Key Differences Between Express Entry and PNPs

Published on: June 5th, 2024

Understanding the differences between the Express Entry system and Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) is essential for navigating Canadian immigration. While both pathways can lead to permanent residency, they have distinct processes and requirements.

Which Path Suits Me Best?

There are multiple options to apply for Canadian Permanent Residency, and the only way to discover the best for you is by gathering as much information as possible about the one that suits you the best, comparing them and making your decision.

One of the most compared programs for applying for PR is the Provincial Nominees Programs and the Express Entry System.

First, Let’s Recap What is the Express Entry System and What is a PNP

Express Entry is a points-based immigration system designed to attract skilled workers to Canada. It covers different immigration programs and categories. Candidates are ranked based on a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score, which evaluates factors such as age, education, work experience, and language proficiency. Those with the highest scores are invited to apply for permanent residency, with most applications being processed within six months.

Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) are immigration pathways that allow Canadian provinces and territories to nominate individuals who wish to immigrate to Canada and settle in a specific region. Each province and territory has its own unique PNP, tailored to meet its economic and labour market needs. Candidates can apply for a provincial nomination through either a base or enhanced stream, with the latter linked to the Express Entry system. A provincial nomination significantly boosts a candidate’s CRS score, making it easier to receive an invitation to apply for permanent residency.

For more detailed information, please read our full guides about Express Entry and Provincial Nominee Programs, to learn how they work, the specific requirements and how to apply.


Key Differences Between Express Entry and PNP

Express EntryPNPs
Government jurisdictionA federal system that manages applications for three national economic immigration programs and other annually selected categories. It applies to all of Canada.Provincial or territorial immigration programs are designed to address specific regional labour market needs. Each province/territory manages its own program and sets its own criteria.
PurposeIdentifies and processes skilled immigrants with strong potential to contribute to the Canadian economy, aiming for a quick and efficient selection of high-scoring candidates.Allows provinces and territories to nominate candidates who have skills, work experience, or qualifications that align with their local economic demands.
Application ProcessApplicants submit an online profile, receive a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score, and are ranked in the pool of candidates.Candidates either apply directly to a province/territory or express interest in a specific PNP via their Express Entry profile.
EligibilityEligibility is based on federal criteria like education, age, work experience, and language proficiency.Eligibility requirements are more varied, often specific to provincial needs, such as certain occupations, educational backgrounds, or work experiences.
Rounds of invitationsThe federal government invites candidates to apply for permanent residency through regular invitation rounds, which are usually held every 2 weeks.Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) rounds happen in two ways: candidates apply directly to a province's PNP, or provinces search the Express Entry pool for eligible candidates meeting their labour needs. Direct applicants receive a nomination certificate, while Express Entry candidates gain 600 CRS points with a provincial nomination
Processing TimeFederal applications are processed within six months on average. But this depends on the program.Processing times vary based on the specific province/territory and nomination stream.


Why Are Express Entry and PNPs Often Confused or Compared?

Despite Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) being independent provincial initiatives and Express Entry being a federal online system, the two are frequently compared and often confused.

But why is it so confusing? The confusion arises because both are pathways to receiving an invitation to apply for Canadian permanent residency (PR). Depending on your profile, you can utilize both systems, but you have to choose one of the following options to apply through them:

  1. Express Entry System: You can create an Express Entry profile, and if you meet the requirements, you might be eligible to receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA).
  2. Direct PNP Application: You can apply directly to a specific Provincial Nominee Program and receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) directly from that province.
  3. Express Entry with Provincial Nomination: You can create an Express Entry profile, and once in the pool of candidates, you may be selected by a province to receive a Provincial Nomination if your profile aligns with the provincial labour market needs. This nomination will add 600 points to your Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score, greatly increasing your chances of receiving an ITA.

Those are the three options available to an applicant: two separate pathways and a third option where both paths are combined. This is why people often get confused about how Express Entry and PNPs are related and seek to apply to both programs for the benefits. However, this is usually not possible due to the very specific requirements of the PNPs.


Evaluating the Pros and Cons of Express Entry vs. PNPs

Express Entry Advantages:

  1. Faster Processing: One of the primary advantages of the Express Entry system is its efficiency in processing applications. Most applications are processed within six months, making it one of the quickest pathways to Canadian permanent residency.
  2. Broader Eligibility: Express Entry is designed to attract skilled workers from various professional backgrounds. It encompasses three federal immigration programs (Federal Skilled Worker Program, Federal Skilled Trades Program, and Canadian Experience Class), offering a wide range of opportunities for candidates with diverse qualifications and work experiences.

Express Entry Disadvantages:

  1. Highly Competitive: The Express Entry system is points-based and highly competitive. Candidates are ranked against each other using the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score, which considers factors such as age, education, work experience, and language proficiency. Only those with the highest scores receive invitations to apply for permanent residency.
  2. Reliant on CRS Score: A major disadvantage is the heavy reliance on the CRS score. Even highly qualified candidates may find it challenging to secure an invitation if their CRS score is not competitive enough. This can be particularly difficult for older applicants or those who do not have high language test scores.

Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) Advantages:

  1. Opportunities for Lower CRS Scores: One significant advantage of PNPs is that they provide opportunities for candidates with lower CRS scores to receive a nomination. Provincial nominations add 600 points to the CRS score, virtually guaranteeing an invitation to apply for permanent residency through Express Entry.
  2. Regional Focus: PNPs are designed to address the specific labour market and economic needs of individual provinces and territories. This regional focus allows candidates to settle in areas where their skills are in high demand, potentially leading to better job opportunities and integration into the local community.

Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) Disadvantages:

  1. Longer Processing Times: Compared to Express Entry, PNP applications generally have longer processing times. The two-step process (provincial nomination followed by federal approval) can take several months or even over a year to complete.
  2. Limited to Specific Provinces: PNPs are province-specific, meaning candidates must be willing to live and work in the province that nominates them. This limitation can be a disadvantage for those who prefer flexibility in choosing where to settle in Canada. Additionally, moving to another province shortly after obtaining permanent residency might be viewed unfavourably by immigration authorities.


Each pathway offers unique advantages and has specific requirements that can significantly impact your chances of obtaining permanent residency. By familiarizing yourself with these differences, you can make informed decisions that align with your personal and professional goals.

Contact us for expert guidance and to determine the best path for you. Our experienced team is here to help you navigate the complexities of Canadian immigration and maximize your chances of success.

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