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Canada Express Entry 2021 Guide

Express Entry is the fastest and most popular pathway for newcomers seeking a new life in Canada. Express Entry organizes and processes applications for people who wish to immigrate to Canada and acquire Canadian permanent residence.

Getting started with Express Entry

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How can I apply for Express Entry?

Applying to Express Entry is a two-step process. The first step is to submit your profile which requires the following documents:

  1. Language test results
  2. Educational credential assessment report
  3. A passport or travel document

After you submit your profile and you receive an invitation to apply for Canadian permanent residence, you will need to provide a more substantial application that includes reference letters, additional identity documents, police clearance certificates, and results of a medical examination.

Who is eligible for Express Entry?

Candidates with university or college degrees with skilled work experience and moderate proficiency in English and/or French are ideal candidates. Candidates who qualify for the following programs are also eligible to submit an application under the Express Entry program:

The easiest way to find out if your eligible is to use our free online assessment tool.

What are the requirements for Express Entry?

In general, to be eligible to apply to Express Entry as a skilled worker, you must:

  • Have at least one year, in the last 10 years, of continuous full-time (or equivalent part-time) work experience in a skilled occupation
  • Be able to demonstrate on an approved language test a minimum of Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) seven in either English or French
  • Completed post-secondary education that is assessed against Canadian standards with an Educational Credential Assessment

These are the minimum requirements to apply to Express Entry as a skilled worker. Meeting these requirements doesn’t mean you will receive an invitation to apply for Canadian permanent residence. Candidates with stronger profiles will always be selected over candidates that simply meet the minimum requirement. 

What is the ideal Express Entry candidate?

There is no one-size-fits-all type of profile that is eligible for Express Entry. Candidates who enter the pool receive a comprehensive ranking system (CRS) score. Those who rank higher, are more likely to receive an invitation to apply. Selection factors that can influence your CRS score are language proficiency, your age, your level of work experience, education, and Canadian connections. 

Ideal Express Entry candidates would meet the following requirements:

  • Be under 30 years old 
  • Hold at least two Bachelor’s degrees or a Master’s degree 
  • Be able to demonstrate moderate to high English and/or French language proficiency (Canadian Language Benchmark [CLB] level eight or higher)
  • Have at least three years of skilled work experience

Other factors that can really boost your CRS score can include:

  • Higher language proficiency in English and/or French
  • Bilingualism in French and English
  • A Master’s degree or Ph.D. education
  • Canadian work or educational experience
  • A Canadian brother or sister currently residing in Canada
  • An arranged employment offer from a Canadian company 
  • A nomination from a provincial nominee program

How much does Express Entry cost?

  1. Language tests: Average cost – $300
  2. Educational Credential Assessment (ECA): Average cost – $200
  3. Biometrics: $85/person
  4. Government fees: $1,325/adult & $225/child
  5. Medical examination fees: average cost – $450/adult & $250/child
  6. Police clearance certificates: average cost – $100/country

No government fees are required to submit your initial Express Entry profile. The fees are only requested when you are invited to apply for Canadian permanent residence. In addition to the government processing fees, provincial immigration fees may be required if you are nominated for a PNP program

You should also be aware that unless you are applying under the Canadian Experience Class program or have a valid arranged employment offer, you will need to demonstrate you have sufficient funds to support your resettlement in Canada. These settlement fees are not fees paid to the government but you must have access to them in order to be approved for a permanent residence visa. The amounts per family size are mentioned in the table below:

Number of Family MembersFunds Required
1$12,960
2$16,135
3$19,836
4$24,083
5$27,315
6$30,806
7$34,299
For each additional family member$3,492
UpdatedJanuary 3, 2020

 

Do I need a job offer for Express Entry?

You do not require a job offer for Express Entry. The vast majority of candidates selected for Express Entry do not have a formal Canadian job offer.

A formal Canadian job offer for a skilled, full-time position can add 50 to 200 points to your Express Entry application. Almost always, a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) is required for these points to be awarded.  

An informal job offer will not award any additional points to your Express Entry profile and should not be mentioned in the application.

How long does Express Entry take?

Express Entry can take as little as six months to process, from submission of the Express Entry profile to the issuance of a permanent resident visa. However, not all cases will proceed this quickly. Your Express Entry profile will remain active in the pool of candidates for 12 months if you are not invited to apply. If after 12 months you have not been selected, you are welcome to resubmit your profile and remain in the pool. To break it down further:

  • Your profile will remain valid for 12 months in the Express Entry pool 
  • Upon issuance of the ITA, you will have 90 days to provide the requested full application of documents
  • Once the immigration authorities have received your complete application, your permanent resident visa should be processed in six months or less

What’s better: PNP or Express Entry?

