How to move to Canada with Express Entry in 2021

Last updated: 3 December 2020

How to immigrate to Canada with Express Entry to gain PR for immigration

This comprehensive guide provides you with everything you need to know on Canada's Express Entry system. 

Express Entry is the main way that Canada manages applications for skilled workers who want to become permanent residents. Eligible candidates submit their profile on the Canadian government's website. Approximately every two weeks, Canada invites the top-ranked immigration candidates to apply for permanent residence. 

Complete our FREE assessment to find out if you are eligible for Express Entry!


Express Entry Overview

  1. What is Express Entry?
  2. How is COVID-19 impacting Express Entry?
  3. How does Express Entry work?
  4. How long does the Express Entry process take?
  5. What are the pros and cons of Express Entry?
  6. How much does Express Entry cost?
  7. Do I need to hire a lawyer for Express Entry?
  8. Do I need a Canada job offer under Express Entry?
  9. Do Express Entry immigrants find good jobs in Canada?
  10. What sort of backgrounds do Express Entry immigrants have?
Express Entry Eligibility Criteria and CRS Score

  1. Am I eligible for Express Entry?
  2. How can I become eligible for Express Entry?
  3. What Canadian immigration options do I have?
  4. How can I calculate my Express Entry CRS score?
  5. What CRS score do I need to be competitive under Express Entry?
  6. How can I improve my Express Entry CRS score?
  7. Will the Express Entry CRS score decrease?
  8. Should I enter the Express Entry pool if I have a low CRS?
  9. What is the difference between Express Entry and the PNP?
  10. What do I need to do if I get an ITA for permanent residence?

Learn More on Express Entry

  1. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada's Website
  2. CanadaVisa Tools and Resources

Express Entry Overview

1. What is Express Entry?

Express Entry is an electronic system used to manage the applications of skilled workers who wish to become permanent residents of Canada.

Once an interested candidate submits an online profile, the federal government determines if the candidate is eligible for a program managed by Express Entry. Eligible candidates are accepted into the Express Entry pool and are ranked according to the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). The CRS is a points-based system used by the government to assess and rank candidates in the Express Entry pool. The CRS score is calculated based on a candidate’s age, education, work experience, language skills, as well as other factors.

Approximately every two weeks, the Canadian government selects the highest-scoring candidates from the Express Entry pool and provides them with an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence.

Complete our FREE assessment to find out if you are eligible for Express Entry!

2. How is COVID-19 impacting Express Entry?

Canada is holding Express Entry draws regularly throughout the coronavirus pandemic and inviting the highest levels of immigrants since Express Entry was launched in 2015.

Invitations to apply for permanent residence are being issued to successful Canadian immigration candidates all over the world.

Canada has exceeded its Express Entry invitation target in 2020 due to its steadfast commitment to immigration. Canada needs high levels of skilled workers to build a new life in the country to support a healthy economy and society.

Express Entry immigration is set to grow even further in 2021, 2022, and 2023.

In late-2020, Canada released a historic 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan. The plan calls for the highest levels of immigration in Canadian history as the country will aim to welcome over 400,000 new immigrants per year.

Most of these new immigrants will arrive as skilled workers, with Express Entry being the main way that Canada will manage their applications. In 2021, 2022, and 2023, Canada will aim to welcome around 110,000 Express Entry immigrants each year.

You are welcome to go ahead with the Express Entry and Canadian immigration process during the coronavirus pandemic. Click here to learn more on how COVID-19 is affecting Canada's immigration system.

3. How does Express Entry work?

Express Entry is very simple and contains two major stages. In the first major stage, candidates who are eligible for Express Entry indicate to the Canadian government their expression of interest in obtaining Canadian permanent resident status. In the second major stage, the Canadian government invites the highest-scoring candidates to immigrate to Canada. 


Here is a step-by-step breakdown of how to submit your Express Entry profile and obtain a permanent residence visa to immigrate to Canada:

Step 1: Find out if you are eligible for Express Entry.

Step 2: Complete your language testing and obtain an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA).

Step 3: Submit your profile on the website of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

Step 4: Wait to see if you receive an invitation to apply (ITA) for permanent residence from IRCC.

Step 5: Submit your completed Application for Permanent Residence (APR) to IRCC and pay your fees within the specified deadline. IRCC will then provide you with an Acknowledgment of Receipt (AOR).

Step 6: Submit your biometrics once IRCC asks you to do so.

Step 7: Wait for IRCC to make a final decision on your APR. IRCC aims to finalize applications in 6 months or less. Once your application is approved you will receive a Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) and a permanent resident visa (if you are from a country that requires a visa) so you can travel to Canada and complete your landing.

