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In 2015, Canada introduced the Express Entry as a system that manages applications for three economic immigration programs the Federal Skilled Worker Program, Federal Skilled Trades Program, and Canadian Experience Class. The Express Entry application management system is governed under Ministerial Instructions. The system manages applications for permanent residence through a two-step process: First, the system assesses whether the applicant is eligible for any of the three programs and those that are placed in the Express Entry pool are assigned a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score based on the information in their profile by looking at factors such as education, language ability, and work experience. Invitations for permanent residence are sent to the candidates with the highest scores in the pool. The points an applicant gets from the CRS have two components—a core set of points up to 600 based on factors such as skills and experience and a set of additional points up to 600 based on factors such as a valid job offer—with a total score out of 1,200 points. The CRS score is dynamic depending upon updates to the profile.

I. Background

Immigration to Canada is predominantly regulated by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, 2001 (IRPA),[1] and its subsidiary rules and regulations.[2] Immigration to Canada is administered by the Canada Border Services Agency, which is responsible for border enforcement, immigration enforcement and customs services, and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), which “facilitates the arrival of immigrants, provides protection to refugees, and offers programming to help newcomers settle in Canada.”[3] Section 12(1) of IRPA stipulates that “[a] foreign national may be selected as a member of the economic class on the basis of their ability to become economically established in Canada.”[4] Furthermore, Part 6 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations further regulate programs under the Economic Classes immigrant category.

In 1967, Canada introduced the first ever points based system for economic immigration,[5] and applicants were assigned points based on nine criteria that appear to have been more or less maintained until 2015. However, how points were allocated did undergo various adjustments, and the number of immigrants admitted under the system also fluctuated over the years.[6] In 2015, Canada introduced the Express Entry as a system that manages applications for three economic immigration programs, the Federal Skilled Worker Program, Federal Skilled Trades Program, and Canadian Experience Class. The Express Entry application management system is governed under Ministerial Instructions,[7] as authorized by section 10.3(1) of the IRPA. The system creates a pool of candidates who may be eligible to immigrate to Canada permanently.[8] The system was implemented “in an effort to solve the backlogs and skills mismatches that challenged the existing selection system. The Express Entry system sought to speed up the processing of applications, improve the ability of the selection system to address labor-market needs, reduce the inventory (backlog) of applications, and enable selection of the best applicants.”[9] A person must be eligible for one of the immigration programs to get into the pool. A person gets points based on the information in their profile, including skills and work experience. To be chosen from the pool and invited to apply, a person needs to have one of the highest-ranking scores. Those individuals are sent out invitations to apply for permanent residence.[10] The Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) is the points-based system the immigration authorities use to assess and score a person’s profile,[11] and to rank them in the Express Entry pool.[12]

Please note that the province of Quebec has a special arrangement on immigration with the Federal government of Canada, and the province “has its own rules for choosing immigrants who will adapt well to living there,” including its own program to select skilled workers.[13] It utilizes a two-step process and a selection criteria that uses a point system as well. Additionally, there are Provincial Nominee programs that can also work through Express Entry, which allow Canadian provinces and territories to nominate persons who wish to immigrate to Canada and who would like to live in a particular province.[14]

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II. Points System Under the Express Entry Programs

The Express Entry system manages applications for permanent residence through a two-step process:

First, individuals express their interest in immigrating to Canada by completing an online profile, which is then screened electronically to determine if the individual is eligible for the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program, or the Canadian Experience Class. Individuals who meet the eligibility criteria for at least one of these programs are placed in the Express Entry pool and are assigned a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score based on the information in their profile compared to a transparent scoring criteria, including factors such as education, language ability, and work experience. Candidates in the pool are ranked against one another based on their CRS score.[15]

The selection criteria to be eligible for the Federal Skilled Worker Program also involves the program’s own points and requirements, which are detailed below. The other two programs (Federal Skilled Trades Program and Canadian Experience Class) do not appear to involve points in their eligibility criteria, so we have not included the requirements for those programs in this report.

A. Federal Skilled Worker Program

According to IRCC, the Federal Skilled Worker Program is a program for skilled workers with foreign work experience and skills who want to immigrate to Canada permanently.[16] Canada’s process for selecting skilled workers is fairly complex. 