There is no simple answer to this question but there are some things to consider. Most PNPs require an applicant to have an Express Entry profile. Since an Express Entry profile is free to submit, you don’t stand to lose anything by creating one. 

The other thing to consider is that the majority of PNP programs require an applicant to have a specific connection to the region. If you are working or studying in a Canadian province, considering a PNP program is advisable. If you do not have any specific connections to a place in Canada, the more general Express Entry pathway to Canadian permanent residence is probably your best option. 

The best way to determine whether a PNP or Express Entry is better for you is to complete our free online immigration assessment.

Will the CRS score go down?

A person’s chances of success through any of the Express Entry programs depends on their Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score. If a candidate is close to, or above, the minimum CRS score cut-off for recent Express Entry draws, then they will likely be competitive in the Express Entry system. That said, it is impossible to predict how the CRS score will fluctuate in the future.

No lawyer or consultant can guarantee that a person will successfully receive permanent residence through the Express Entry system. The application process is lengthy, complex, and constantly changing, and approval is at the discretion of IRCC so there is always a risk that an applicant may not receive permanent residence.

There are several options for increasing a person’s CRS score. To learn more about such options, please consult with Canadim’s CRS calculator and guidelines for improving your CRS score!

CALCULATE MY POINTS

Six ways to increase your CRS score

1. RETAKE THE IELTS

Improving your IELTS score is the number one way to increase your points. On their own, good IELTS results can get you up to 160 points.

But if you have good IELTS and post-secondary education can get you an additional 50 points. Good IELTS and at least three years of work experience can get you another 50 points.

You need to score at least Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) 7 to be eligible for Express Entry under the Federal Skilled Worker program, which is at least 6.0 on each language ability on the IELTS. But if you can score CLB 9 in all language abilities, you could be looking at up to 260 Express Entry points for just your language ability.

You can also take the IELTS as many times as you want to. You can even update your Express Entry profile with new IELTS test results after you submit your profile to the pool.

Canadim provides all of our Express Entry clients access to free online IELTS tutorials to help prepare to take the test. There are a lot of free or paid materials available online to help you prepare.

Immigration Tip: Register to take your IELTS early. That way, if you don’t do as well as you hoped, you have time to retake them before you submit your profile. You can always update your profile, but if you wait until after you’re in the pool to improve your score, you could be missing out on draws.

2. WORK EXPERIENCE

Since Express Entry manages applications to economic immigration streams, your work experience is a big part of calculating your Express Entry points.

That said, it’s not very easy to accumulate more years of work experience just to improve your Express Entry points.

Immigration Tip: If you’re not eligible for Express Entry, or if you are eligible but don’t have a competitive score, consider coming to Canada first as a student or temporary worker. Canadian experience can open up a lot more Canadian immigration options.

A lot of candidates don’t leverage the work experience that they do have as much as possible, though. Express Entry uses the National Occupational Classification (NOC) matrix to assign points to all occupations. Choosing the right NOC code is one of the simplest ways to increase your score.

You’ll need to prove that whatever NOC codes you claim in your work experience are accurate if you receive an invitation to apply for permanent residence, so you should absolutely not misrepresent your experience.

That said, it’s worth it to spend some time finding exactly which NOC codes accurately reflect your career history while getting you as many Express Entry points as possible.

The NOC matrix can be confusing to sort through, so consulting an expert to figure out which NOC codes you can claim can be very helpful.

3. SPOUSAL POINTS

It may not apply to some candidates, but if you have a spouse or common-law partner, you may be missing out on some points you can claim.

There are three possibilities here, and it’s worth looking into them all.

First, your spouse or partner may get you more points. By retaking a language test, or getting an educational credential assessment (ECA) for any post-secondary education they have, your spouse or partner could increase your Express Entry points.

Second, you may actually have a higher score as a single applicant. Since your profile is scored differently depending on whether or not you have an accompanying spouse or partner, depending on your spouse or partner’s profile, you may actually increase your score if you list them as non-accompanying. If you are granted permanent residence, you can still sponsor them to join you in Canada, but it does mean a period of separation.

Third, your spouse may actually be a stronger applicant. You should definitely run through the exercise of trying to calculate how many points your spouse would get if they were the principal applicant, with or without you accompanying them.

Immigration Tip: If you and your spouse or partner are both strong candidates, you can each submit a profile to the Express Entry pool and list each other as accompanying. That way you double your chances of success!

If you’ve done as well as possible on language tests, claimed as many points as possible for your work experience, maximized your spousal points, and still don’t have a competitive score, there are some more challenging ways you can improve it.

4. JOB OFFER

An eligible job offer from a Canadian employer can get you between 50 to 200 additional points. Spend time on the Canada Job Bank, as well as private job boards and social networking sites to try to connect with Canadian employers in your field.