4. How long does the Express Entry process take?

An Express Entry profile can be valid for up to one year. Candidates who receive an ITA can expect the Canadian government to process their permanent residence applications within six months. The government begins to measure the processing time when a complete permanent residence application is received. The processing time ends when a final decision is made on the application. If a candidate does not receive an ITA within one year of creating their Express Entry profile, they can simply re-submit their profile if they are still eligible.

5. What are the pros and cons of Express Entry?

There are various strengths and limitations of Express Entry, but the pros far outweigh the cons.

Canada launched Express Entry in 2015 to improve the way it processes skilled worker applications and provide a better experience to immigration candidates. Prior to Express Entry, Canada operated a first-come, first-served application system. The problem with the old model is there were far more applications submitted than there were available skilled worker immigration spots each year. As a result, successful candidates would often need to wait several years for IRCC to provide them with a permanent resident visa. 

IRCC introduced Express Entry so that it could issue permanent resident visas to successful candidates far more quickly. Now it is able to issue visas to successful candidates within 6 months, compared with 6 years under the old system.

In addition to being faster, Express Entry is beneficial to immigrant candidates because the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) is based on plenty of Canadian government research that has been able to determine what characteristics enable immigrants to succeed in Canada and find good jobs. Immigrants who are young and middle-aged, have high levels of education, professional work experience, and high levels of English and/or French skills become very successful in the Canadian job market. IRCC research since 2015 finds that Express Entry immigrants perform at a very high level in the labour market. Express Entry immigrants can feel confident that they will be in a strong position to eventually work a professional job in Canada.

The biggest limitation of Express Entry is that it does not offer immigration candidates with certainty that they will receive an invitation to apply for permanent residence unless they have a very high CRS score.  Under the previous system, candidates were guaranteed to receive a permanent resident visa as long as they met all the eligibility criteria. Under Express Entry, only candidates with the highest CRS scores are able to get a permanent resident visa. 

On the bright side, however, Express Entry draws occur regularly, usually every two weeks, which gives you many opportunities to receive a permanent resident invitation. You can always try and increase your CRS score through ways such as obtaining a Canadian job offer, a provincial nomination, studying in Canada, obtaining more eligible professional work experience, and improving your English and/or French language test score. In addition to Express Entry, Canada offers over 100 different skilled worker immigration pathways.

6. How much does Express Entry cost?

Submitting an Express Entry profile to the government pool of eligible candidates is free of charge.

However, candidates incur some costs before submitting their Express Entry profile.

Possible costs before submitting an Express Entry profile may include:

Government fees and other costs after you receive an ITA include:

  • Canadian government fees to process permanent residence applications
  • Medical exam(s)
  • Police background check(s)
  • Biometrics fee(s)
Canadian government permanent residence fees for Express Entry
Your application
Processing fee ($825) and right of permanent residence fee ($500)
$1,325
Spouse or partner processing fee ($825) and right of permanent residence fee ($500)$1,325
Include a dependent child$225 (per child)

7. Do I need to hire a lawyer for Express Entry?

You do not need to hire a lawyer to go through the Express Entry process but it can be beneficial for you to do so.

An experienced, professional, and trustworthy Canadian immigration lawyer can maximize your chances of succeeding under Express Entry for a modest legal fee.

They can provide you with guidance on how to obtain the maximum number of Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points, and walk you through the Express Entry process, from submitting your profile, to preparing your permanent residence application after you have received an invitation to apply (ITA) for permanent residence. In addition, it is a lawyer's job to ensure that you do not make mistakes or misrepresent your Canadian immigration application.

The Law Firm of Campbell Cohen is authorized by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to represent immigration candidates in the Express Entry process. Led by Attorney David Cohen, Campbell Cohen has 45 years of experience supporting skilled workers in immigrating to Canada. Campbell Cohen is retained by a large number of Express Entry candidates each year who trust Campbell Cohen with submitting the strongest Express Entry profile possible and securing a permanent resident visa after receiving an ITA.

    8. Do I need a Canada job offer under Express Entry?

    No, you do not need a job offer to be successful under Express Entry. Obtaining a job offer does not guarantee you will succeed, however it will help to increase your Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score. You can obtain either 50 or 200 additional CRS points if you receive a job offer that is eligible under Express Entry.

