Last Updated on September 16, 2021
Canada has one of the most advanced immigration systems in the world in Express Entry. Launched in January 2015, it is designed by Canadian authorities to better align the skills of immigrants with the needs of the labour market.
Under Express Entry, candidates are placed in a pool, with each application carrying a score using a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). The federal government identifies the highest-ranked candidates and issues Invitations to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence.
A key feature of the new system is that candidates can improve their score while in the Express Entry pool, without submitting a new application.
The CRS gives a score to a candidate based on the information in the candidate’s profile. These scores allow candidates in the pool to be ranked against each other. Applicants are given points based on the following factors:
- Skills and work experience.
- Language ability in English and/or French.
- Language ability and education of the applicant’s spouse or common-law partner.
- Possession of a job offer supported by a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment.
- Possession of a provincial government nomination for permanent residence.
- Certain combinations of language skills, education and work experience that result in a higher chance of the applicant becoming employed.
Points are distributed as follows:
Total available: 1,200
- Provincial nomination: 600
- Senior management job offer backed by LMIA (National Occupational Code 00): 200
- Other listed job offer backed by LMIA (NOC O, A, B): 50
- Three years’ Canadian post-secondary education OR master’s OR professional degree OR doctorate: 30
- One or two years of Canadian post-secondary education: 15
- Other skills, work experience, education: 500
- Transferable skills and combinations: 100
- Sibling in Canada: 15
How Can a Candidate Increase Their Express Entry CRS Score?
A candidate should consider entering the Express Entry pool as the beginning of their journey to obtaining Canadian permanent residence.
Typically, applicants already working in Canada or those with very high qualifications (under age 30, master’s degree and proficiency in English and/or French), have received invitations.
Candidates outside Canada who do not have a strong profile can submit an application and begin working to improve their qualifications.
Profiles remain valid for 12 months. By entering the pool and simply waiting for an ITA, borderline candidates could be wasting an opportunity.
There are many ways a score can be boosted while a candidate is in the Express Entry pool:
1. Keep a Broad Perspective
Often a candidate can be too focused on one factor instead of being aware of all the areas where points can be increased. For example, a well-educated person may assume they will qualify on that factor alone. Points can be scored by all candidates in a variety of areas. If anything, being strong on one factor should make a candidate focus on others where there is room for improvement. Force yourself to consider each factor one by one and ask the question: How can I improve my score in this area? A small improvement in two or three areas can mean a large improvement overall in the quest for an ITA.
2. Get a Provincial Nomination
Worth 600 points, a provincial nomination is a great way for a candidate to jump to the top of the pool. The best organised candidates will most likely prosper by taking this route. Those who can identify a hiring sponsor employer will succeed here as well. Different provinces have different priority occupations, and these can change all the time. Candidates need to have their applications up to date and ready to send. They also need to stay abreast of the latest news. Some provinces do nothing more than update their websites when categories open or close. Being alert to when those categories open can be the difference between 600 points and an ITA, or another six months spent waiting. Candidates who have previously visited a province can also get extra points, so that is also worth considering.
3. Get a Job Offer
Securing a job offer and the up to 200 points it provides dramatically increases the chances of receiving an ITA. The best way to achieve this is by conducting a comprehensive job search that is linked to visiting Canada. As a candidate is preparing for a potentially life-changing move, visiting the country is always advisable. Aside from offering an insight into what life in Canada will be like, the chances of landing a job are significantly greater if a candidate is available to meet face-to-face with employers or attend employment fairs in Canada. It is possible to obtain a job offer from overseas, but why not increase your chances by visiting Canada?
4. Hire an Employment Professional
Strongly consider hiring an employment professional. This can help improve your digital resume, provide you with an extensive database of potential hiring employers across Canada and share other pointers that will increase your chances. Applicants need to learn how to stand out from others in the pool and maximize their chances. Visit Skilled Worker and Global Recruiters of Montreal for more information.
