Express Entry Basics

An Overview

Express Entry is an expression of interest immigration platform. A would-be applicant creates an online profile, providing information about his or her education, work experience, English and/or French language ability, age, and family information. The person will then receive a certain number of points for his education, work experience, etc. If the would-be applicant qualifies under an Express Entry immigration stream - Federal Skilled Worker, Federal Skilled Trades, Canadian Experience Class, or various Provincial Nominee Program streams (not including AINP) – the online system will then mathematically rank the person relative to others who have submitted profiles.

This is a very important point – it is not enough to qualify under an immigration stream or to have a high number of Express Entry points. You have to BOTH qualify under an immigration stream AND have a high number of Express Entry points to successfully immigrate under Express Entry.

Depending on the person’s ranking, he or she may then receive an invitation to apply for permanent residence during the next Express Entry draw. Typically, Express Entry draws happen once or twice every month. If a person receives an invitation to apply, he or she has 60 days to submit an Express Entry application for permanent residence. Once a complete application has been submitted, the candidate can, in most cases, expect to wait 6 months or less before obtaining permanent residence. 

For example, supposed I have a score of 470 and I qualify under the Federal Skilled Worker Program. The government wishes to select 1,000 people to apply for permanent residence. If 1,000 people have an Express Entry score of 480 or above, I will not be selected in the next draw, since my draw is 470, which is 10 points below the minimum score. However, if the government does another draw 3 weeks later, I may then be selected, depending on what the minimum score for the draw happens to be at that time. Supposing the draw 3 weeks later happens to be for applicants with a score of 465 or above, I will then be selected, as my score happens to be 470.


Base Language Scores

To qualify under the Federal Skilled Worker Program, an applicant must achieve a minimum score of Canadian Language Benchmark 7.0 in each of the four language testing sections – reading, writing, speaking, and listening. This translates to a minimum score of 7 for each of the sections on the CELPIP exam. For the IELTS, this is the equivalent of a 6.0 in each category. If taking the TEF (French exam), the minimum score is 207 to 232 for Reading, 249 to 279 for Listening, 310 to 348 for Writing and 310 to 348 for Speaking.

For the Canadian Experience Class, the minimum score depends on the applicant’s occupational level. If the applicant is in a NOC 0 or NOC A occupation the minimum scores are the same as they would be under the Federal Skilled Worker Program.

On the other hand, if the Canadian Experience Class applicant is in a NOC B occupation the minimum CLB for each testing category drops to 6. This works out to a CELPIP score of 6 in each category. If taking the IELTS, a score of 5.0 in Reading and scores of 5.5 in all other categories are required. If taking the TEF, a score of 181 to 206 in Reading, a score of 217 to 248 in Listening, a score of 271 to 309 in Writing, and a score of 271 to 309 in Speaking are required.

The Federal Skilled Trades Program has the lowest base language scores. A CLB of 4 is required in Reading, a CLB of 5 is required in Listening, a CLB of 4 is required in Writing, and a CLB of 5 is required in Speaking. The necessary CELPIP scores are identical to the CLB scores. If taking the IELTS, an applicant must score 3.5 in Reading, 5.0 in Listening, 4.0 in Writing, and 5.0 in Speaking.  If taking the TEF, an applicant must score 121 to 149 in Reading, 180 to 216 in Listening, 181 to 224 in Writing, and 225 to 270 in Speaking.

Keep in mind that these scores represent minimum scores. Achieving the minimum languages scores will not necessarily mean that you will have enough points to be a viable contender under Express Entry. In most cases, it will significantly increase your Express Entry points if you exceed the minimum language scores by obtaining high intermediate or advanced scores in multiple testing categories.

It’s also worth noting that the minimum scores are absolute requirements. If you fail to meet the required Reading score, but far exceed the minimum score in Speaking, you nonetheless will not be able to qualify.


Work Experience Minimum

To qualify under the Federal Skilled Worker Program, you need at least 1 year of full time (or equivalent in part time) work experience within the last 10 years. To qualify under the Canadian Experience Class, you need at least 1 year of full time (or equivalent in part time) work experience in Canada within the last 3 years. For the Federal Skilled Trades Program, you need 2 years of full time work experience in a skilled trade within the last 5 years.


Points That Will Give You a Fighting Chance

As of the day of writing, the lowest draw score ever under the Express Entry system was 450. If you have more than 450 points, your chances of receiving an invitation to apply within the next few months are reasonably good.

Typically, the best ways of boosting your points are through improving your language proficiency test results and through finding an employer with an LMIA in a skilled occupation.


Possible Ways to Achieve an Extra 50 to 200 Points

In some cases, people who have created Express Entry profiles may qualify for an additional 50 to 200 points. If you have an LMIA-based work permit in a skilled occupation, or if your employer simply has an LMIA in a skilled occupation that can be used to support your Express Entry application (that is, without necessarily obtaining a work permit for you) and is willing to offer you a permanent position if you obtain permanent residence (an offer of arranged employment), you may qualify for an additional 50 to 200 points.

Keep in mind that an offer of arranged employment will qualify for an extra 50 to 200 points if it has an LMIA to back it up or if the work permit associated with the employment is "special" (NAFTA, intra-company transferee, etc.). A work permit isn’t absolutely necessary in the case of someone having an employer with an LMIA.

Alternatively, if you have received a nomination under a Provincial Nomination Program from a province or territory that is participating in Express Entry, you may receive an additional points.