Express Entry review: what changed in 2023 and why its important for 2024

Last updated on
February 26, 2024

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Canada’s Express Entry system experienced significant overhauls in 2023, which will continue to impact 2024. This blog express entry sheds light on these changes and their impact on aspiring Canadian immigrants.

If you’re a skilled worker, tradesperson, or subject matter expert, understanding the revised criteria and draw patterns is important to prepare for 2024. We provide you with an analytical overview of the new landscape without delving into excessive details.

Key Takeaways

  • Canada’s Express Entry system has evolved in 2023 to prioritize skilled workers with Canadian experience, foreign experience, and/or skilled trade qualifications, assessed through the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) which factors in criteria such as age, education, work experience, and language proficiency.
  • The 2023 modifications to the Express Entry included the introduction of targeted draws for specific occupations and categories to address labor market needs, such as healthcare, STEM, and trades, as well as French speakers, contributing to variations in CRS score requirements.
  • The CRS trends in 2023 favored highly skilled candidates, with score ranges reflecting the demand for specific skills and experience in Canada’s labor market, and the IRCC committed to increasing its immigration targets through 2026 to attract more skilled immigrants. In addition, the draws favored French speakers.

Express Entry Explained

Canada’s Express Entry system manages skilled worker applications for those seeking permanent residence under federal economic programs. The organization primarily oversees three main federal immigration programs. These programs include the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), Canadian Experience Class (CEC), and the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP).

Candidates are evaluated on a range of criteria such as:

  • age
  • education
  • work experience
  • language proficiency

This scoring system, known as the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS), determines the candidate’s rank within the Express Entry pool.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for Express Entry, candidates must fulfill the criteria of one of its three immigration programs:

  1. Canadian Experience Class: Skilled workers with Canadian experience can apply under this program, provided the work was gained within three years before application.
  2. Federal Skilled Worker Program: This program is designed for skilled workers with foreign experience, requiring adherence to education and other specified criteria like language.
  3. Federal Skilled Trades Program: Skilled trade workers must have a valid job offer or a certificate of qualification to apply under this program.

To meet the qualifications for the Federal Skilled Trades Program, candidates must have accrued two years of full-time work experience in a skilled trade within the past five years and conform to job requirements in the trade industry.

A minimum language proficiency level, Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) 7, is mandatory for the Federal Skilled Worker Program and the Canadian Experience Class. Additional points are awarded for bilingual language abilities, and providing detailed work experience is crucial, as it influences the assignment of the National Occupational Classification (NOC) code and affects CRS scores. Skilled worker applications must adhere to these requirements to be considered eligible.

Application Process

There are several steps in the Express Entry application process. To begin with, you need to determine your eligibility and prepare necessary documents like language test results and an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA). Then, you fill out the Express Entry profile with personal information to join the pool of candidates.

If invited, you must submit a complete Application for Permanent Residence within 60 days. This includes medical exams and police certificates, and you must also provide requested biometrics. Any applications with errors or omissions will be cancelled. The majority of complete Express Entry applications are processed within six months, but profiles not selected expire after one year in the pool.

Express Entry Draws: A Year of Change

2023 was a turning point for Express Entry. The system introduced a new approach to draw candidates from the Express Entry pool. For the first time, Express Entry conducted a total of nine different categories of draws, including a draw targeting Federal Skilled Worker Program candidates exclusively.

A total of 42 Express Entry draws were conducted over the course of the year, consistent with the patterns set in prior years. However, the system also introduced occupation-specific and category-based selection draws. These were designed to target candidates in high-demand fields and with specific attributes, a move that reflected the evolving labor market needs of Canada.

These alterations were integrated into Canada’s wide-ranging strategy to modify its immigration policies in line with the ever-changing economic scenario. By introducing these new categories and refining the selection process, the Express Entry system has made strides towards fulfilling the country’s economic immigration goals with the immigration system implemented.

Keep in mind that there are Provincial Nominee Programs, which are administered by provinces. However, these underwent little change compared to Express Entry in 2024.

Occupation-Specific Draws

The transition from immigration program-based draws to occupation-specific draws in 2023 and 2024 marked a significant turning point for the Canadian immigration system. These draws targeted candidates from a broad array of occupations, comprising a total of 82 NOC codes in fields such as:

  • healthcare
  • STEM
  • trades
  • transport
  • farming and food

They also targeted French speakers.

