Canadian Experience Class Eligibility Criteria

Last updated: 28 December 2020

How to be eligible for Canada's CEC Canadian Experience Class immigration PR program

Since 2008, the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) has offered a major pathway for candidates who have studied and/or worked in Canada and want to transition to permanent residence.

The CEC is among the three programs managed under Canada's Express Entry system. This comprehensive CanadaVisa page provides you with everything you need to know on the CEC.

See if you're eligible for the CEC

Table of Contents


Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) launched the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program in 2008 to offer a dedicated skilled worker pathway to temporary foreign workers and international students who want to obtain permanent residence status.

The CEC has since grown into one of Canada's largest immigration pathways for skilled workers and is regarded as an overwhelming success by governments across Canada, communities, employers, and immigration candidates themselves.

What are the benefits of the CEC?

The CEC is part of a concerted effort by Canada's federal and provincial governments to encourage more foreign workers and international students to build their futures in Canada. Research by IRCC, Statistics Canada, and academics is clear: skilled worker candidates have a major advantage integrating into the Canadian job market if they have previously lived in the country. The combination of having high human capital criteria (e.g., being young and middle-aged, having high levels of education, work experience, and education) plus building social and professional networks in Canada enables CEC immigrants to be very successful in the labour market.

In addition to this benefit, candidates with Canadian experience are able to obtain more Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points under Express Entry. This increases their chances of obtaining permanent residence.

Third, CEC candidates who succeed under Express Entry are usually able to get their permanent residence status within six months.

A fourth major benefit of the CEC is unlike the other two Express Entry programs, candidates who succeed under the CEC do not need to demonstrate to IRCC that they have settlement funds to support themselves financially upon obtaining permanent residence.

How the immigration process works with the CEC:

IRCC uses Express Entry to manage skilled worker applications for three programs including the CEC. If you have lived in Canada before and gained eligible work experience here, you may be a strong candidate for the CEC. In addition, you may also be eligible for the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and if you have a trades background, the Federal Skilled Trades Program.

The first step is to ensure you meet the eligibility criteria of the CEC or one of the other Express Entry programs. If you are eligible, you submit an Express Entry profile on IRCC's website. Approximately every two weeks, IRCC holds Express Entry draws awarding permanent residence invitations to candidates with the highest CRS scores. CRS scores are determined base on each candidate's human capital characteristics including their age, education, language skills, work experience, Canadian experience, among other criteria. If you receive an invitation to apply (ITA) for permanent residence, you need to submit a completed application to IRCC within the specified deadline. IRCC aims to process applications in six months or less.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how you can pursue immigration to Canada through the CEC:

Step 1: See if you meet the CEC's eligibility criteria. CanadaVisa has a free eligibility tool.

Step 2: Assuming you meet the eligibility criteria of the CEC, you will need to complete an English and/or French language test designated by IRCC. You may also need to obtain an Educational Credential Assessment. Information on this step is available on CanadaVisa's Express Entry page.

Step 3: Go onto IRCC's website and submit your Express Entry profile, for free.

Step 4: Monitor Express Entry draws to see if you you receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence. The draws are usually held by IRCC every two weeks.

Step 5: If you receive an ITA, submit your completed permanent residence application to IRCC. IRCC aims to process applications within six months.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for the CEC, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Have obtained at least one year of skilled, professional or technical work experience in Canada within 36 months of the application date; and
  • Meet or surpass a Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) of 5 ("initial intermediate") for NOC B jobs or CLB 7 ("adequate intermediate proficiency"), for NOC skill level 0 or A jobs.
  • Plan to live and work outside of the province of Quebec (individuals with work experience in Quebec and who plan to reside in Quebec may apply to the Quebec Experience Class).

One year (or 12 months) of work experience is defined as at least 1,560 hours of skilled work in Canada. The 1,560 hours can be obtained through full-time and/or part-time work.

Applicants can remain in Canada throughout the application process. However, the Canadian Experience Class is also open to individuals who are no longer in Canada, provided that they submit their application within three years of leaving their job in Canada.

The Canadian Experience Class requirements are based on a pass or fail model. If the minimum requirements are met, the applicant is eligible to enter the Express Entry pool.

Note: Self-employment and work experience gained while you were a full-time student (for example, on a co-op work term) does not count under the CEC.

See if you're eligible for the CEC

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, as long as you intend to reside outside of Quebec.

No, you just need to ensure you obtain work experience that falls under the CEC's eligibility criteria.

Yes, as long as you meet the CEC's eligibility criteria.

No. Unlike the FSWP and FSTP, you do not need to demonstrate proof of funds if you successfully obtain an immigration invitation under the CEC.

The language requirements depend on the type of job you are working under to be eligible for the CEC. You need to meet the requirements across all four abilities evaluated through your language test (reading, writing, listening, and speaking):

A Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) of at least 7 across all four abilities is required if you work in a NOC skill level job of 0 or A.

A CLB of at least 5 across all four abilities is the requirement if you work in a NOC skill level job of B.

You must have worked at least 12 months of full time (or an equivalent amount of part time) in a skilled job in Canada and the work experience must have been obtained within the three years of your application. The 12 months of work experience is defined as at least 1,560 hours of skilled work.

The Canadian National Occupational Classification (NOC) defines the jobs as follows:

  • Skill Level 0: Managerial Jobs
  • Skill Type A: Professional Jobs
  • Skill Type B: Technical Jobs and Skilled Trades

No it does not count. Work experience obtained while you were a full-time student (e.g., internship or co-op) does not count.

The CEC does not have education requirements. However, you can obtain additional Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points under Express Entry for studying in an eligible Canadian program. In addition, you can obtain CRS points if you studied in an eligible program overseas that is supported by an Educational Credential Assessment ECA).

Ways you can improve your CRS score include:

  • Ensuring you obtain all the CRS points you are eligible for
  • Listing your spouse or partner (if applicable) as the principal applicant if they have a higher CRS score
  • Studying for your language test and retaking it until you are satisfied with your language test score
  • Get an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) if you have obtained eligible foreign education
  • Try to obtain an eligible job offer from an employer in Canada. This is a major advantage potential CEC candidates have over Express Entry candidates living overseas since CEC candidates have the ability to meet employers and network with them while in Canada
  • Similarly, you can try to obtain a provincial nomination

Click here to read more on how you can increase your CRS score.

If you are a former international student holding a PGWP, you can switch employers and still be eligible for the CEC as long as you obtain eligible work experience. The PGWP is an 'open' work permit, meaning you can work for any employer.

IRCC counts your work experience as follows to see if you are eligible for the CEC:

  • One year of full time work is calculated as:
    • 30 hours of work per week for 12 months = 1 year of full time employment (1,560 hours), or
  • the equivalent amount of work (1,560 hours) in part time work, such as:
    • 15 hours of work per week for 24 months = 1 year of full time employment (1,560 hours)
    • 30 hours of work per week for 12 months at more than 1 job = 1 year full time (1,560 hours)

You can work for more or less than 15 hours per week in part time roles as long as it adds up to 1,560 hours.

IRCC does not count any hours you work above 30 hours per week.