Express Entry: Immigration to Canada with Express Entry

Express Entry: Step-by-Step Guide

Express Entry – A 10-step guide to obtaining permanent residence.

Express Entry is the main way to immigrate to Canada as a skilled worker. Canada welcomes about 110,000 Express Entry immigrants per year.

Eligible candidates submit their profile on Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada’s website. They receive a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score. About every two weeks, IRCC invites immigration candidates with the highest CRS scores to apply for permanent residence. This comprehensive CanadaVisa page provides you with everything you need to know about immigration to Canada through Express Entry.

Canada permanent residence

Table of Contents

Express Entry Overview

  1. What is Express Entry?
  2. How is COVID-19 impacting Express Entry?
  3. How does Express Entry Canada work?
  4. How long does the Express Entry process take?
  5. What do you need to create your Express Entry profile?
  6. How can I apply for express entry Canada 2020?
  7. How many points do you need to immigrate to Canada
  8. Do I need a Canada job offer under Express Entry?
  9. How much money do I need for express entry?
  10. How long does it take for Express Entry immigration to Canada?

1. What is Express Entry?

Express Entry is an application management system used by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to manage and process applications received through three of Canada’s federal economic immigration programs for skilled workers.

Express Entry is a competitive immigration system, ranking all eligible candidates against one another and then inviting the best ranking candidates to apply for Canadian permanent resident status. Candidates are ranked against one another based on their age, education, language proficiency, work experience, and other factors.

Under Express Entry, individuals and families wishing to settle in Canada can become new permanent residents within just a few months.

2. How is COVID-19 impacting Express Entry?

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

Canada 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. 

3. How Express Entry Canada works?

  1. Determine Eligibility: Potential applicants will need to be eligible under one of the following federal economic immigration programs.

A portion of the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) are aligned with Express Entry, but candidates still must be eligible under one of the three federal programs in order to enter the EE pool.

Though the eligibility requirements differ for each of the Express Entry-aligned programs, all candidates are required to have at least one year of skilled work experience, as well as a certain level of proficiency on an approved language test in either English or French. Also, Canada screens all EE applicants for criminal history and medical issues that could make a person inadmissible.

  1. Create an Express Entry profile: Eligible individuals must submit an EE profile to the pool of candidates. The EE profile acts as an Expression of Interest (EOI). Eligible candidates will automatically receive a score based on their profile and will be ranked against the other candidates in the pool.

The ranking score for Express Entry is based on the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) and is out of 1,200 points. Candidates can improve their rank by taking steps to improve their CRS scores. The higher a candidate’s CRS score, the higher the likelihood they will receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA),

The CRS score is used as a cut-off point in Express Entry draws. It is designed to project a candidate’s likelihood of being economically successful in Canada. It ranks different candidates based on their career and educational history, language skills, and whether they have already received a qualifying job offer or provincial nomination in Canada, among other factors.

Candidates can receive additional points if they have a valid job offer from a Canadian employer, or if they’ve received a provincial nomination.

  1. Create a job bank profile (optional): Candidates without a job offer or a provincial nomination may then register in the Canada Job Bank, a free public resource used to help Canadian employers identify and select workers possessing the skills they require. This step used to be mandatory but became voluntary as of June 2017.
  2. Receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA): Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) conducts Express Entry draws at regular intervals (usually every two weeks). In these EE draws, candidates above a certain rank are invited to apply for Canadian permanent residence. If a candidate is not invited, their profile will expire after 12 months, at which point they may submit a new profile. 
  3. Improve your CRS score: Candidates in the pool who have not yet been selected are able to improve their Express Entry profile and score. They can do this by submitting new and updated information. Examples include increased language scores, educational credentials assessments, adding additional work experience, and/or obtaining a qualifying job offer or a provincial nomination.
  4. Submit your application for permanent residence: If you receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA), you will be given 60 days to submit a complete application for permanent residence. During the COVID-19 pandemic, applicants have been given 90 days to complete their applications. In this application, you will have to provide extensive personal information along with supporting documentation. The entire application is submitted electronically.

After you’ve submitted your application, you have to wait for a final decision to be issued. 80 percent of Express Entry applications are processed in six months or less. If your application is approved, then you will receive authorization to activate your permanent resident status in Canada.

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 do you need to create your Express Entry profile?

In order to submit your Express Entry profile, you will require three main documents. If you’re interested in Express Entry, gathering these three documents should be your first step:

Language Test

All candidates must show proficiency in either English or French. You require official test scores from an approved language test in order to submit your profile.

The minimum required score varies between the three EE-aligned programs.
If you want to prove your proficiency in English, your options are the IELTS General Training exam or the CELPIP General exam. If you want to prove your proficiency in French, your options are the TEF exam or the TCF exam.

Educational Credentials Assessment (ECA)

The ECA is an evaluation of non-Canadian education by Canadian standards. Notably, education is only a mandatory requirement for the Federal Skilled Worker Class, but it is recommended that FSTC and CEC candidates also complete an ECA report, as education is an important component of the CRS score.
Note: An ECA is not required for educational programs completed in Canada.


A valid passport is required in order to submit an Express Entry profile. In very rare cases, alternative identification documents may be accepted when it is not possible to get a passport.

Once you have these three documents, you will be able to create your EE profile.

Applying with a spouse or common-law partner 

If you are applying with your spouse or common-law partner, you may want to compare your credentials ahead of time. One person must be listed as the principal applicant in the Express Entry profile and the vast majority of the CRS score will be based on the principal applicant’s credentials.

