Express Entry to Canada

Express Entry to Canada

Introduced in January 2015, Canada’s Express Entry (EE) system was developed to allow Canada to meet its future labour market needs in order to maintain long-term economic growth. In 2020, the immigration target was set at 195,800 through federal economic programs, like those under the Express Entry System, and this number is expected to significantly increase as the year continues. In 2020, Express Entry was estimated to issue 91,800 Invitations to Apply (ITA’s) for permanent residency, which was surpassed; issuing an impressive 107,950 ITA’s.

Canada confidently continues to accept and process Express Entry applications, despite the current pandemic travel restrictions.  In fact, Canada’s new immigration totals have been set for the next three years, promising to welcome over 1.2 million newcomers by the year 2023.

Below is a breakdown of the 2021 – 2023 Express Entry Immigration targets:


  • 2021 – 108,500 ITAs
  • 2022 – 110,500 ITAs
  • 2023 – 113,750 ITAs

What is the Express Entry System?


Canada’s Express Entry system was introduced by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and it is used to select candidates for immigration to Canada through various Federal Economic Immigration programs. Candidates who intend to apply for immigration through the Federal Skilled Worker Class, Federal Skilled Trades Class, and Canadian Experience Class are required to do so through the system.

As the main driver of economic migration to Canada, the Express Entry system is seen as a flagship program providing a fast-tracked route to Canadian immigration.

Let’s take a closer look at how far the Express Entry system has come, whether it is fulfilling its objectives, and what this means for you as an applicant.



History of the Canadian Express Entry System


Canada’s Express Entry system was launched in January 2015 to help people apply for Canadian permanent residence, under three categories:

Early Rounds

At the beginning of 2015, the majority of admissions came from applications submitted before January 1. These early draws included a large number of applications from foreign nationals who already worked in Canada. Many of those immigrants were given ITAs because they had job offers supported by a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).

In the first ten draws, which took place over six months, a total of 11,353 ITAs were issued to candidates. Since the first draw on January 21, 2015, the system has developed into one of the most efficient immigration programs in Canada.

Remember that the number of invited candidates can be lower than the number of invitations sent. This happens when some candidates receive more than one invitation or when invitations are declined.

System Improvements

Over time, the number of ITAs issued under the system has continued to rise, because of Canada’s growing market. Due to this upwards trend, improvements were made to the system in the fall of 2016.

These changes came into effect on November 19, 2016. Aimed at creating a fair immigration system, the changes address human resource needs, while ensuring long-term economic growth for the country.

The improvements include awarding points for job offers made to eligible candidates already in Canada with LMIA-exempt work permits and to international students who have completed their education in Canada.

In addition, more time is now allocated for candidates to submit applications for permanent residence once they have received ITAs.

The most recent improvement to Canada’s Express Entry system is that candidates with exceptional French language skills will now be able to get more points, increasing from 15 to 25 points for French speakers and 30 to 50 for bilingual applicants.


Job Offers


From Nov 19, 2016, Points Awarded by the CRS for a Job Offer Changed in Three Basic Ways:
Points will be awarded for job offers made to eligible candidates who are on LMIA exempt work permits. Many foreign workers in Canada who are temporarily on an employer-specific LMIA-exempt work permit, but who want to stay in Canada permanently, will no longer need to get an LMIA to be awarded job offer points by the CRS. This includes candidates who are here under the North American Free Trade Agreement, a federal-provincial agreement, or who are intra-company transferees. For the points to be awarded, the candidate must meet certain criteria, such as having at least one year of work experience from the same employer who is providing their job offer.
Job offers will only need to be a minimum of one year in duration once they receive permanent residence. Changing the job offer requirement from permanent to one year means that more highly skilled candidates working in contract-based industries will have a higher likelihood of receiving an Invitation to Apply for permanent residence.
Points awarded for job offers will be reduced. A total of 50 points will be awarded to candidates with a valid job offer in a National Occupational Classification (NOC) 0, A or B occupation, while a total of 200 points will be awarded to candidates with a valid job offer in a NOC 00 occupation.

80% of Express Entry candidates in 2017 got ITAs, even without a job offer. This means that even without a job offer it is still possible to qualify for this program.


Points will now be awarded for study in Canada above high school. The CRS will award 15 points for a one or two-year diploma or certificate and 30 points for a degree, diploma, or certificate of three years or longer, including a master’s, professional or doctoral degree.

With these changes, more former international students will be able to transition to permanent residency using the system. Former international students are a key source of candidates for the system because of their age, education, skills, and experience. Permanently integrating into Canadian society will be easier for them, because they have already familiarized themselves with life in Canada.

Candidates will now have 60 days to complete an application for permanent residence if they get an invitation to apply. This will give candidates more time to gather all the required documentation and submit a complete application.

Since the new changes came into effect the number of ITAs issued has progressively increased and the number of CRS points required has significantly decreased.

Express Entry to Canada ITA Numbers

1. Most number of ITAs issued in one draw – 27,332 on February 13, 2021
2. Least number of ITAs issued in one draw – 250 on January 6, 2021 (this draw was for candidates invited under provincial nomination only)
3. Number of ITAs issued in 2015 – 31,063
4. Number of ITAs issued in 2016 – 33,782
5. Number of ITAs issued in 2017 – 86,022
6. Number of ITAs issued in 2018 – 89,800
7. Number of ITAs issued in 2019 – 85,300
8. Number of ITAs issued in 2020 – 107,950
9. Total number of ITAs issued to date in 2021 – 37,986
10. Total number of ITAs issued since the system was introduced – 471,903

Express Entry applications can take as little as six months to process, making this program one of the fastest immigration programs in Canada. Only immigrants who have the right skills required in each province can qualify, unlike the Green Card Lotteries used in the U.S.

