Coming to Canada as a skilled worker: Express Entry or the Provincial Nominee Program?

Julia Hornstein
Published: March 9, 2023

The federal government and the provinces and territories can operate their own distinct immigration programs. However, the federal government makes the final decision about whether a candidate can obtain permanent residence.

Discover if You Are Eligible for Canadian Immigration

Express Entry is a federal system that manages applications by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and is one of the main ways Canada welcomes economic class immigration. Express Entry manages three of the many economic immigration programs operated by the federal government, the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) and the Canadian Experience Class (CEC).

Once a candidate expresses their interest in becoming a permanent resident, they will receive a score according to the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS), which is used to identify skilled workers that will be most successful settling in Canada and participating in Canada’s labour market.

The CRS evaluates a candidate based on their human capital, assessing age, education, language skills, work experience and more. Roughly every two weeks, the Canadian government holds Express Entry draws inviting those with the highest CRS scores to become permanent residents.

The Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) is an option for skilled workers wanting to immigrate to Canada and get permanent resident status. The purpose of the program is to strengthen provincial and territorial economies by allowing the provinces and territories to find immigration candidates that meet the economic needs of their region. If chosen, these candidates obtain a provincial nomination which they can use to support their application for permanent residence.

The benefits of applying to both

A skilled worker looking to immigrate to Canada can submit an Express Entry profile and apply directly to a PNP stream at the same time.

One of the benefits of entering the Express Entry pool is that a candidate can make themselves visible to provinces and territories who can review the profile and provide them with an invitation to apply to their PNP. If a candidate accepts their invitation, they can submit a completed PNP application to the province or territory.

Applying to both programs can be very beneficial to a candidate. It is possible that the candidates initial Express Entry ranking score may not be high enough to receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) by the federal government – but they can increase their score by applying to an “enhanced” PNP program.

An applicant who is eligible for an Express Entry program can indicate that they would like to settle in a particular province. The provincial government can decide if a candidate will be a good fit for the province. If this is the case, the province will issue a notification of interest to the applicant, meaning that the applicant is invited to apply for provincial nomination.

Under Express Entry’s CRS, a provincial nomination results in an Express Entry candidate receiving an additional 600 points, which essentially guarantees receiving an ITA.

Can I settle anywhere under both programs?

The Canadian Constitution specifies that Canadian citizens and permanent residents have “Mobility Rights” meaning they can move freely within the country, take up residence in any province and pursue the gaining of a livelihood in any province.

When you apply for a provincial nomination, you indicate your genuine intention to settle in that province, as provinces nominate candidates to contribute to the economic development of the province. Despite this, you are legally permitted to move to another province due to your Mobility Rights.

However, you are strongly encouraged to be honest about your residency intentions when you submit your PNP application. You are also encouraged to make an effort to live in the province that admitted you before deciding to move somewhere else.

Express Entry is more flexible in terms of places you can settle once granted permanent residence. If you are granted permanent residence through Express Entry without a provincial nomination, you have not committed to residing in any particular province except for Quebec, which operates its own immigration system.

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