Express Entry

An overview of how to create a profile and apply for Express Entry - from a lawyer's perspective.

What is Express Entry and how does it work?

Express Entry is a two-step program: create a profile and, if you receive an invitation to apply (ITA) based on your score, you can apply. If you are accepted for Express Entry, you will be granted permanent residency. You can apply either inside or outside Canada.

Once you create a profile, Express Entry ranks all candidates based on their languages, work experience, education, age and other criteria. You will obtain a score (called a Comprehensive Ranking Score) and IRCC has a free calcualtor to learn your score. This score serves as a benchmark that IRCC will use to compare your score to other individuals who have an Express Entry profile in the pool (scroll down). Then, IRCC will invite the highest scoring individuals to apply for permanent residence through Express Entry.

To facilitate these invitations, the IRCC holds draws periodically, taking into account scores and specific immigration programs. Adhering to a general principle, a higher CRS score amplifies the likelihood of receiving an ITA. In essence, your CRS score significantly influences your chances of making substantial progress in the Express Entry journey.

Express Entry operates through draws that prioritize individuals based on their score, program and/or occupation.

There are draws based strictly on score. For instance, the IRCC conducts draws inviting the top 5,000 candidates and the 5,000 highest scoring indivudals are invited to apply for permanent residency. The exact score for an ITA fluctuates in response to the scores of other profile holders.

There are draws that extend to specific scores and eligible programs. For instance, draws encompass those with only foreign work experience or those with Canadian work experience.

Furthermore, there are draws that consider your occupation, ranging from healthcare to STEM fields and beyond, while factoring in your score. Notably, provinces can also carry out their own draws through Provincial Nominee Programs, aligning with their unique immigration initiatives.

Express Entry maintains a dynamic nature, marked by constant change and program priorities. Fluctuations in the minimum score are commonplace, and draw sizes vary significantly – ranging from more than 7,000 to more limited draws with less than 1,000 individuals. The draws do not have a schedule, and their frequency can change.

IRCC releases immigration-level plans every year. By evaluating past draws alongside these plans, you can try to anticipate upcoming draws, including potential programs and associated scores.

Are you eligible to create a profile?

Before you can apply for Express Entry, you need to be eligible for a program.

All eligibility programs require at least one year of work experience in a skilled occupation. The programs have different definitions for what is considered eligible work experience, such as whether the work needs to be continuous, whether self-employed work qualifies and whether working during your studies qualifies.

There are three eligibility programs:

If you have Canadian work experience, you might be eligible for the Canadian Experience Class.

If you do not have any Canadian work experience, you might be eligible for the Federal Skilled Worker Program. For this program, you also need a minimum of 67 selection factor points.

If you work in a skilled trade, there is the Federal Skilled Trades Program, but this most likely requires your trade to be assess by a province.

You can compare the programs here. Your occupation, called a NOC code or TEER, can be found here.

You can be eligible for more than one program. Review the program eligibility carefully and, if you are unsure if you are eligible, you can seek the professional help of Cédric Marin, an immigration lawyer that has helped dozens of applicants with Express Entry application.

Once you are eligible, you can create a profile, where you will need to enter your work history, educational history, language results and all other information. Then, the system will tell you whether or not you are eligible, and provide you with a provide you with a score.

It is very important to note that if you do not properly answer a question in your profile, the system might make you automatically ineligible. Take your time to read the questions, and if you are unsure, you can book a consultation to go over the questions.

What documents do I need to create a profile?

To be eligible and create a profile, you will need to complete an approved language test and an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA). When you apply, you will need to provide more documents, like your passport, reference letters and other documents set out in the completeness check. This is a general overivew and you will need other documents.

I have applied for Express Entry, but I have not received an invitation. Why?

When you create a profile, you have not applied for Express Entry. You have merely created a profile to be included in a pool. If you meet the requirements of a draw, you will be invited to apply for Express Entry. There is no guarantee that you will receive an invitation.

How do you determine your CRS score?

You obtain points based on various factors, like your education, work experience, language and so on. When you add up all these points, this is your CRS score.

If you are thinking about applying for Express Entry, you can use IRCC’s Express Entry calculator to determine your CRS score and eligibility. In addition, you can review the Ministerial Instructions (select the most recent full text) to learn how to improve your CRS score and how IRCC will calculate your score.

Your language level is very important since it can act as a multiplier. This means that you can receive more points for your work experience or education if you have better language skills.

I have created a profile for Express Entry. How do I apply for permanent residency?

When you create your profile, you will be assigned a CRS score. Then, IRCC will rank you against other candidates with an Express Entry profile. At this point, you need to wait for an Invitation To Apply. This will be issued following a draw, which usually happens every few weeks. Your CRS score, your program eligibility and even your occupation can determine whether or not you will be selected in a draw and invited to apply for Express Entry. While you have a profile, you can try to improve your CRS score by improving your language score, returning to school, or acquiring more work experience.

What are the different types of draws?

If you are selected for a draw, you are invited to apply for Express Entry. You will only receive a draw if you have created a profile and you are eligible for Express Entry. Here is an example of a real draw (scroll down to "Results: Rounds of Invitations"). There, you can see the program, number of invitations issues, the lowest CRS score and other information. It is important to know that draws can take place at any time and the score always changes based on the number of invitations. The number of invitations is determined by the immigration levels plan for the year, but the concrete number of invitations in a specific draw is most likely tied to current processing backlog. Draws can stop for a few weeks or even months. The invitations could be for 500 inviduals, or 10,000 individuals. There are no rules on the minimum or maximum number of invitations or draws.