1. Minimum Requirements

To be eligible for the program, an applicant must meet certain minimum program requirements, which include requirements on skilled work experience, language ability, and education. The applicant must have one uninterrupted year of full-time work experience or 1,560 hours total (30 hours per week) or the equivalent in part-time work experience that must be of skill type 0 (managerial jobs) or skill level A (professional jobs) or B (technical jobs and skilled trades) defined under the Canadian National Occupational Classification (NOC) job groups.[17] Applicants are also required to take approved language tests in English or French and get a minimum benchmark score for four abilities: writing, reading, listening, and speaking. If schooling was completed in Canada, the applicant must have a certificate, diploma or degree from a secondary institution (high school) or post-secondary institution or, if the education took place at foreign institutions, the applicant must have a completed credential and an Educational Credential Assessment from a designated organization demonstrating that the applicant’s education is equal to that received by completing the requirements of a Canadian secondary or post-secondary institution.[18]

An applicant must also show he or she has enough money for the applicant and the applicant’s family to settle in Canada, unless the applicant is currently able to work legally in Canada or has a valid job offer from an employer in Canada. Lastly, the applicant and all family members must  be “admissible” to Canada under Canadian immigration law. If an application meets minimum requirements, it will then be assessed according to the six selection factors discussed below.[19]

2. Selection Criteria

Applicants must obtain at least 67 points out of a total of 100 possible points on the selection factors. According to IRCC, if an applicant’s score is 67 points or higher, they may qualify for the Federal Skilled Worker Program. An applicant who meets the other minimum requirements as well can enter the Express Entry pool. Once in the Express Entry pool, Immigration uses the CRS to rank the applicant’s profile. A person who scores lower than 67 points cannot qualify for the program.[20]

The six selection criteria and the maximum number of points available for each are as follows:   

  • Languages: A maximum of 28 points can be awarded to persons who are able to communicate in English, French or both official languages of Canada. An applicant can be awarded up to 24 points for basic, moderate, or high proficiency in English and French. Approved language tests are administered to ascertain a person’s ability to write, read, listen and speak. To measure English or French levels, authorities use Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) for English and Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens (NCLC) for French. A person must get a minimum level of CLB 7 or NCLC 7 for one official language in all four language areas. To get points for the second official language, an applicant must meet the minimum level of CLB 5 or NCLC 5 in all four language areas.
  • Education: A maximum of 25 points can be earned by a person who went to school in Canada. The applicant must have a certificate, diploma or degree from a Canadian secondary institution  or post-secondary institution. Applicants with a foreign education must get their education credentials assessed for immigration purposes from a designated organization showing that the education is equal to a Canadian secondary or post-secondary level of education.
  • Work Experience: Points can be awarded for experience in full-time paid work or an equal amount of part-time work at a certain skill type or skill levels from the NOC. It can be in Canada or abroad, while the person was studying or if they were self-employed. For one year of experience, the person can earn a maximum of nine points; for two to three years, 11 points; for four to five years, 13 points; and for six or more years, an applicant can get the maximum amount of 15 points.
  • Age: A maximum of 12 points is awarded to persons who are between 18 and 46 years of age. Persons outside this range get no points.
  • Arranged employment: A person may be awarded 10 points for having a permanent job offer for at least one year from a Canadian employer. The offer must be received prior to applying to come to Canada as a Federal Skilled Worker.
  • Adaptability: A person may be awarded a maximum of 10 points for adaptability by combining a number of elements, including: a spouse or partner’s language level or past studies/work, the applicant’s past studies or work in Canada, arranged employment in Canada, and an adult relative (as defined under the program) who is a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident in Canada.[21]

B. Comprehensive Ranking System

If an applicant is eligible for the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program, or the Canadian Experience Class, that person is accepted into a pool of candidates. Then the person is ranked using the CRS. Invitations for permanent residence are sent to the candidates with the highest scores in the pool.[22] The points an applicant gets from the CRS have two components—a core set of points up to 600 “depending on the person’s human capital characteristics (i.e., age, education, official language proficiency, and work experience),”[23] and a set of additional points up to 600—with a total score out of 1,200 points:[24]

Core: Up to 600 points

1. Skills and experience factors

2. Spouse or common-law partner factors, such as their language skills and education

3. Skills transferability, including education and work experience

Additional: Up to 600 points

1. Canadian degrees, diplomas or certificates

2. a valid job offer

3. a nomination from a province or territory

4. a brother or sister living in Canada who is a citizen or permanent resident

5. strong French language skills

Core points + Additional points = your total score[25]