      9. Do Express Entry immigrants find good jobs in Canada?

      Yes. A 2020 study completed by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) finds that Express Entry immigrants are very successful in Canada's job market since they have the human capital characteristics that are desired by Canada's employers. The study finds that Express Entry immigrants tend to earn higher salaries than the average Canadian worker and have high rates of employment and low rates of unemployment. Express Entry immigrants are expected to continue to do well in the Canadian job market since their skills will remain in high demand by Canadian employers as more workers retire over the coming decade. Canada relies on immigration to alleviate the economic and fiscal challenges that are caused by its rapidly aging population and low birth rate.

        10. What sorts of backgrounds do Express Entry immigrants have?

        Each year, Canada welcomes immigrants through Express Entry from over 100 different countries. Since it became the first country in the world to launch a points system for skilled workers back in 1967, Canada does not screen skilled worker candidates based on their country of origin. Instead, Canada only evaluates candidates based on their ability to integrate in the Canadian job market. To do this, the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) assesses skilled workers on their age, education, language skills, work experience, and other human capital factors. Since there are so many talented people around the globe, and Canada has a diverse economy, Canada welcomes people from a diversity of different countries, skillsets, and occupational backgrounds every year. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) produces an annual report on Express Entry immigrants which provides more information on the backgrounds of individuals who choose to bring their talents to Canada.

          Express Entry Eligibility Criteria and CRS

          1. Am I eligible for Express Entry?

          To be eligible for Express Entry, candidates must meet the criteria of at least one of the following federal economic immigration programs:

          • Federal Skilled Worker Program: The FSWP is Canada’s primary economic immigration pathway. The minimum requirements include at least one year of continuous full-time or equivalent paid work experience in the past 10 years in a skilled occupation under the National Occupational Classification (NOC) skill level 0, A, or B; validated intermediate or better language ability in English or French; for candidates educated outside of Canada, an educational credential (certificate, diploma, or degree) and an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) report. In addition to meeting the FSWP's minimum work, language ability, and education requirements, candidates must also obtain at least 67 points under its points grid.
          • Canadian Experience Class: The CEC provides international students and foreign workers who have Canadian experience with the opportunity to obtain permanent residence. Candidates must have obtained at least one year of skilled, professional, or technical work experience in Canada within 3 years of the application date and also meet language proficiency criteria.
          • Federal Skilled Trades Program: The FSTP is available to candidates who want to become permanent residents on the basis of qualifying for a skilled trade. Eligibility criteria include having a minimum of 2 years of full-time work experience in a skilled trade within the 5-year period of submitting an application; meet the job requirements of the skilled trade; have a full-time job offer in Canada for a period of at least 1 year or possess a certificate of qualification in the skilled trade that has been provided by an official Canadian authority; and meet language proficiency criteria.

          Complete our FREE assessment to find out if you are eligible for Express Entry!

          2. How can I become eligible for Express Entry?

          You have various options to become eligible for Express Entry. The first thing you can do is identify why you are currently ineligible. For example, you may not be eligible under the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) because you do not meet one or more of the FSWP's minimum work, language ability, or education requirements. Addressing the reason for your ineligibility is the first way you can submit an Express Entry profile.

          The second major step you can take is pursue an education pathway towards Canadian permanent residence. To be eligible for the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program you need at least one year of eligible Canadian work experience within the last 3 years and also meet the minimum language proficiency requirements. You can become eligible for the CEC, and hence Express Entry, by studying in Canada, and then working in Canada after you complete your studies. An added benefit of this approach is you will be rewarded with more Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points due to your Canadian education and work experience.

          You have many other options if you do not become eligible for Express Entry since Canada operates over 100 different skilled worker immigration streams. 

          3. What Canadian immigration options do I have?

          Canada offers over 100 different immigration streams for skilled workers who want to obtain a Canadian permanent resident visa. You can pursue one or more of these options at the same time:

          • Express Entry: Canada welcomes most of its skilled worker immigrants through Express Entry.
          • Quebec: The province of Quebec operates its own immigration system to recruit skilled workers.
          • Pursue a Study Pathway: Studying in Canada is a major stepping stone towards obtaining a permanent resident visa through the above immigration options.
          • Work in Canada: If you already have a job offer in Canada, you can begin your immigration journey by moving to Canada on a work permit and then pursuing the above options to transition to immigration status.

          Complete our FREE assessment to find out if you are eligible for Canadian immigration!

          4. How can I calculate my Express Entry CRS score?

          CanadaVisa offers a free tool so you can calculate your Express Entry Comprehensive Ranking System score.

          5. What CRS score do I need to be competitive under Express Entry?

          Reviewing the most recent Express Entry results is the best way to know what CRS scores are competitive for those hoping to receive an invitation to apply for a Canadian permanent resident visa.

