Express Entry vs PNP: Which one should I apply to?

Asheesh Moosapeta
Published: April 3, 2024

Immigration programs managed by the Express Entry system and Canada’s Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) represent Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC’s) two biggest pathways for new permanent residents coming to Canada every year.

In 2024 these two routes will account for 220,770 new immigrants out of the 485,000 that the country will welcome.

For many looking to immigrate to Canada a simple question may emerge: should I submit my profile under an Express Entry program, or through a Base PNP? Both pathways have their own advantages. Read on to learn more about making a decision, the difference between Base and enhanced PNPs, and more.

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What is Express Entry?

The Express Entry application management system is one of Canada’s main pathways for economic immigrants.

Express Entry manages the intake of three immigration programs:

In 2024, Express Entry is expected to be the most prominent pathway for newcomers to the country. Canada plans to welcome 110,700 permanent residents through these programs.

All three of these programs have individual eligibility criteria, at least one that must be met before individuals can submit a profile to the Express Entry pool of eligible candidates. Once an individual is eligible and submits his/her profile under one of the Express Entry programs, they are officially an Express Entry candidate, with a profile in the pool.

Once a profile is submitted to the Express Entry pool, all candidates are assigned Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) scores, based on their human capital factors, work experience, and other characteristics.

Candidates must now wait for an Express Entry draw (either a program specific draw, or a general draw) with a minimum CRS score that corresponds with their CRS score, to receive an initiation to apply (ITA) for permanent residence (PR). An Express Entry profile is valid for one year after successful submission, with candidates able to re-submit their profile once it expires.

After an ITA is received candidates become applicants and must submit an application to IRCC for PR within 60 days of being invited. If this application is approved, newcomers are granted PR, and may settle and reside in Canada. To learn more about Express Entry, find our dedicated webpage here.

Canadian provinces can also invite candidates from the Federal Express Entry pool of eligible candidates. This can occur through special Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) streams known as enhanced streams. These Express Entry-aligned streams are different from standalone, or Base PNP streams (more on Base PNP streams to follow).

To receive a nomination under an enhanced stream, individuals must be invited from the Federal Express Entry pool or from the provincial/territorial pool of eligible candidates to submit an enhanced PNP application to the province or territory. Candidates who receive a provincial nomination obtain an additional 600 CRS points, increasing their chances of receiving an ITA from the Federal Government. To learn more about enhanced PNP streams, find our dedicated webpage here.

What are Base Provincial Nominee Programs (Base PNPs)?

Base PNPs are streams that are not Express Entry-aligned and are administered by a provincial or territorial government. These streams must be applied to separately and have their own individual eligibility criteria (more on this later).

Base Provincial Nominee Programs (or simply Base PNPs) were initially created to help provinces and territories respond more directly to local demographic and labour market challenges by allowing provincial and territorial governments to nominate eligible newcomers to settle and live in their jurisdiction.

Every province and territory in Canada (apart from Quebec which has its own specialised immigration programs, and Nunavut) run their own PNPs. Eligibility can vary depending on what program one applies to, but often involve having resided, studied, or worked within a province, working within an in-demand profession or having secured employment within the province, and/or having human capital factors that a province deems beneficial to the local economy.

PNPs are Canada’s second largest pathway for newcomers this year and exist to spread the benefits of immigration throughout the country. Though not as large as Express Entry in 2024 (in terms of newcomer intake), PNPs in 2025 and 2026 are projected to overtake all other immigration pathways, to become Canada’s largest pathway for welcoming newcomers to the country.

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