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Express Entry to Canada 

Introduced in January 2015, Canada's Express Entry (EE) system was developed to allow Canada to meet its future labour market needs in order to maintain long-term economic growth. In 2019, 85,300 Invitations to Apply (ITAs) were issued, 40,550 of which were issued to those who applied from outside Canada. The immigration target for 2020 is set at 195,800 through federal economic programs, like those under the Express Entry System, and this number is expected to significantly increase as the year continues.   

The system was introduced by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and it is used to select candidates for immigration to Canada through many of the Federal Economic Immigration programs. Candidates who intend to apply for immigration through the Federal Skilled Worker Class, Federal Skilled Trades Class, and Canadian Experience Class are required to do so through the system. 

As the main driver of economic migration to Canada, it is seen as a flagship program providing a fast-track route to Canadian immigration. Let's take a closer look at how far the Express Entry system has come, whether it is fulfilling its objectives, and what this means for you as an applicant. 

History of the Canadian Express Entry System

Canada's Express Entry program was launched in January 2015 to help people apply for Canadian permanent residence, under three categories:

Early Rounds

At the beginning of 2015, the majority of admissions came from applications submitted before January 1. These early draws included a large number of applications from foreign nationals who already worked in Canada. Many of those immigrants were given ITAs because they had job offers supported by a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).

In the first ten draws, which took place over six months, a total of 11,353 ITAs were issued to candidates. Since the first draw on January 21, 2015, the system has developed into one of the most efficient immigration programs in Canada.

Remember that the number of invited candidates can be lower than the number of invitations sent. This happens when some candidates receive more than one invitation or when invitations are declined.

System Improvements

Over time, the number of ITAs issued under the system have continued to rise, because of Canada’s growing market. Due to this upwards trend, improvements were made to the system in the fall of 2016.

These changes came into effect on November 19, 2016. Aimed at creating a fair immigration system, the changes address human resource needs, while ensuring long-term economic growth for the country.

The improvements include awarding points for job offers made to eligible candidates already in Canada with LMIA-exempt work permits and to international students who have completed their education in Canada

In addition, more time is now allocated for candidates to submit applications for permanent residence once they have received ITAs.

Job Offers

From Nov 19, 2016, Points Awarded by the CRS for a Job Offer Changed in Three Basic Ways:

Points will be awarded for job offers made to eligible candidates who are on LMIA exempt work permits. Many foreign workers in Canada who are temporarily on an employer-specific LMIA-exempt work permit, but who want to stay in Canada permanently, will no longer need to get an LMIA to be awarded job offer points by the CRS. This includes candidates who are here under the North American Free Trade Agreement, a federal-provincial agreement, or who are intra-company transferees. For the points to be awarded, the candidate must meet certain criteria, such as having at least one year of work experience from the same employer who is providing their job offer.
Job offers will only need to be a minimum of one year in duration once they receive permanent residence. Changing the job offer requirement from permanent to one year means that more highly skilled candidates working in contract-based industries will have a higher likelihood of receiving an Invitation to Apply for permanent residence.
Points awarded for job offers will be reduced. A total of 50 points will be awarded to candidates with a valid job offer in a National Occupational Classification (NOC) 0, A or B occupation, while a total of 200 points will be awarded to candidates with a valid job offer in a NOC 00 occupation.

80% of EE candidates in 2017 got ITAs, even without a job offer. This means that even without a job offer it is still possible to qualify for this program. 


Points will now be awarded for study in Canada above high school. The CRS will award 15 points for a one or two-year diploma or certificate and 30 points for a degree, diploma, or certificate of three years or longer, including a master’s, professional or doctoral degree. 

With these changes, more former international students will be able to transition to permanent residency using the system. Former international students are a key source of candidates for the system because of their age, education, skills, and experience. Permanently integrating into Canadian society will be easier for them, because they have already familiarized themselves with life in Canada.  

Candidates will now have 60 days to complete an application for permanent residence if they get an invitation to apply. This will give candidates more time to gather all the required documentation and submit a complete application.

Since the new changes came into effect the number of ITAs issued has progressively increased and the number of CRS points required has significantly decreased. 