          You should not feel discouraged if your CRS score is currently below recent CRS cut-off requirements. CRS score requirements change in each Express Entry draw.

          If your CRS score is slightly lower than recent cut-offs, you may patiently wait in the hopes that the cut-off will eventually include candidates with your CRS score. You can also look at ways to improve your CRS score.

          If your CRS score is significantly lower than recent cut-offs, you too should not feel demoralized. Being in the Express Entry pool provides you with the opportunity to receive a provincial nomination, which will essentially guarantee that you will be successful under Express Entry. In the meantime, you can also look to obtain a job offer in Canada, improve your CRS score, pursue other Canadian immigration programs, or pursue a study pathway to a permanent resident visa.

          6. How can I improve my Express Entry CRS score?

          Here are ways you can improve your Express Entry Comprehensive Ranking System score.

          7. Will the Express Entry CRS score decrease?

          No one, including IRCC can predict whether Express Entry CRS cut-off scores will increase or decrease since Express Entry is a dynamic system. No one knows what the CRS distribution of Express Entry candidates will be. When there is a large number of Express Entry candidates with high CRS scores, the CRS cut-off tends to be higher. When this number of candidates is lower, the CRS cut-off becomes lower. As you can see, Express Entry results vary widely. CRS cut-off scores can fluctuate significantly within a matter of weeks, including dropping or increasing by a large number of points. 

          If you are eligible for Express Entry, it is usually in your best interests to enter the pool irrespective of your CRS score since it provides you with a greater chance to eventually immigrate to Canada. Remember that aside from your language test and obtaining an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA), it is free to enter the Express Entry pool so you do not lose anything even if you have doubts about your CRS school. You will need to complete a language test and obtain an ECA for most skilled worker immigration programs so cost is not a prohibitive factor in entering the Express Entry pool.

          8. Should I enter the Express Entry pool if I have a low CRS?

          Entering the Express Entry pool if you are eligible is beneficial for you since it increases your chances of successfully immigrating to Canada:

          • First, as mentioned above, it is free to enter the Express Entry pool. You incur some costs before entering the pool for your language test and ECA, but these are costs you will need to incur for the majority of Canadian immigration programs you wish to apply to.
          • Express Entry CRS cut-off scores are always fluctuating and are impossible to predict. What may seem like a low CRS score could be enough to eventually secure an invitation to apply for permanent residence.
          • While you are in the Express Entry pool, you can work on improving your CRS score such as by retaking your language test, gaining more eligible professional work experience and/or education, or working and studying in Canada.
          • While in the pool you may obtain an invitation to apply for a provincial nomination which will essentially guarantee you will receive an invitation to apply (ITA) for a Canadian permanent resident visa.
          • You may also receive a Canada job offer while in the pool which may give you a high enough CRS score to obtain an ITA for permanent residence.
          • You can apply directly to other Canadian immigration programs while you are in the Express Entry pool.

          9. What is the difference between Express Entry and the PNP?

          In Canada, the federal government and provinces and territories can operate their own immigration programs. However, the federal government makes the final decision on whether a candidate can obtain permanent residence.

          Express Entry manages three of the numerous economic immigration programs operated by the federal government.

          The Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) allows provinces and territories to signal to the federal government that an immigration candidate meets the economic needs of their region. Such candidates obtain a provincial nomination which they can use to support their permanent residence application submitted to the federal government.

          A provincial nomination is the single most valuable factor under Express Entry’s CRS and results in an Express Entry candidate receiving an additional 600 points towards their CRS score, which essentially guarantees they will receive an ITA.

          Even if an Express Entry candidate does not initially have a high enough ranking score to receive an ITA from the federal government, they may obtain a nomination from a province or territory through Express Entry, increase their CRS score by 600 points, and then obtain an ITA from the federal government during the next draw from the Express Entry pool.

          10. What do I need to do if I get an ITA for permanent residence?

          All the documentation that you need to submit to IRCC if you receive an ITA can be found on this page.

          Learn More on Express Entry

          1. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada's Website

          IRCC's website contains plenty of helpful information on Express Entry include how the process works, what documents you need, how to submit your Express Entry profile, how to obtain your permanent resident visa if you succeed your Express Entry, and how to travel to Canada. 

          2. CanadaVisa Tools and Resources

          CanadaVisa offers a number of additional tools and resources to help you with the Express Entry process, including:

          • CanadaVisa Forum: The world's largest public Canadian immigration discussion board. You are able to learn from fellow skilled worker candidates about how to navigate Express Entry.

          Complete our FREE assessment to find out if you are eligible for Express Entry!