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Canadian immigration: How to improve your Express Entry CRS score

Edana Robitaille

Shelby Thevenot

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A Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score is the most influential factor in receiving an invitation to apply (ITA) for Canadian permanent residence through the Express Entry system.

Put simply, candidates with the highest CRS scores are the most likely to get an ITA. If you are not confident that your CRS score is high enough, there are some factors within your control that you can change to get a higher score.

The CRS has been shaped by Canadian government studies on the outcomes of economic class immigrants. It takes this research into account and aims to use to help predict a candidate’s potential for success in the Canadian labour market.

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CRS components

The maximum CRS score a candidate can achieve is 1,200 points—600 points under core, spousal, and skill transferability components, and 600 points under the additional points components.

An Express Entry candidate can receive a maximum of 600 points under the first four components irrespective of their relationship status. The only difference is that points are broken down and distributed differently. For the purposes of this article, we will be assuming that the candidate does not have an accompanying spouse.

Within the additional points component, a candidate can receive points for having a provincial nomination (600 points), arranged employment (50 or 200 points), Canadian post-secondary education credentials (15 or 30 points), French language proficiency (25 or 50 points), or a sibling in Canada (15 points).

Candidates in the Express Entry pool must update their profile to reflect any change in circumstances that could affect their CRS score. Some updates are automatically triggered, like on your birthday or if your language test results expire. For example, your score may go up when you update your profile with a valid job offer, an increased score on your language test, or provide an educational credential assessment for any education acquired abroad.

Start by checking your score

If you are curious, you can check your unofficial score before you apply for Express Entry. Keep in mind though, only IRCC can give you your actual score once you submit your supporting documents into the Express Entry system. Online calculators, including IRCC’s, will only be as good as the information you put into it, and is not necessarily going to be your final result and it’s important to be cautious as some online CRS calculators are not accurate.

That being said, you can get a good idea of where your personal profile puts you in the Express Entry system. Once you know that, you can decide if you need to improve your score and how you want to do it.

If you are not confident that your CRS score is high enough to receive an invitation to apply (ITA) there are a few ways to increase it.

Apply early

Age is one of the more influential factors in the system. If you apply while you are between the ages of 20-29, you will automatically receive 110 CRS points. After this, the number of points for age gradually decreases until 45, which is 0 points. It is important to note that once you pass 30, the system will automatically begin to deduct points. Applying early is one of the easiest ways to maximize your score.

Improve your language score

Language proficiency is also a deciding factor. Candidates are evaluated based on four abilities: reading, speaking, listening, and writing. Each ability is given a separate Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB). You need a CLB 4 to start gaining points and there is a huge jump on each level between CLB 6 and CLB 9. If you improve your score to CLB 7, for example, that is already 8 more points added to your score per ability. Candidates in the FSWP must have a minimum of CLB 7 in reading, speaking, listening, and writing to even be eligible for Express Entry.

If you can add French proficiency, you can get up to 6 points for each ability in a second language. If French is your first language, you must score NCLC 7 or higher on all four French language skills and scored CLB 4 or higher on all four English skills for the same point increase. You can get up to 50 additional points with an NCLC 7 and CLB 5.

Include your foreign work experience

Foreign work experience on its own does not add any points to your CRS score. However, the more skilled work experience you have, when combined with a high CLB, the better. In fact, candidates under the Federal Skilled Worker Program will already have a minimum of one year skilled work experience and a CLB of 7.

Still, having more than a year of foreign work experience in your skilled occupation can increase your CRS score. For example, a combination of one year of foreign work experience and a CLB of 7, is 13 points. If you have two years or more of foreign work experience, you can get up to an additional 25 to 50 points.

The same rule applies if you have some work experience in Canada. One year of Canadian work experience along with one year of foreign skilled work experience can net an additional 13 CRS points and up to 50 if you have more than two years of each.

Get Canadian work experience

Canadian work experience can give candidates up to 80 points depending on how many years of experience they have. Just one year of work experience in a skilled occupation in Canada is 40 points.

One of the most common ways to gain experience is through a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). After completing an education program in Canada, PGWP holders can work in Canada up to three years, depending on the length of their program, and leverage this experience towards a higher CRS score.

Get another credential

If the benefit outweighs the risk, getting an additional educational credential can increase your score.

If you have already completed a certificate, diploma, or degree for a program of three or more years, you get 112 points. You can raise your score to 119 points if you complete an additional one-year program and obtain another certificate, diploma, or degree.

Do you have a sibling in Canada?

If you have a sibling in Canada, you may be able to score another 15 points if they are a citizen or permanent resident.

PNP advantage

Some provinces will search the Express Entry pool for candidates who may be eligible for their Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs). In doing so, they are looking for skilled immigrants who are well suited to contribute to the provincial labour force.

Getting a provincial nomination can increase your CRS by 600 points. This is the biggest possible increase from any single factor. By getting a provincial nomination, you become highly likely to receive an ITA.


A low CRS does not mean you will never receive an ITA. The minimum CRS score changes with every draw. All-program Express Entry draws resumed on July 6 of this year. Over 1000 candidates were issued ITAs each time and the scores were not identical. It’s worth submitting your profile early and working to increase your score while you wait for IRCC to issue you an invitation. There is almost always a way to influence your score.

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