Maximising your time in the Express Entry Pool

Asheesh Moosapeta
Published: September 19, 2023

Canadian permanent residence (PR) offers a chance at a new life in a country that provides an extremely high standard of living, government support, and freedom from discrimination.

While Canadian PR is attainable, the process of applying can be daunting, and for most the largest portion of this process entails simply waiting. Even if a candidate receives an invitation to apply (ITA) as soon as they enter the Express Entry pool they will likely see a wait of at least 6 months in processing time—with most experiencing much longer pauses before receiving an ITA.

This time does certainly not have to be used to simply wait however—as there is much candidates can do in the interim to increase their chances of PR eligibility, and to better prepare for a life in Canada once they receive their ITA. CIC News has prepared the following guide to outline some of the best ways that candidates can use their time in the Express Entry pool.

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Updating your Express Entry profile

Perhaps the most powerful thing that candidates can do once they are in the Express Entry pool is to update their profile with information that impacts their Comprehensive Ranking Score (CRS). The CRS is Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC’s) system for assessing immigration candidates based on their human capital factors (qualities of candidates like their age, language ability, education, and more). These scores directly determine a candidate’s likelihood of receiving an ITA; with a maximum attainable score of 1,200 points.

Future candidates can calculate their CRS score by using our free CRS calculator here.

Here are some of the simplest ways that Express Entry candidates can increase their CRS score:

Increasing language proficiency

Language proficiency (in either English of French) plays a crucial role in the evaluation of candidates; who are appraised based on four abilities: reading, listening, speaking, and writing. Each category gets an individual Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB), and candidates must have at least a CLB 4 rating to start earning points. The points increase significantly with each level between CLB 6 and CLB 9. An improvement to CLB 7 yields an additional 8 points per skill.

Being proficient in French offers added advantage, with the potential to earn 6 extra points per skill in a second language. If French is your primary language, a Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens (NCLC) level 7 or higher score in all four French skills, and a CLB of 4 or above in all English skills results in the same point increment. With an NCLC 7 and CLB 5, you can earn up to 50 extra points.

Also, with the introduction of category-based Express Entry draws, candidates proficient in French can now be invited through these specific invitations, even with a lower CRS score. Click here to read our guide on increasing your French language proficiency.

Increase foreign work experience

Even though foreign work experience on its own doesn't increase one’s CRS score, it can be advantageous when combined with a high CLB.

With a CLB of 7 and one year of work experience, for example, you can expect a 13-point boost. Two or more years of overseas work experience can potentially add an extra 25 to 50 points to your score.

This rule also applies to any Canadian work experience you possess. Combining one year of Canadian work experience with one year of foreign skilled work gives an extra 13 CRS points, increasing to up to 50 points if both exceed two years.

Acquire and extend Canadian Work Experience

Picking up work experience in Canada can augment a candidate's CRS score by up to 80 points, depending on the duration of the experience. Even just a year of work experience in a skilled occupation in Canada can contribute 40 points.

Work permits are the usual path by which foreign nationals can obtain Canadian work experience.

Obtain additional credentials

If the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, acquiring an additional educational qualification can heighten your score.

If you have already finished a three-year or longer program resulting in a certificate, diploma, or degree, you'll receive 112 points. Completing a further one-year program and obtaining an additional certificate, diploma, or degree can elevate your score to 119 points.

Research Provincial Nominee Programs

Another step that candidates within the Express Entry pool can take to increase their CRS score is to research and apply to a Provincial Nomination Program (PNP).

Currently, Canada’s main pathway for economic immigration, PNPs help spread the benefits of immigration throughout Canada, and allow individual provinces (except for Quebec, which runs its own skilled immigration program) to nominate candidates to immigrate to their province.

Candidates in the Express Entry pool can also benefit from these PNPs, through something called an enhanced nomination. These are PNP nominations for those in the Express Entry pool, and (if candidates are nominated by their province of choice) can yield an additional 600 CRS points.

Note however that provincial nominations come with the expectation that candidates will make a reasonable effort to move to the province that nominates them.

Getting licensed for the Canadian labour market

For many immigrants who come to Canada, employment opportunities can often be delayed while new permanent residents wait to receive professional Canadian credentials or licensing (the latter of which is needed to work in a regulated profession in Canada).

Candidates in the Express Entry pool can get a head start on this process in a number of ways. For example, researching the steps needed to get licensed for their specific profession in Canada can greatly help speed up this process, and help newcomers hit the ground running. You can check if your occupation is regulated by searching the job title through the National Occupation Code (NOC) page, to determine whether your job requires a license or certificate of qualification in Canada.

In addition, many private institutes in Canada run bridging programs, which are specifically designed to help internationally trained professionals adapt their skills and receive professional licensing within the country. Some of these programs are even online, giving candidates outside of Canada a chance to get a head start on preparing for their careers in the country.

Networking in advance

Yet another step that candidates in the Express Entry pool can take to help their employment prospects in Canada, is to begin networking with relevant Canadian professionals in advance.

Networking can be a crucial tool to finding employment in Canada, and further to gain access to what is often referred to as the “secret” employment market (jobs that companies are hiring for but are not posted on popular job boards like or Indeed).

In addition, online networking can be very effective, with platforms like LinkedIn providing candidates both in and outside of Canada with a chance to meet and build relationships with Canadian professionals.

For more on networking in Canada for newcomers, visit our dedicated site here.

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