6. How can I apply for express entry Canada 2020?

If you receive an Invitation to Apply, you may submit an official application for permanent residence. This application is completed and submitted entirely online. Here are a few things to keep in mind about the final permanent residence application:

1) You may need to show proof of settlement funds.

All applicants in the FSWC and FSTC programs must demonstrate that they have enough money to support themselves and their family members during their settlement in Canada. Applicants with a valid job offer in Canada, as well as CEC applicants are exempt from these requirements. 

Number of family membersRequired funds (in CAD)
1 (single applicant)$12,960
For each additional family member, add$3,492

3) “Job Offer” really does mean a job offer

A big misconception held by many in Canada who are working on LMIA-exempt work permits, such as the IEC Working Holiday Visas, is that the “job offer” that they have from their current employer is equal to what IRCC considers a “valid job offer.”

Whenever you see the phrase, “valid job offer”, this means that the job meets a number of conditions specific to EE. Find out more about what makes a job offer valid in Express Entry.

4) Everything carries over from your Express Entry profile

Did you fudge a few months of work experience on your profile without knowing the real consequences? Well, you’re in for a big surprise . . .

The majority of the important data that you enter into your Express Entry profile carries over automatically into your electronic Permanent Residence (PR) application. Any changes you make at this stage could jeopardize your application.

Consequently, it is important to be conscious about everything that you enter the first time around. You will be asked to provide documentation to support the claims you’ve made.

Lying on an immigration application is a serious crime and can result in a five-year ban from Canada.

5) FSTC and CEC Applicants – get your Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) done!

Even though the ECA is not a requirement for FSTC and CEC, you should still get it done. Once the ECA is completed and added to an EE profile, scores typically increase drastically. Therefore, if you’re an FSTC or CEC applicant with a post-secondary credential, begin the ECA process as soon as possible.

7. How many points do you need to immigrate to Canada through Express Entry

This question is best answered in two parts: before entering the Express Entry pool, and once in the pool.

  • Before entering the Express Entry pool

There are three Canadian immigration programs through which you may become a candidate for EE immigration to Canada: the Federal Skilled Worker Class (FSWC), the Federal Skilled Trades Class (FSTC), and the Canadian Experience Class (CEC).

The FSTC is for qualified tradespersons with recent experience in a listed occupation, and CEC is for people with recent skilled Canadian work experience. Neither the FSTC nor the CEC require candidates to satisfy a points requirement to be eligible to submit a profile.

The FSWC, on the other hand, is open to people around the world who satisfy a minimum points requirement for eligibility. Note: this is a completely separate points system from the CRS score. Under the FSWC points-grid, you need to be awarded at least 67 points out of 100 in order to enter the Express Entry pool. You can view the FSWC points grid and factors here.

  • Once in the Express Entry pool

In the Express Entry pool, candidates — regardless of which program they are eligible under — receive a CRS score. This score determines where an individual candidate ranks in the Express Entry pool.

When IRCC conducts an Express Entry draw, this score is the main determining factor to decide which candidates are invited to apply for permanent residence. CRS cut-off thresholds for FSWC and CEC candidates have been as low as 413 points previously, with cut-off thresholds for FSTC candidates having been even lower than that on occasion. See our Express Entry Canada draw page for details.

However, please note that the CRS cut-off thresholds are not pre-determined, and that the threshold is subject to change for different Express Entry draws. Ultimately, there is no strict or written number of points you need to immigrate to Canada through Express Entry, but previous draws give an indication of which candidates have the best chances of being invited to apply, based on CRS score. See our Express Entry draw page for more information.

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. How much money do I need for express entry?

See the table below for an overview of the costs associated with Express Entry immigration to Canada.

This table may not include all costs. Incremental costs for shipping, etc. are also not included.

Before entering the pool
ItemCostIs this required, or optional?
Educational Credential Assessment (ECA)$200+Required for FSWC candidates, and recommended for FSTC & CEC candidates, who studied outside Canada
Language test(s)$200+Required
Other items and costs

(These items or services may also be obtained before entering the pool, but are not required for that stage)
ItemCostIs this required, or optional?
Police clearance certificate(s)Depends on the country. May range from free service to up to $100 or more.Required
Medical report$200+Required
Representation by a lawyer or regulated consultantRanges, but fees typically range from $2,000 to $5,000Optional
Government fees
ItemCostIs this required, or optional?
Processing fee$825Required
Right of permanent residence fee$500Required
Addition of accompanying spouse/partner$825 for the processing fee, $500 for the right of permanent residenceRequired, if applicable
Addition of dependent child(ren)$225 per childRequired, if applicable

10. How long does it take for Express Entry immigration to Canada

Express Entry is a system designed to provide fast immigration to Canada. For eligible candidates who receive an invitation to apply (ITA) soon after entering the pool, and who then quickly submit a complete application, the entire process may take six months, or even less. However, the following variables may extend this timeline and should be taken into account:

  • While some candidates are invited soon after entering the Express Entry pool, other candidates, depending on their CRS score and CRS cut-off thresholds in EE draws, may only receive an ITA months later, or not at all.
  • Some invited candidates may be ready to apply for immigration to Canada soon after being invited, while others may need more of the 60 days allotted.
  • While IRCC aims to process applications within six months, some applications may take longer, and decisions on other applications may take less than six months.