A further breakdown of these points is found in the Appendix. As noted earlier, the CRS score is dynamic depending upon updates on the profile:

Candidates in the Express Entry pool must update their profile to reflect any change in circumstances and this action can trigger a recalculation of the CRS score. Some updates are automatically triggered when milestones, such as a birthday or expiry of language test results, are reached. Accordingly, candidates can take steps to increase their CRS score, thereby increasing the probability they will be selected to receive an ITA. For example, a candidate could increase their proficiency in an official language, secure arranged employment, or provide an educational credential assessment for education acquired abroad.[26]

C. Round of Invitations

Approximately every two weeks, the Canadian government conducts an Express Entry draw or round of invitations. Each round specifies the number of invitations issued, the rank required to be invited to apply, and the CRS cut-off score (the score of the lowest-ranked candidate invited) for permanent residence. These invitations are called Invitation to Apply (ITA) and are “auto-generated correspondence issued to Express Entry candidates through their online account.”[27] According to a 2018 report:

[A] Ministerial Instruction is published specifying the number of invitations to apply (ITA) for permanent residence that will be sent to candidates in the Express Entry pool on a specific date. The Ministerial Instruction may also specify that the ITA round will target one or more of the Express Entry economic immigration categories. For a given round, invitations are issued to candidates, in descending CRS score rank order, until the maximum number of invitations specified in the associated Ministerial Instruction is met. The profiles of candidates who do not receive an ITA, or decline an ITA, remain in the pool for up to 12 months. Candidates who receive an ITA but do not react are withdrawn from the pool.[28]

Once candidates receive an ITA, they are given 60 days to complete and submit an official electronic Application for Permanent Residence.[29] Once an application is received, an immigration officer assesses the application to “verify the applicant’s CRS score and program eligibility, and to ensure the principal applicant and any accompanying family members are not inadmissible.” If the immigration officer is “satisfied that all conditions have been met and that the principal applicant and any accompanying family members are not inadmissible, they are approved for a permanent resident visa. Applicants and their accompanying family members become permanent residents when they are admitted to Canada.”[30]

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III. Family Reunification

All applications for permanent residency under Canada’s economic immigration programs, including the Federal Skilled Worker Program, allow candidates to apply as a family.[31] Typically, this “requires one person to apply as the principal applicant.”[32] Family members who can be processed for permanent residence as dependents include a

  • spouse or common-law partner,
  • dependent child under the age of 22,
  • spouse or common-law partner’s dependent child, and
  • a dependent child of a dependent child.[33]

Once the application is approved, “all family members included on the application will become Canadian permanent residents.”[34] Many permanent residency programs, including the popular Federal Skilled Worker program, “require applicants to show that they have enough money to support their settlement in Canada. This amount increases with each additional family member.”[35] Family members who cannot come with the applicant under the economic immigration programs include parents, grandparents, siblings, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, and other relatives. However, under the family sponsorship program, an applicant may be able to sponsor them after the applicant immigrates to Canada.[36]

APPENDIX: Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa Points Table

A. Core / Human Capital Factors

Factors

Points per factor - with a spouse or common-law partner

Points per factor - without a spouse or common-law partner

Age 

100

110

Level of education     

140

150

Official languages proficiency

150

160

Canadian work experience

70

80

 B. Spouse or Common-Law Partner Factors

Factors

Points per factor
(Maximum 40 points)

Level of education     

10

Official language proficiency

20

Canadian work experience

10

A. Core/Human Capital + B. Spouse or Common-Law Partner Factors = Maximum 500 Points (with or without a spouse or common-law partner)

C. Skill Transferability Factors (Maximum 100 Points)

Education

Points per factor
(Maximum 50 points)

With good/strong official languages proficiency and a post-secondary degree

50

With Canadian work experience and a post-secondary degree

50

 

Foreign Work Experience

Points per factor
(Maximum 50 points)

With good/strong official languages proficiency (Canadian Language Benchmark [CLB] level 7 or higher) and foreign work experience

50

With Canadian work experience and foreign work experience

50

 

Certificate of qualification (for people in trade occupations)

Points per factor
(Maximum 50 points)

With good/strong official languages proficiency and a certificate of qualification

50

A. Core/Human Capital + B. Spouse or Common-Law Partner + C. Transferability Factors = Maximum 600 Points

D. Additional Points (Maximum 600 Points) 

Factor

Maximum points per factor

Brother or sister living in Canada (citizen or permanent resident)

15

French language skills

30

Post-secondary education in Canada

30

Arranged employment          

200

PN [Provincial Nominee] nomination

600

A. Core/Human Capital + B. Spouse or Common-Law Partner Factors + C. Transferability Factors + D. Additional Points = Grand Total – Maximum 1,200 Points

Source: Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) Criteria—Express Entry, IRCC, https://perma.cc/Y8PS-YX3C. Please note that the site has a further points breakdown section by section.

