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Express Entry – Immigrating to Canada

Express Entry is an online selection system used by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to evaluate candidates and invite them to immigrate based on their likelihood for economic success in Canada. First introduced in 2015, the program has ushered in many improvements to Canadian immigration, including quicker processing times, greater accessibility to applicants from a wider variety of fields, and an increased focus on the quality of applications.

For alternative ways to immigrate to Canada, you should read our post on “Immigrating to Canada“. Given how complex an immigration application can be, you may want to consider using an immigration attorney. If so, you should read our article on “Hiring an Immigration Attorney“.

How does Express Entry Work?

Potential candidates must first meet the requirements for one of the following programs in order to apply for Express Entry:

  • Federal Skilled Worker Program: Applicants from one of 50 National Occupational Classification (NOC) categories with secondary education and at least 1 year of continuous work experience are eligible. A job offer is not required.
  • Federal Skilled Trades Program: Applicants must have at least 2 years of work experience in the past 5 years in a skilled trade. They must have a valid job offer from a Canadian employer, or a certification of qualification in their trade issued by a Canadian authority.
  • Canadian Experience Class: Applicants must be skilled workers with at least 1 year of Canadian work experience and a valid job offer from a Canadian employer.
  • Provincial Nominee Programs: An Express Entry option is available for provincial immigration programs. Each province or territory has its own criteria – inquire on their website.

All of these programs require that you meet certain eligibility criteria:

  • Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB):
    • Measurement of English and French ability in adults
    • 4 ability tests: writing, reading, listening and speaking
  • National Occupation Classification (NOC):
    • List of all occupations in Canadian labour market
    • Classifies jobs according to skill type and level

Below is a general outline of the different types of Express Entry programs and their requirements.

Minimum Eligibility Requirements Federal Skilled Worker Federal Skilled Trades Canadian Experience Class
Language Skills
  • English or French
  • CLB 7
  • English or French
  • CLB 5 for speaking & listening
  • CLB 4 for reading & writing
  • English or French
  • CLB 5 or 7 depending on occupation
Type of Work Experience (NOC)
  • Managerial (0)
  • Professional (A)
  • Technical & skilled trade (B)
  • Technical & skilled trade (B)
  • Managerial (0)
  • Professional (A)
  • Technical & skilled trade (B)
Location of Work Experience
  • Canadian or foreign experience
  • Canadian or foreign experience
  • Canadian experience
Years of Work Experience
  • 1 year continuous in last 10 years
  • 2 years in last 5 years
  • 1 year in last 3 years
  • Secondary education
  • More points for post-secondary
  • Not required
  • More points for education
  • Not required
Job Offer
  • Not required
  • More points for job offer
  • Valid full-time job offer for at least 1 year in a skilled trade
  • OR, certification of qualification in a skilled trade issued by Canadian authority
  • Not required

If a candidate is eligible for one of these programs, they may complete an online Express Entry profile identifying their skills and qualifications. The system ranks all profiles against other applicants in the pool on a points-based system considering a variety of factors, including:

  • Age
  • Education
  • Language proficiency in English and French
  • Canadian work experience

Candidates with the highest rankings are invited to apply for permanent residence through one of the economic immigration programs. If applicants are tied in rank, those who submitted applications first will win so it is best to apply as early as possible.

How to Apply For Express Entry

Follow these 4 steps to apply for Express Entry. If invited, you could immigrate to Canada in under 6 months!

  1. Determine eligibility. Find out if you meet the minimum requirements for the one of the economic immigration programs
  2. Prepare documents.
    • If you are eligible, prepare the necessary documents to complete your profile:
      • Passport or travel document
      • Language test results
      • Education Credential Assessment report (for Federal Skilled Worker Program, or if you want points for education)
      • Provincial job application, if applicable
      • Job offer, if applicable
    • If you receive an invitation, you will need to provide additional documents. It is best to acquire these when you apply for Express Entry so you are ready to apply for permanent residence before the deadline:
      • Medical exams
      • Proof of funds
      • Police certificates
  3. Submit profile. Submit your profile online and find out your score
  4. Receive invitation and apply for permanent residence. If you are invited, you will have 60 days to apply for permanent residence

Fees for Express Entry Into Canada

The fees charged by Canada for an Express Entry application will run from $500 to well over $1,000.  The fees climb as you add a spouse, child, or other person to your application.