The initial occupation-specific draw, held on June 28, 2023, focused on 500 healthcare professionals. This was closely followed by subsequent draws for professions such as truck drivers, accountants, and software engineers, each with varying numbers of ITAs and CRS scores.

The occupation-specific draws were designed to address shortages and bolster sectors in need, demonstrating Canada’s commitment to aligning its immigration policies with its labor market requirements.

Draw Frequency and Patterns

The patterns and frequency of Express Entry draws underwent substantial evolution over the course of 2023. Here are some key points:

  • There was a pause in draws from October 26 to December 6, 2023, for unspecified reasons.
  • March 2023 saw a significant increase in draw rates, with over 21,000 candidates invited across four draws.
  • The highest volume of draws occurred in December, with seven draws taking place between December 6-21.

The patterns of draws saw various shifts, such as 19 all-program draws, occupation and category-based selection draws, and a trend toward multiple all program draw occurrences in a single week each month. These changes represented a departure from the more predictable routine draw frequency that was observed from January to June 2023.

This evolution in draw frequency and patterns reflects the dynamic nature of Canada’s immigration policies and its commitment to a responsive and adaptable immigration system.

CRS Score Trends in 2023

The Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) in 2023 leaned towards highly skilled individuals, showing a tendency to select candidates with robust educational backgrounds, work experience, and language skills. Candidates with experience in high-demand occupations from 2019 to 2021 noticed a favorable shift in CRS score requirements during targeted draws.

The highest CRS score observed in a ‘no program specified’ draw in 2023 was 531. This score is indicative of the competitive edge of top-ranked candidates in the Express Entry pool. These trends underscore the commitment of the Express Entry system to attracting highly skilled and experienced individuals who can contribute significantly to Canada’s economic development.

Lowest and Highest CRS Scores

The maximum Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) cutoff score in 2023 stood at 531. This score was observed in a ‘no program specified’ draw. A provincial nomination under the Express Entry system awards an additional 600 CRS points, which can lead to a significantly higher CRS score, ensuring the receipt of an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence.

The draw held on September 28, 2023 had the lowest CRS score requirement of 354 for candidates in Agriculture and Agri-Food occupations. It marked a notable change compared to previous draws. This highlights the potential opportunities for candidates in certain sectors and the role of CRS scores in meeting Canada’s labor market needs.

Factors Influencing CRS Score Fluctuations

Several factors contributed to the fluctuation of CRS scores in 2023. The introduction of occupation-specific draws in the first six months of the year resulted in lower CRS scores for all-program draws, with scores increasing later in the year. Work experience also played a significant role, with up to three years of non-Canadian work experience contributing to CRS points under combination factors.

Canadian work experience is more valuable in the CRS, awarding additional points for up to five years of work in Canada. Securing additional work experience in one’s field enhances the CRS score, as does career progression to higher positions or jobs with increased responsibilities. These factors underline the dynamic nature of CRS score calculation, reflecting the comprehensive approach of the Express Entry system in selecting candidates.

Express Entry Targets and Results

In 2023, the Canadian immigration authorities, specifically the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), set a target to admit 55,900 skilled workers through Express Entry. However, the actual number of ITAs issued in 2023 fell short of the target, with only 42,000 ITAs being issued. Despite this, IRCC has stated that they are committed to multi-year immigration levels planning to ensure consistent growth in admission numbers.

These targets reflect Canada’s immigration policies and their alignment with the country’s economic goals. By setting and striving to meet these targets, Canada underscores its commitment to building a diverse and robust workforce that can contribute to the country’s economic development.

2023 Targets vs. Results

The IRCC set a target to invite 82,880 candidates in 2023 through Express Entry. The actual number of ITAs issued in 2023 significantly surpassed the set target, with a total of 110,266 ITAs issued.

The number of ITAs issued in 2023 was the second highest in the program’s history, indicating a significant achievement in exceeding the target goals. This accomplishment underscores the effectiveness of the Express Entry system in attracting and selecting skilled workers who can contribute to Canada’s economic development.

Future Admission Plans

Moving forward, the IRCC has plans to incrementally increase the admission targets for Express Entry candidates between 2024 and 2026. Economic immigrants are projected to account for 281,135 admissions in 2024, and then 301,250 annually in 2025 and 2026.

These future admission plans signal Canada’s continued commitment to attracting skilled immigrants to contribute to the country’s economy. By setting higher targets and prioritizing international student graduates and temporary foreign workers for transitioning to permanent residence, Canada is strategically positioning itself to meet its future labor market needs.