5. Boost Your Education
a) Is your education from a Canadian institution?
International students completing recognized degrees and diplomas in Canada are awarded extra points under Express Entry.
Points Awarded for Canadian Education Under Express Entry
|Level attained||Points awarded|
|One or two-year post-secondary||15|
|Three-year post-secondary, master’s, professional degree or doctorate||30|
To score Canadian education points, the candidate must have:
- Studied in Canada at a Canadian educational institution.
- Been enrolled in full-time study or training for at least eight months.
- Been physically present in Canada for at least eight months.
b) Advancing your education while in the pool
Achieving a higher level of education means more points, although qualifications achieved outside Canada must first be verified through an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA). There is nothing to stop a candidate completing an undergraduate or a postgraduate degree, depending on the level of education already attained. A bachelor’s degree can be worth up to 170 points. Not only will this result in a better overall score, but it is also a screening criterion for many potential employers.
c) Get all your qualifications assessed
Often candidates only put their highest qualification forward for an ECA. By putting all post-secondary qualifications forwards, a candidate stands to increase their score. One qualification might score better than another in the ECA, or a qualification might better suit the skills being looked for in a particular province. A candidate is always better off proving a broader level of education.
d) Qualifications for Canadian Experience Class candidates
Canadian Experience Class (CEC) applicants can access the Express Entry pool without requiring a post-secondary qualification, which is not true for the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP). This means it is not a requirement for CEC candidates to subject their qualifications to an ECA. But that does not mean a CEC candidate’s score is not boosted by a post-secondary qualification. Simply put, if a candidate is post-secondary educated, he or she needs to take the necessary assessment steps to be given the points the credential is worth.
6. Applying With Your Spouse or Partner?
a) Choose the principal applicant carefully
Candidates may think it is obvious who is better qualified when applying as a couple, but that is not always the case. Those with qualifications and experience in trades can score better than a spouse with a degree or experience in an area Canada already has ample labour supply. This is also worth looking out for under the provincial programs, which specify their own in-demand job categories. Age is also an important factor. It is worth putting in the time to assess who is the best principal applicant. There is also nothing to stop a couple applying twice, each as the principal applicant.
b) Your spouse can score points
Once you have decided who the principal applicant is, the other person in the relationship can boost the CRS score by up to 40 points by increasing Canadian work experience, boosting education or improving language skills. Provincial programs also give points for well-qualified spouses.
7. Increase Your Work Experience
a) Non-Canadian experience
Non-Canadian experience is not as valuable as Canadian experience under Express Entry, but it still counts. Non-Canadian experience comes under the combination factors, worth 100 points overall. This means, for example, that more experience combined with a better language score can boost your points. Points are gained for up to three years of non-Canadian experience.
b) Canadian experience
Canadian experience is the gold standard. It is awarded points in its own right, and a candidate gets additional points for up to five years of working in Canada. If a candidate is in the country and working, he or she should keep doing so.
c) Additional experience
There may be caps on how many points a candidate`s experience can score, but he or she should still keep their profile up to date with all experience. Provinces are on the lookout for expertise in particular areas, and those areas can quickly change. Extra experience could lead to a provincial nomination, worth 600 points.
8. Improve your language skills
Any improvement in a candidate`s language skills can result in a better score, but reaching Canadian Benchmark Level 9 or above can mean an additional 100 points on top of the 260 available in combination with other factors. The better a candidate’s English and/or French, the higher the score, so a candidate should keep going to lessons and keep retaking the tests while he or she is in the Express Entry pool. If you are bilingual in English and French, get both languages assessed to maximize the points available.
9. Stay Informed
The rules under the Express Entry immigration system are continually improved by the Canadian government to ensure the right candidates are being selected. Provinces and territories also periodically enhance their programs to better respond to the many sub labour markets across Canada. By staying in touch with all of the programs at both the federal and provincial levels, you can adjust to any changes before others.