How does Canada’s Express Entry system work?

Edana Robitaille
Published: May 24, 2022

Anyone trying to become a permanent resident of Canada will no doubt run into the term “Express Entry” more than once. It is easy to assume that Express Entry is its own immigration program but, surprisingly, this is not correct. Understanding what Express Entry is, and how it works, is a vital step before submitting an application.

Express Entry is a system, not a program

Express Entry is an application management system introduced by Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in 2015. It was brought in after it was found that the existing system was not efficient in processing the overwhelming number of applications that IRCC receives.

In the past, Canada reviewed every single application that was submitted, regardless of whether or not an applicant met a baseline of qualifications. This meant that processing times for all applicants could take over five years.

Get a Free Express Entry Assessment

How does Express Entry work?

Express Entry is not as complicated as it appears at first glance. The first step is to find out if you are eligible. You then need to complete your profile to express your interest in applying for status as a permanent resident in Canada. You will then get a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score. Roughly every two weeks, IRCC invites the highest-scoring candidates to apply.

Here is a simplified, step-by-step breakdown of the Express Entry process.

Step 1: Check if you are eligible for Express Entry. Each of the three Express Entry-managed programs will have its own minimum eligibility criteria. You need to be eligible for at least one.

Step 2: Complete your language testing and get an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA).

Step 3: Submit your profile to the IRCC website.

Step 4: Wait to see if you receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence from IRCC.

Step 5: If you receive an ITA, submit your completed electronic Application for Permanent Residence (e-APR) to IRCC and pay your fees within the 60-day deadline. You need to include your medical exam and police certificates as part of this step. IRCC will then provide you with an Acknowledgment of Receipt (AOR).

Step 6: Submit your biometrics once IRCC asks you to do so.

Step 7: Wait for IRCC to make a final decision on your application. Once it is approved you will receive a Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) and a permanent resident visa (if you are from a country that requires a visa) so you can complete your landing.

Get a Free Express Entry Assessment

What counts as skilled work under Express Entry?

“Skilled” workers are defined by Canada’s National Occupational Classification (NOC) system.

In short, the NOC is a system that Canada uses to determine the level of skill and education necessary to an occupation or career in Canada. For Express Entry, there are three NOC categories that are eligible:

NOC 0: Management positions, such as in a restaurant

NOC A: Careers that typically require a university degree

NOC B: Skilled trades and technology

Each NOC category has a separate ranking system and applicants are assigned specific numeric codes based on their occupation.

The Federal Skilled Worker Program

The FSWP is designed for skilled workers who meet certain requirements in language, work experience, and education gained abroad. Minimum requirements are one year of work experience, a CLB score of 7, proof of funds, and proof of education. You also need to get at least 67/100 on the FSWP points grid.

Canadian Experience Class

The CEC is specifically for those who have at least one year of skilled work experience in Canada within the past three years.

The language requirement differs based on their NOC classification. Candidates whose occupations fall under NOC 0 and A need a CLB of at least 7, whereas NOC B workers need a CLB of at least 5.

Federal Skilled Trades Program

Facing a shortage of skilled trades workers, Canada created the FSTP in 2013. The program works similarly to FSWP but is exclusively for skilled trades. Those who enter Canada with the FSTP must have two years of work experience in a skilled trade, have a full-time job offer from a Canadian employer, or a certificate of qualification from a Canadian authority.

Provincial Nominee Program

Each province or territory (with the exceptions of Quebec and Nunavut) has a Provincial Nominee Program (PNP).

Provinces regularly review the pool of Express Entry candidates. If a candidate, who is eligible for one of the Express Entry-managed programs, meets certain criteria that fill a need for a specific province, the province can issue an invitation to apply for a provincial nomination. Candidates may also indicate in their application that they would like to settle in a specific province. Provincial immigration programs that pull from the Express Entry pool of candidates are called “enhanced” PNPs. If the candidate gets the provincial nomination, they will subsequently receive an additional 600 CRS points.

The Comprehensive Ranking System

The CRS was created to score and rank Express Entry candidates. Those who wish to immigrate using Express Entry must go online to the IRCC website and complete a personal profile. This profile takes roughly an hour to complete. Candidates are scored and ranked based on criteria such as age, language skills, work experience, and education along with other factors. Prior to the pandemic, IRCC would issue ITAs to candidates with the highest CRS scores. It has temporarily departed from this approach, but will be returning to it in early July.

Looking ahead

The pandemic caused delays in the Express Entry system. IRCC paused invitations for CEC and FSWP candidates in an effort to address the backlog in applications.

This upcoming July, IRCC will once again invite CEC and FSWP candidates under Express Entry. Also, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser says that processing standards for new applicants will once again return to six months for new applicants.

Get a Free Express Entry Assessment

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