Can I count student work experience towards the Express Entry work requirement?

Vimal Sivakumar
Published: May 17, 2024

All three Express Entry-managed programs require candidates to have eligible pre-existing work experience to apply for permanent residence (PR) in Canada.

More information on the complete list of minimum requirements for each Express Entry program is available below.

First, however, this article will provide an overview of which Express Entry programs allow candidates to use employment experience gained as a student to fulfill the work experience requirement for that particular program.

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Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP)

The Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) outlines that Express Entry candidates may use work experience gained while studying, both in Canada and internationally, towards the fulfillment of this program’s minimum requirements if:

  • The work completed was paid, either by wages or commission
  • There were no gaps in the employment, meaning the employment was continuous
  • The work completed aligns with all other program requirements

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) also notes that co-op programs and apprenticeships are eligible forms of student work experience, so long as they meet the above conditions.

Canadian Experience Class (CEC)

Unlike the FSWP, Canadian Experience Class (CEC) candidates are not eligible to use work experience gained while studying, either in Canada or abroad, towards this program’s minimum requirements.

Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP)

Like the CEC, student work experience does not count towards meeting the minimum requirements for the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP).

How does student work experience affect my Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score?

Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) scores are an important part of the Express Entry immigration process.

This is because CRS scores are what IRCC uses to rank candidate profiles against each other, which is part of how the department decides who receives an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for PR in Canada.

For more on CRS scores, click here, and visit this link for details on improving your CRS score.

IRCC clarifies that Canadian work experience gained while the Express Entry candidate is a full-time student does not count towards their score. However, work experience gained during full-time studies completed abroad does count towards a candidate’s CRS score.

What are the minimum requirements for each Express Entry program?

FSWP

The following is a summary of the minimum requirements for this program, which can be divided into three sections. Click here for full details on these requirements.

Note: The FSWP also has a secondary points grid, based on six different selection factors.

Skilled work experience

At least one year of paid, full-time or equivalent part-time, continuous, skilled* employment under the same National Occupation Classification (NOC) code (primary NOC)

*To be eligible, this work experience must fall under one of the following NOC Training, Education, Experience and Responsibilities (TEER) categories: TEER 0, TEER 1, TEER 2 or TEER 3

Language ability 

FSWP candidates must obtain a minimum score of Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) 7 in English (or Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadien (NCLC) 7 in French) for all four language abilities – reading, writing, speaking and listening.

Click here for more information on language testing for Express Entry candidates.

Education

FSWP candidates require either of the following:

  • A certificate, diploma or degree from a Canadian high school or post-secondary institution (if the candidate attended school in Canada)
  • A completed educational credential and a valid Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) if the candidate has a foreign education

CEC

The following is a summary of the minimum requirements for this program, which can be divided into two sections. Click here for full details on these requirements.

Skilled work experience

At least one year of paid, full-time or equivalent part-time, skilled work experience* in Canada over the three years preceding submission of the application

*To be eligible, this work experience must fall under one of the following NOC TEER categories: TEER 0, TEER 1, TEER 2 or TEER 3

Language ability

CEC language testing requirements vary based on the candidate’s NOC.

TEER 0 and TEER 1 CEC candidates: CLB/NCLC 7 for all four abilities

TEER 2 and TEER 3 CEC candidates: CLB/NCLC 5 for all four abilities

Note: There is no education requirement for the CEC, although both a completed Canadian education or one completed abroad – for which the candidate has obtained an/any ECA(s) – can improve their CRS score.

FSTP

The following is a summary of the minimum requirements for this program, which can be divided into three sections. Click here for full details on these requirements.

Skilled work experience

At least two years of skilled work experience in certain eligible NOC groups over the five years preceding submission of the application

Language ability 

The FSTP requires one minimum score for speaking and listening (CLB 5 or NCLC 5) and another for reading and writing (CLB/NCLC 4).

Job offer or certificate of qualification

FSTP candidates must possess either of the following:

  • A full-time job offer for a total period of at least one year
  • A certificate of qualification in their skilled trade*

*This certificate is only valid if it was issued by a Canadian provincial, territorial or federal authority

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