It is important to note that Express Entry is not a program. It is a system which manages applications to three distinct immigration programs, each focused on skilled workers: Federal Skilled Worker (FSW), Federal Skilled Trades (FST), and Canadian Experience Class (CEC). As well, many Provincial Nomination Programs (PNPs), are aligned with Express Entry.
All three programs managed by Express Entry are merit-based programs. This means that candidates are ranked against one another using the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). This system is based on the information provided in candidates’ profiles, such as age, level of education, amount of work experience, language proficiency, and ability to adapt to Canada. Those candidates with the highest ranking scores are invited to apply for permanent residence at the federal level to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
Note that Express Entry candidates’ CRS scores are not affected by which program they are eligible under. This means that all Express Entry candidates compete against each other for an invitation to apply, regardless of the program for which they are eligible.
Express Entry is not an immigration program but, rather, it is a system used to organize and process applications for permanent residence through one of three programs. As such, candidates must meet the eligibility requirements of one of these three programs to be eligible for Express Entry:
These three programs do contain several common requirements which interested applicants can use to check their eligibility.
Skill Level: Every applicant must possess skilled work experience. The Canadian government uses the National Occupation Classification (NOC) system to assess the skill type and level of various types of employment. In the NOC database, any position at skill level 0, A, or B, qualifies as skilled work experience.
Work Experience: The Express Entry programs are designed for applicants with work experience. Interested candidates must have a minimum of 12-months of full-time, skilled work experience, or an equivalent amount in part time. Each program has more specific guidelines, but the work experience requirement makes the program unsuitable for applicants who have yet to enter the workforce.
Language Requirement: All programs within Express Entry system require a certain degree of proficiency in one of Canada’s official languages, English or French. While the level of proficiency required varies between programs, interested candidates for all programs will be required to submit recent results from an approved language test.
Basic Admissibility: Applicants accepted through Express Entry programs must meet Canada’s basic admissibility requirements for permanent residents. This includes ensuring that applicants do not have extensive criminal backgrounds or medical conditions.
The Express Entry system uses a two-part application process:
First, interested candidates must submit an Express Entry profile which acts as an Expression of Interest notifying the Canadian government that they are interested in becoming a Canadian permanent resident. Once a profile has been submitted, the candidate is assigned a CRS score which ranks them against the other candidates in the Express Entry pool. Express Entry profiles remain active for 12 months, and can be updated with new information when needed. Approximately every two weeks, the Canadian government conducts an Express Entry draw, issuing a round of Invitations to Apply (ITAs) to those candidates in the pool with the highest CRS scores.
If a candidate receives an ITA, they move onto the second stage of the process. If a candidate does not receive an ITA within 12 months, they may submit a new profile, provided they are still eligible to do so.
After receiving an ITA, applicants have 60 days to submit an electronic Application for Permanent Residence (eAPR). If this application is complete and validates all information provided in the Express Entry profile, then the applicant will be granted permanent resident status in Canada. Any accompanying family members, spouse and/or children, will also be granted Canadian permanent residence.
Express Entry draws occur approximately every two weeks. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) issues a round of ITAs to the candidates in the Express Entry pool who have the highest CRS scores. IRCC does not disclose information regarding the date of the draw, number of ITAs that will be issued, or minimum required CRS score in advance of the draw.
The Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program targets young candidates who have skilled work experience in combination with high-levels of education, language proficiency, and the ability to adapt to life in Canada. The program does not require a connection to Canada, so it is ideal for skilled workers who do not possess Canadian education or work experience.
The Federal Skilled Trades (FST) program targets candidates who possess skilled work experience in one of Canada’s regulated trades occupations. The program has minimal education and language proficiency requirements, but it does require that candidates have one of the following: (1) A valid job offer from a Canadian employer; or, (2) A certificate of qualification to practice their trade professionally in one of Canada’s provinces or territories.
The Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program targets candidates who have Canadian work experience. In order to qualify, a candidate must have at least 12-months of full-time, skilled work experience in Canada, completed within the last 3 years. The program is ideal for international graduates in Canada who have undertaken Canadian employment using a Post-Graduation Work Permit, or other candidates with experience as temporary foreign workers.
Canada’s provinces and territories operate their own immigration programs, called Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs). Many of these programs are aligned with the Express Entry system. Under such programs, a province can nominate a foreign national for immigration through one of the Express Entry programs. Receiving a provincial nomination results in a 600-point increase to a person’s CRS score, virtually guaranteeing them an ITA in the next Express Entry draw.
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