There are various draws:

No program specified

The profiles with the highest CRS scores get drawn. This includes all eligible Express Entry profiles. It is not limited to an occupation or program.

Program specified

The profiles with the highest CRS scores and eligibility for a program like the Canadian Experience Class or Federal Skilled Worker Program get drawn. This includes all occupations, but it is limited to the highest CRS score and a program.

Category specific selection

The profiles that have the highest CRS score and a specific occupation that qualifies for a category-based selection.

Provincial Nominee Programs

Individuals that have a provincial nominee certificate issued by a province, based on the provinces needs (such as the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program – OINP). A nomination provides you with 600 points, which almost guarantees an invitation. However, there is a whole other application process for provincial nominee programs.

As previously noted, the CRS score, frequency and type of draw always changes. You can view the previous draws here. The future draws are influenced by the immigration level plan for the year, previous draws, and current inventory (i.e. number of cases pending processing by IRCC).

Example of a profile, draw and invitation

The following is an example of an Express Entry draw and how it works.

Date of Draw: August 10, 2055.

Number of Invitations Issued: 3,500 minimum CRS for healthcare occupations (this is an example of a category specific draw)

Score Required: 480

In this hypothetical draw, the IRCC issued invitations to a total of 3,500 candidates who had submitted profiles in the Express Entry pool AND met the requirements of the Category Specific Draw (see "Find out who is eligible"). To be eligible for an invitation, candidates needed to have a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score of 460 or above and be eligible for the category specific draw of healtcare occupations.

This means that individuals who had CRS scores of 460 or higher were invited to apply for permanent residency in Canada if they had a healthcare occupation. If a candidate's CRS score was lower than 460 or if they did not work in healthcare, they would not have received an invitation in this specific draw. The CRS scores are calculated based on factors such as age, education, work experience, language proficiency (in English and/or French), and more.

It's important to note that CRS cut-off scores can vary from draw to draw based on factors such as the number of invitations issued and the quality of the candidate pool. Higher CRS scores generally have a better chance of receiving an invitation to apply for permanent residency.

Please keep in mind that this example is fictional and for illustrative purposes only. The actual CRS scores and numbers of invitations issued can vary significantly based on the policies and priorities of IRCC at the time of the draw. It's recommended to check the official website of the Government of Canada for the most up-to-date information on CRS draws and immigration policies.

If you did not receive a draw, you continue to wait for the next draw. Either the CRS score will be lower and/or it will be a different type of draw.

Here is a real example of a typical draw.

I received an Invitation To Apply. How do I apply for Express Entry? What documents are needed?

IRCC publishes instructions to immigration officers, which are available online.

The completeness check for IRCC details all the documents that are required to submit your application. The completeness check is extremely important.

IRCC follows a strict approach concerning the supporting documents. They aim to simplify the decision-making process and may reject applications due to issues like uncertified translations or expired documents. They will most likely refuse the application if you are missing a document or if a document is incomplete, as opposed to following up and asking for a new document.

If you require guidance or have questions while filling out the application, don't hesitate to reach out to Cédric. He has aided numerous Express Entry applicants in creating profiles, enhancing CRS scores, submitting applications, and even contesting refusals in Federal Court.

You can consider adding a letter of explanation to explain any information that may cause confusion or that is not clear in your application.

How long does it take for IRCC to decide my Express Entry application?

IRCC tries to process all applications for Express Entry within 6 months. The exact processing time can be found on IRCC's website.

Can I apply with my souse and children?

Yes, you can include your spouse and children in this application. This means that they can also obtain permanent residency. The highest ranking individual that is eligible for Express Entry would usually be the main applicant, and the sposue and children under 22 (some exceptions) would be dependants.

What happens after you apply?

After you apply, the next step will be a final decision. You will receive an acknowledgement of receipt of your application.

However, there are numerous things that could happen during the processing of your application:

Returned incomplete (rejected)

If you are missing an important document or a document does not meet the completeness check, it could be returned as incomplete. This means that you will need to restart your whole application (i.e., create a profile, be invited to a draw and then apply). Hence, it is important to have a properly prepared application from the beginning.


You claimed points for CRS points, but your experience did not qualify or your documetns did not prove this experience. For example, for work experience, there are very specific instructions regarding letters of reference, being self-employed and Canadian experience. If you claim work experience, but it is the wrong NOC, does not meet the Ministerial Instructions for qualifying work experience, or if there are defects in your letters of reference

Additional Document Request

IRCC might ask for more information about your application. They could ask you to redo a whole section or ask for more information.

Police certificate

For some countries, you cannot obtain a police certificate before you apply. If that is the case, IRCC will reach out to you.

Procedural Fairness Letter

IRCC might warn you that you have committed fraud, you might be inadmissible, or inform you that they intend to reject it for various reasons. This is extremely serious, and it can have an impact on future immigration applications. There are some cases, like fraud and misrepresentation, where IRCC must issue a procedural fairness letter before making a final decision or banning you from Canada. If you receive one of these letters, you may want to consider speaking with a lawyer.

If you are in Canada, you might be eligible for a Bridging Open Work Permit.

Why work with Cédric for your Express Entry application?

Cédric Marin, Immigration Lawyer at Marin Immigration Law, has helped dozens of individuals review and properly prepare their Express Entry applications. He has helped applicants assess their eligibility, create a profile, improve their CRS score, review their application and supporting documents, and help prepare letters of explanation. Book a consultation today. We credit our consultation fees for legal services agreements.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and it is not legal advice. This blog is not a substitute for professional legal advice, and it may not be appropriate for you. Always do your own research and due diligence before making any decisions related to immigration matters. Do not rely exclusively on this blog. 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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