to apply for a visa through Express Entry however if you are 45 years or older you will not be able to score any CRS points. The optimum age to claim points is between 20 and 29 years old as you’ll be able to score the maximum amount of points (100 with your spouse and 110 on your own).

5. How Long Does it Take to Immigrate to Canada Through Express Entry?

The average processing time for Express Entry is 6 months but it could take up to 8 months for the entire process, including your application for permanent residency. This is also dependent on whether all your documents and application forms are in order.

For answers to more Canadian Express Entry Frequently Asked Questions visit our blog here.


7. Take the Express Entry Route to Canada

wooden Canada sign post | Canada Express Entry

Applying for a visa can be time-consuming and difficult to wrap your head around. With strict deadlines, procedures, and requirements, it can be easy to make a mistake that could cost you your chance to immigrate through Canada's Express Entry system. But with the guidance and assistance of one of our knowledgeable Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCIC’s)the process will be stress-free.

When you choose to use our expert and government trusted service you will get:

  • An in-depth eligibility assessment
  • Guidance on which of 100+ immigration programs and visas to choose from;
  • An immigration plan tailored to your individual needs;
  • A review and submission of all application forms and documentation; as well as
  • Support through every step of the application process.

All you have to do is fill out our application form to receive your eligibility assessment and let us take care of the rest. It’s just that simple! Your Canadian journey starts here.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram to stay up to date on Canadian immigration and visa news.

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