Express Entry to Canada ITA Numbers

1. Most number of ITAs issued in one draw – 3,750 on June 25, 2018
2. Least number of ITAs issued in one draw – 290 on November 1, 2017 (this draw was for candidates invited under provincial nomination only)
3. Number of ITAs issued in 2015 – 31,063
4. Number of ITAs issued in 2016 – 33,782
5. Number of ITAs issued in 2017 – 86,022
6. Number of ITAs issued in 2018 –89,800
7. Number of ITAs issued in 2019 –85,300
8. Number of ITAs issued so far in 2020 –65,750
9. Total number of ITAs issued since the system was introduced – 391,717

Why the Program Is Popular

Applications can take as little as six months to process, making this program one of the fastest immigration programs in Canada. Only immigrants who have the right skills required in each province can qualify, unlike the Green Card Lotteries used in the U.S. 

Applicants who are successful with the program can eventually apply for permanent residence in Canada.

Express Entry to Canada: Application Process

Express Entry Infographic | Canada Express Entry system

You must first:

  • Find out if you meet the basic requirements;
  • Create an online Express Entry Profile and make sure you have your:
    • Passport;
    • National Occupation Classification (NOC);
    • Education credential assessment report;
    • Recent language tests:
      • International English Language Testing System (IELTS);
      • Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP); and/or
      • Test d'Evaluation de Français (TEF)
    • Canadian job offer (If you have one); and
    • Provincial Nomination (If you have one)
  • Receive a CRS (Comprehensive Ranking System) score out a possible 1,200 points;
  • Get an Invitation to Apply (ITA) if you score high enough on the CRS. An ITA means you can apply for permanent residence in Canada:
    • Please note that the score needed to apply for permanent residence changes for each draw. Even if you do not qualify for a specific draw, you still remain in the pool for one year.
  • Pay an application fee and a Right of Permanent Residence Fee;
  • Provide Proof of Funds to show you can support your family;
  • Provide Police Certificates;
  • Prepare for a medical exam from certified health professionals; and
  • Contact previous employers to provide job letters to prove you have valid work experience

Please note that if you have a Canadian job offer, your future employer may need to provide you with an LMIA. 

Comprehensive Ranking System

Applicants are ranked on a system called the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS), which determines who gets selected from the Express Entry Pool first. This system scores you based on four main factors:

  • Human Capital Factors;
  • Spouse and Common Law Partner;
  • Skill Transferability; and
  • Additional Factors

These factors take into account:

  • Age;
  • Work experience;
  • Education qualifications;
  • Language skills;
  • Adaptability;
  • Job offers; and
  • Spouse or common-law partner

The higher the applicants’ scores on the CRS, the better their chances of becoming a permanent resident of Canada. The highest you can score on this system is 1,200 points. 

There are several ways to improve your CRS scores, like receiving a Provincial Nomination that adds an extra 600 points or getting a Canadian job offer, which is worth 50-600 points. For example, a job offer from a level 00 job under the National Occupation Classification (NOC) will give you an additional 200 points. Any other job level offer from a Canadian employer will give you an additional 50 points. But a job offer under a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) will give 600 CRS points. 

Another way to increase your score is through Core Human Capital Factors (600 Points). This awards points for education qualifications like certificates, diplomas, and degrees. The higher your educational qualifications, the better the score you will receive.

If you apply with your spouse or common-law partner it can also help increase your score, if they have the correct work experience and educational background. Having more work experience can also have an impact on CRS results.  

Language skills are a great way to increase CRS scores. The higher applicants score on recognized French and English tests like IELTS, TEF, and CELPIP, the better the results. In total, language skills can add an extra 150 points.

Canada Immigration Plan: 2019 - 2021


In March 2020, the government of Canada released its Immigration Plan for the following 3 years, seeking to improve ways to immigrate to Canada by making the application process easier and less time-consuming. Canada has continued to raise its immigration targets and aims to welcome 341,000 newcomers in 2020, of which a total of 91,800 is expected to be invited to apply for permanent residence through the Express Entry system and about 67,800 through the Provincial Nominee Program. These totals are expected to increase by 1,000 ITAs every year to 351,000 in 2021 and 261,000 in 2022. Below is a breakdown of the Government plan for Economic Immigration for 2020. 

Economic Canadian Immigration Plan for 2020
Immigration ProgramTarget
Express Entry91,800
Provincial Nominee Program67,800
Quebec Immigration25,250
Economic Pilot's (Caregivers; Agri-food Immigration Pilot; Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot)5,200
Atlantic Immigration5,000
Business Immigration750
Total Economic195,800