Applicants who are successful can eventually apply for permanent residence in Canada. 


Express Entry to Canada: Application Process


  • Find out if you meet the basic requirements;
  • Create an online Express Entry Profile and make sure you have your:
    • Passport;
    • National Occupation Classification (NOC);
    • Education credential assessment report;
    • Recent language tests:
      • International English Language Testing System (IELTS);
      • Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP); and/or
      • Test d’Evaluation de Français (TEF)
    • Canadian job offer (If you have one); and
    • Provincial Nomination (If you have one)
  • Receive a CRS (Comprehensive Ranking System) score out a possible 1,200 points;
  • Get an Invitation to Apply (ITA) if you score high enough on the CRS. An ITA means you can apply for permanent residence in Canada:
    • Please note that the score needed to apply for permanent residence changes for each draw. Even if you do not qualify for a specific draw, you still remain in the pool for one year.
  • Pay an application fee and a Right of Permanent Residence Fee;
  • Provide Proof of Funds to show you can support your family;
  • Provide Police Certificates;
  • Prepare for a medical exam from certified health professionals; and
  • Contact previous employers to provide job letters to prove you have valid work experience

Please note that if you have a Canadian job offer, your future employer may need to provide you with an LMIA.


Comprehensive Ranking System


Applicants are ranked on a system called the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS), which determines who gets selected from the Express Entry Pool first. This system scores you based on four main factors:

  • Human Capital Factors;
  • Spouse and Common Law Partner;
  • Skill Transferability; and
  • Additional Factors

These factors take into account:

  • Age;
  • Work experience;
  • Education qualifications;
  • Language skills;
  • Adaptability;
  • Job offers; and
  • Spouse or common-law partner

The higher the applicants’ scores on the CRS, the better their chances of becoming a permanent resident of Canada. The highest you can score on this system is 1,200 points.

Below is a breakdown of how you will be scored:

  • Core points = 600 points; and
  • Additional points = 600 points

Core CRS Points

You can earn Core CRS points for the following:

  1. Skills and experience factors
  2. Spouse or common-law partner factors eg. language skills and education; and
  3. Skills transferability eg. education and work experience.

Additional CRS Points

You can earn additional CRS points for the following:

  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 (citizen or permanent resident.
  5. Strong French language skills.


You can score points under these four main categories:


SECTION A – Core/Human Capital
Criteria Maximum Points With Spouse Maximum Points Without Spouse
Age 100 110
Education 140 150
Language Skills (English/French) 150 160
Canadian Work Experience 70 80


SECTION B – Spouse or Common-Law Partner
Criteria Maximum Points
Education 10
Language Skills (English/French) 20
Canadian Work Experience 10


SECTION C – Skills Transferability
Education Maximum Points
Language Skills (English/French) + Education 50
Canadian Work Experience + Education 50
Foreign Work Experience Maximum Points
Language Skills (English/French) + Foreign Work Experience 50
Foreign Work Experience + Canadian Work Experience 50
Certificate of Qualification (Trades) Maximum Points
Language Skills (English/French) + Education Certificate 50


SECTION D – Additional Points
Criteria Maximum Points
Brother and Sister Living in Canada 15
French Language Skills 30
Post-Secondary Canadian Education 30
Arranged Employment 200
Provincial Nomination 600


How to Improve Your CRS Score

There are several ways to improve your CRS scores, like receiving a Provincial Nomination that adds an extra 600 points or getting a Canadian job offer, which is worth 50 – 600 points. For example, a job offer from a level 00 job under the National Occupation Classification (NOC) will give you an additional 200 points. Any other job level offer from a Canadian employer will give you an additional 50 points. But a job offer under a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) will give 600 CRS points. 

Another way to increase your score is through Core Human Capital Factors (600 Points). This awards points for education qualifications like certificates, diplomas, and degrees. The higher your educational qualifications, the better the score you will receive.

If you apply with your spouse or common-law partner it can also help increase your score, if they have the correct work experience and educational background. Having more work experience can also have an impact on CRS results.   

Language skills are a great way to increase CRS scores. The higher the applicants’ score on recognized French and English tests like IELTS, TEF, and CELPIP, the better the results. In total, language skills can add an extra 150 points.


Canada Immigration Plan: 2021 – 2023


In October 2020, the government of Canada released its Immigration Plan for the following 3 years, seeking to improve ways to immigrate to Canada by making the application process easier and less time-consuming. Canada has continued to raise its immigration targets and aims to welcome 401,000 newcomers in 2021, of which a total of 108,500 is expected to be invited to apply for permanent residence through the Express Entry system and about 80,800 through the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). These totals are expected to increase by 1,000 ITAs every year to 411,000 in 2022 and 421,000 in 2023. Below is a breakdown of the Government plan for Economic Immigration for 2020.     

Economic Canadian Immigration Plan for 2021
Immigration Program Target
Express Entry 108,000
Provincial Nominee Program 80,800
Quebec Immigration TBC
Economic Pilot’s (Caregivers; Agri-food Immigration Pilot; Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot) 8,500
Atlantic Immigration 6,000
Business Immigration (Start-up Visa and Self-employed Persons Program) 1,000
Total (Economic) 232,500

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