5. PROVINCIAL NOMINATION

If you receive a nomination from a province, you get 600 additional points. Many provinces operate a nomination program aligned with Express Entry, but it’s usually up to the candidate to figure out which programs they might be eligible for and how to apply. Keep in mind that applying for a provincial nomination is usually a completely separate application process.

6. STUDY

Going back to school is a pretty big investment to increase your score, but it can also have a big impact. A short program like a one-year post-secondary certificate could get you a lot of points. If you already have one post-secondary degree of three years or more, worth 120 points, and take a second one-year program, you can claim an additional 8 points for just education. If you already had CLB 9, and two years of Canadian work experience, you can claim an additional 50 points for skills transferability. That’s 58 total additional Express Entry points.

Canadian educational credentials are highly valued in Express Entry, and being an international student can open a lot of other doors to staying in Canada permanently that you might not otherwise be eligible for.

What is the maximum age for Express Entry?

There is no maximum age for Express Entry applicants. Applicants 20-29 receive the highest points for age. If you are significantly older than 35, but you have a high level of education or connections in Canada, these can easily overcome points lost for age.

Can I apply to Express Entry twice?

No, you cannot have two Express Entry applications for the same applicant at the same time. However, if you are married, you can submit an application under your spouse if they are eligible. Therefore one applicant cannot have multiple Express Entry profiles but you can have two profiles for the same family, in some circumstances.

If after 12 months you are not invited to apply, you can resubmit your profile and stay in the Express Entry pool for an additional 12 months. This can be repeated as many times as necessary.

How to fix mistakes in your Express Entry Profile

Express Entry uses a two-step system to manage the intake of immigrants:

  1. The Profile: Interested candidates create an Express Entry profile to show off their skills and experience. If they meet the eligibility requirements, they will be accepted into the Express Entry pool of candidates.
  2. The Application: The most competitive profiles from the Express Entry pool will be invited to apply for Canadian permanent residence.

When Can I Make Changes?

Good news, if you’ve submitted your Express Entry profile and you have not yet received an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence, then you’re in the clear to make changes! You can fix mistakes or even add new documents (for example, if you retake your IELTS exam and get a better score). But there are specific steps to follow. Here they are:

  1. Visit your Express Entry account welcome page. Next select the option that says, “What would you like to do today?”
  2. Next, head to the section that says, “View my submitted applications or profiles” and click on the button that reads “Check status and messages.”
  3. Near the bottom of the “Application/profile details” screen, you’ll see a button that says, “View submitted application.”
  4. Almost there, on the “Express Entry profile” page, hit the button that says, “Update form.” Make sure you select the appropriate section for modification.
  5. Make all the necessary changes (hopefully not too many), scroll to the bottom of the pages, then click “Save and exit.”
  6. All finished with your profile update? Look for the button that reads “Continue” near the bottom of the page. You’re now free to submit the newly modified version of your Express Entry profile. Pretty painless, right?

Quick reminder: Every time you enter a form and click on “Save and exit,” you’ll also notice a “Revert changes” button. It will be there even if no changes were made. Don’t panic. If you haven’t made any changes, hit the “Revert changes” button to make sure that the electronic system knows no changes were made.

Please note that if you make changes that affect your eligibility or your CRS score, the Express Entry system will update your profile to reflect these changes within 24 hours.

When Can’t I Make Changes

Now for the bad news—there are a few situations in which you cannot make changes to your profile.

1.  Your profile is ineligible

If your profile doesn’t meet the criteria for one of the Express Entry programs, it will be refused and you cannot update it. How do you know if you’ve been found ineligible? That’s easy. If you log onto your Express Entry profile and you only have the option to “View profile,” it means your profile has been reviewed and refused. The system will state that your profile was ineligible.

But don’t give up yet. You still have one option. You won’t be able to update your profile, but you can still submit a new profile. However, if you were considered not eligible based on your qualifications, you should probably wait until you’ve increased your eligibility before submitting another application. On your second application, be certain to enter and review all of the necessary information carefully to avoid any mistakes.

2.  Your profile has received an Invitation to Apply (ITA)

If your Express Entry profile receives an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence then all the information entered into the profile becomes locked in place. While you can technically amend the information when preparing your final application, you should try to avoid this. If you make any changes to your application which makes you ineligible, your application will be refused. As well, the immigration officer handling your file reserves the right to request more information about any discrepancies between the original profile and the final application.

A note on misrepresentation: Lying or providing false information on an immigration application is a serious offense. If a person is caught doing this they may be charged with misrepresentation, resulting in a 5-year ban from submitting any applications for Canadian immigration.

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