Is it worth accepting a provincial nomination if you are eligible for Express Entry category-based selection?

Edana Robitaille
Published: September 12, 2023

The Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) is one of the most prominent Canadian economic immigration programs and Canada plans to admit 117,500 newcomers through the PNP each year by the end of 2025. Many PNP admissions will include Express Entry candidates.

Express Entry has undergone some major changes this year. On May 31, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced six new attribute-based Express Entry categories.

These categories mean that candidates who meet the criteria for one of the following six categories have another opportunity to receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) in an Express Entry draw:

  • Healthcare
  • Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professions
  • Trades, such as carpenters, plumbers, and contractors
  • Transport
  • Agriculture and agri-food
  • Strong French language abilities

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That said, an eligible Express Entry candidate could receive an ITA in an all-program draw, a program-specific draw, or a category-based selection draw. If the same candidate is also nominated by a province through the PNP, should they accept it?

How does the PNP work?

Each Canadian province and territory (except Quebec and Nunavut) has its own PNP. Through these programs, the federal government allocates nominations that a provincial government can use to select economic immigration candidates who are most likely to successfully integrate into the provincial economy or workforce. This is possible because immigration is a shared responsibility between provincial and federal governments.

A candidate who receives, and accepts, a nomination then applies directly to a province for nomination. If their application is approved, it then strengthens an application for permanent resident status from IRCC.

A candidate can be selected from the Express Entry pool of applicants (called “enhanced nomination”), or they can apply directly to a provincial government, requesting a nomination (called “base nomination”).

Through enhanced nomination, a PNP candidate will receive an additional 600 Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points, virtually guaranteeing that they will be selected in an upcoming Express Entry draw.

Some PNP streams also have similarities to the new category-based Express Entry draws. For example, each week, British Columbia nominates candidates who have an occupation in healthcare and regularly holds draws for those in tech occupations. Other provinces also have dedicated streams that target candidates who have work experience, or are employed in, an occupation that is in high demand in a provincial workforce.

Why take a PNP nomination if I am eligible for category-based selection?

The 600 CRS points from a PNP nomination can still be an advantage even if you are in the Express Entry pool and work in an occupation that falls under one of the new categories.

IRCC has not said that it will cease holding all-program or even program-specific draws for the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program, the Canadian Experience Class or for PNP candidates with Express Entry profiles. In fact, since the introduction of category-based selection in May, most candidates have received invitations in all-program draws.

In an all-program draw, the main deciding factor is a candidate’s CRS score and therefore it is beneficial to have a CRS score that is as high as possible.

This is still true in category-based selection for Express Entry. While these scores are typically a little lower than an all-program draw, exceeding the minimum score is an advantage.

Is there a reason not to accept a provincial nomination?

Candidates who already have a very high CRS score may decide that it is not in their best interest to accept a provincial nomination.

This can be especially true because the PNP requires a separate process from Express Entry, even if you receive an enhanced nomination.

If you receive a non-PNP aligned Express Entry ITA, you only need to submit one application and pay one fee to IRCC to be approved for permanent residence. Most applicants are subject to a processing standard of six months or less.

If you receive an enhanced nomination, you first need to submit an application and pay any applicable fee to the province that is nominating you. You are also subject to the province’s processing standard. Once approved, you submit your permanent residence application to IRCC, with the accompanying fee, and you will also be subject to the six-month processing standard.

This means receiving an enhanced nomination can add time to your immigration journey while waiting for a decision on your nomination. It can also cost more to submit the two applications, depending on the province that nominates you. While some provinces do not charge an application fee, most do.

Examples of PNP application fees

Nova Scotia is one province that does not charge applicants to its PNP. The province has several streams to target applicants who have work experience in in-demand occupations, particularly in healthcare, such as the Labour Market Priorities Stream for physicians.

Ontario, the most popular province for newcomers, does charge applicants to the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) and the fee depends on the program. For example, Masters Graduate, PhD Graduate, and Employer Job Offer: International Student streams, charge a fee of $1,500.

For the Employer Job Offer: Foreign Worker and In-Demand Skills streams, the application fee is as follows:

  • $1,500 if the job offer is outside of the Greater Toronto Area
  • $2,000 if the job offer is within the Greater Toronto Area (City of Toronto, Durham, Halton, York and Peel regions)

Application fees for British Columbia also vary by program. They start as low as $1,475 for skills immigration applications and go as high as $3,500 for entrepreneur or strategic project streams. Alberta has a fee of $500 for all online applications.

The benefit depends on your situation

At the end of the day, choosing to apply for, or accept a provincial nomination depends very much on a candidate’s circumstances. A PNP nomination can make it more likely you will receive an ITA in an Express Entry draw, including a category-based draw, and give you a highly competitive CRS score. However, if your CRS score is already high, and time or money is a consideration, it may be better to wait until IRCC issues an ITA.

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