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Prepared by Tariq Ahmad
Foreign Law Specialist
January 2020


[1] Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), S.C. 2001, c. 27, https://perma.cc/9TJF-L5UB.

[2] Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, SOR/2002-227, https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/ eng/regulations/SOR-2002-227/index.html.

[3] Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, Gov’t of Canada, https://perma.cc/6DYS-MKAW.

[4] IRPA, § 12(1).

[5] Org. for Econ. Cooperation & Dev. (OECD), Recruiting Immigrant Workers: Canada 43 (2019), https://perma.cc/2SKV-UA9U.

[6] Daniel Hiebert, Migration Pol’y Inst., The Canadian Express Entry System for Selecting Economic Immigrants: Progress and Persistent Challenges 2 (Apr. 2019), https://perma.cc/BD2G-XGDH. For more on the evolution of the economic immigrant selection process in Canada, see Robert Vineberg, Improving Canada’s Selection of Economic Immigrants, 12(2) Univ. Calgary SPP Briefing Paper (Jan. 16, 2019), https://perma.cc/72XB-EQ2P.

[7] Ministerial Instructions Respecting the Express Entry System, Immigr., Refugees & Citizenship Canada (IRCC), https://perma.cc/5CSM-UQ32; Ministerial Instructions Respecting the Express Entry System—Current (June 20, 2018), IRCC, https://perma.cc/LXC6-AHCC.

[8] How We Rank Your Express Entry Profile, IRCC, https://perma.cc/B4T6-UYCT.

[9] Daniel Hiebert, Migration Pol’y Inst., supra note 6, at 2.

[10] Id.

[11] Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) Criteria—Express Entry, IRCC, https://perma.cc/Y8PS-YX3C.

[12] How We Rank Your Express Entry Profile, IRCC, supranote 8.

[13] Quebec-Selected Skilled Workers: About the Process, IRCC, https://perma.cc/ET7K-E9CU.

[14] Immigrate as a Provincial Nominee Through Express Entry, IRCC, https://perma.cc/K3ZY-SA8W.

[15] Express Entry Year-End Report 2018, IRCC, https://perma.cc/2YFN-35KD.

[16] Eligibility to Apply as a Federal Skilled Worker (Express Entry),IRCC, https://perma.cc/P5E9-VR5B

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Six Selection Factors—Federal Skilled Worker Program (Express Entry), IRCC, https://perma.cc/M5RW-EZE8.

[21] Id.

[22] How Express Entry Works, IRCC, https://perma.cc/M843-2XNS.

[23] Express Entry Year-End Report 2018, IRCC, supra note 15.

[24] How We Rank Your Express Entry Profile, IRCC, supranote 8.

[25] Id. For a complete breakdown of points per factor, see Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) Criteria—Express Entry, IRCC, https://perma.cc/7Q6X-VFBQ. Part of the breakdown is provided in the Appendix.

[26] Express Entry Year-End Report 2018, IRCC, supra note 15.

[27] Express Entry: Invitation to Apply, Gov’t of Canada, https://perma.cc/Z32Z-FHYY.

[28] Express Entry Year-End Report 2018, IRCC, supra note 15.

[29] Express Entry Rounds of Invitations, IRCC, https://perma.cc/TN6J-AQNB.

[30] Express Entry Year-End Report 2018, IRCC, supra note 15.

[31] Can You Immigrate to Canada with Your Family? Canadian Immigr. L. Firm (May 22, 2019), https://perma.cc/AS27-TCV6.

[33] Which Family Members Can Come with Me to Canada When I Immigrate?, IRCC, https://perma.cc/X33G-NBAJ.

[34] Can You Immigrate to Canada with Your Family?, Canadian Immigr. L. Firm, supra note 31.

[35] Id.

[36] Family Sponsorship, IRCC, https://perma.cc/DFJ5-RUQH.

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Last Updated: 07/24/2020