Tips for Improving Your Express Entry Profile

Enhancing your Express Entry profile can markedly boost your chances of securing an ITA. Here are some ways to improve your profile:

  • Gain more relevant work experience
  • Pursue higher education
  • Improve language skills - this is important since it can provide bonus points (called Skilled Transferability Points) based on a combination of language, education and work experience.
  • Secure a provincial nomination or job offer in Canada

All of these factors can contribute to a higher CRS score and increase your chances of being selected in Express Entry Draws and receiving an ITA.

Keeping the Express Entry profile up to date, reflecting changes in education, work experience, and language ability, plays a critical role in increasing the CRS score. These improvement strategies underscore the value of a well-rounded and comprehensive profile in enhancing your chances of success in the Express Entry system.

Language Test Results

Scoring high in language proficiency can considerably elevate your CRS score. Achieving Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) Level 9 or above can noticeably improve a candidate’s Express Entry score.

Bilingual candidates should aim to demonstrate proficiency in both English and French to maximize language points. Regular language practice through:

  • reading
  • watching
  • listening
  • conversing with native speakers

This is key to enhancing language skills. These strategies underline the importance of language proficiency in the Express Entry system and its impact on your CRS score.

Work Experience

Acquiring relevant work experience can further boost your CRS score. Maintaining an up-to-date Express Entry profile by adding any new work experience can increase the chance of securing a provincial nomination, which can award a significant 600 points to the applicant’s CRS score.

This suggests that continuous career progression and accumulation of relevant work experience can significantly enhance your CRS score. It also underscores the importance of keeping your Express Entry profile updated with your latest work experience.

Education and Credentials

As an international student, pursuing advanced education and earning recognized degrees and diplomas in Canada can earn you extra points for Canadian education under the Express Entry system. Advancing education while in the Express Entry pool, such as by achieving a higher education level or obtaining additional qualifications, can result in a higher CRS score.

It is essential for candidates to meticulously fill in all fields in the Education history section of their Express Entry profile, as this can influence CRS score calculation. These tips highlight the importance of education credentials in the Express Entry system and their impact on your CRS score.


The year 2023 marked a significant shift in Canada’s Express Entry system, characterized by the introduction of occupation-specific and category-based selection draws, targeting candidates in high-demand fields and with specific attributes. The system continued to favor highly skilled individuals, with CRS scores reflecting candidates’ education, work experience, and language proficiency. Canada also exceeded its Express Entry targets in 2023, issuing a total of 110,266 ITAs.

In conclusion, the evolution of the Express Entry system in 2023 reflects Canada’s strategic approach to attracting skilled immigrants and meeting its labor market needs. The system continues to evolve, with increasing targets set for 2024 to 2026. For candidates, improving their Express Entry profile - through gaining relevant work experience, pursuing higher education, improving language skills, or securing a provincial nomination or job offer in Canada - can increase their chances of success in this dynamic immigration landscape.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is 473 a good CRS score?

A CRS score of 473 may be considered good, especially for the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program. The score is competitive. Before COVID, this stood a good chance for immigration. However, the score can be as high as 500 for non-program specified draws.

How hard is Express Entry?

Navigating the Express Entry process can be complex, and even minor mistakes can lead to delays or rejections. It's important to carefully understand and follow the requirements.

How long does it take to obtain permanent residence with Express Entry?

The time it takes to obtain permanent residence with Express Entry depends on your CRS score and draws. The Express Entry process usually takes around 6 months, starting from the day the complete application is received until a decision is made. Processing times may vary based on specific circumstances. However, it could take more time to receive an ITA or you could never receive one.

Is Canadian Express Entry worth it?

Yes, Canadian Express Entry is worth it and it can lead to citizenship in Canada. The system welcomes a large number of skilled workers and leads to successful integration into the Canadian job market, making it a valuable pathway to permanent residence.

What is the Express Entry system?

The Express Entry system is an online platform utilized by the Canadian government to manage and assess skilled worker immigration applications for obtaining Canadian permanent residency status.

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is general informational purposes and it is not legal advice. The information not a substitute for professional legal advice, and it may not be appropriate for you. Do not rely exclusively on this blog. Always conduct your own research and due diligence. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, immigration laws and regulations can vary and change over time. It is important to consult with a qualified immigration lawyer if you are unsure how to proceed.

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