Canada has opened its doors to skilled and capable migrants since the past several decades. Unlike its neighbor to the South, immigration is a top priority for Canadian administrations across the political spectrum. For many years, immigration levels in Canada stood at about 250,000/year before being increased to 300,000 in 2017 by the Liberal government.
Some in economic policy circles have even suggested that the number should be increased liberally to settle at an overall intake of 450,000 immigrants every year with a sharp focus on highly-educated, talented, and business-oriented people. This policy stands in stark contrast when compared to the United States where the current administration has shortened the duration of H1-B visas and made it practically impossible to transition to a green card for many skilled workers.
As such, if you’re looking to migrate to Canada from the United States, India, China, Ireland, United Kingdom, Pakistan, or elsewhere in the world the quickest and fastest way is to apply using the Express Entry route.
This doesn’t mean Express Entry is your only shot of migrating to Canada. It’s possible for a Canadian employer to assess your credentials, offer you a job, and file for your paperwork to move. But this is taxing, laborious, and expensive from an employer standpoint. Very few companies choose to take this route and only if it’s deemed absolutely necessary.
The fastest way to get a job and move to Canada is to apply for Express Entry first. This way, employers don’t need to sponsor your visa and you’ll find a job quicker. Use discount code MAPLELEAF10 for 10% off the regular price.
What is Express Entry and how does it work?
Canada’s tilt towards attracting highly-skilled migrants from across the world manifested itself in the form of the Express Entry program, first introduced in 2015. Before Express Entry, potential migrants to Canada faced processing times of several years as all applicants were treated at an equal grade.
The new system, which is overwhelmingly merit-based, prioritizes human capital in terms of educational achievement, work experience, and other skills. Ties to Canada via existing family members are also considered but are given less weight.
When you apply for the Express Entry program, you’re required to create an online profile that lists your professional achievements in detail. Based on your answers, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) – the Canadian government body that processes all applications – identifies a minimum cut-off point of people in the Express Entry pool once or twice a month. If you’re selected, it will send you an ‘Invitation to Apply’ (ITA), following which you have 60 days to submit all original documentation and other supporting material.
If your documents check out and no red flags are raised during the vetting process, you can be approved for Permanent Residence status in six months or less. This is not a hard and fast rule, and a degree of variation exists with each applicant, but it’s a useful benchmark to keep in mind.
How do I begin my Express Entry application?
The first order of business is to determine whether you meet the minimum qualifications required for Express Entry. At this point, most people aspiring to move to Canada haven’t sat for their IELTS test yet, so it’s better to provide an estimation of your score. Follow these steps:
- Click on Pursuit’s tool which asks you a few basic questions such as your occupation and age. The form is a few pages long so make sure you spend a few minutes filling it out till the end. As mentioned earlier, put an approximation of your IELTS results.
- Wait for the information to be processed and determine whether you are eligible. An estimation of your CRS score will be provided.
If you have already given your IELTS, then you may proceed with the Come to Canada tool that gives you a specific CRS result.
Express Entry processes applications for three major economic immigration programs:
- Federal Skilled Worker Program
- Federal Skilled Trades Program
- Canadian Experience Class
The most popular program for expedited immigration for skilled immigrants like software engineers, technology workers, finance professionals, business consultants, designers, and teachers is the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSW). If you’re confused as to where your qualifications fit, then consult the detailed requirements section.
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To qualify for Express Entry, it is essential that your field of work and skills fall under the National Occupation List (NOC). Take some time to peruse through the various occupations listed under this category as it is imperative that you are able to prove relevant work experience and qualifications. Skill descriptions and sample titles are provided to make it easier for you to match your work experience.
The FSW program requires that you fall under skill type 0, level A or B. Other classifications, such as C or D, may render you eligible for programs such as provincial nomination. More on that later in this article.
Once you’ve determined the program that meets your skills and qualifications, the next order of business is to begin the process of educational and language ability assessment. If your high school, college, or graduate education was obtained outside of Canada then you are required to prove that it corresponds to a Canadian standard.
This means you will need an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA). There are a bunch of private services certified by the Canadian government that will analyze and verify your qualifications. One of the popular ones is World Education Services (WES); their processing time ranges between 3-4 weeks.
English language abilities are assessed by the IELTS examination. It doesn’t matter whether you studied at institutions where English was the medium of instruction, you will still be required to give this exam. Make sure you give yourself a window of at least two weeks to prepare for the test; the higher your score, the more points awarded to you in your Express Entry application. It’s also pertinent to mention here that the IELTS is conducted on specific days and wait times to book an appointment can be between 4-8 weeks.
Once your IELTS results and ECA assessment are over with, you will need to go back to the Come to Canada tool and fill it out with the updated information. At the end, you will receive a reference number inviting you to start your Express Entry profile. The reference number is only valid for a specific period of time and you must start the process before it expires.
In your Express Entry profile you will be awarded points based on the following criteria:
- Education level
- Proficiency in English and/or French
- Years of work experience
- If you have an existing job offer in Canada
- Your spouse’s education, language ability, and work experience
- Existing family members in Canada
The profile itself is long and requires intricate details of your education, work experience, contact information, family members, and more. Make sure you have the following documents handy:
- Your passport and other national identity documents
- Complete travel history since turning 18
- Details of colleges and universities attended
- NOC (National Occupation Classification) job title and code
- Educational Credential Assessment
- Language test results
- Copy of job offer in Canada (if applicable)
You don’t need to fill out the complete Express Entry profile in one sitting so it’s best to save your progress at regular intervals and come back to it as often as you would like. Make sure you double check all the information in the form; once submitted, it cannot be altered.
I’m now in the Express Entry pool. What happens next?
Once your profile has been accepted, you will be assigned a number of points according to the Comprehensive Ranking System. This is commonly known as your CRS score. Make a note of it; each Express Entry draw identifies a CRS cut-off point and all applicants in the pool with that score or more are automatically invited to formally apply for Express Entry i.e. they receive their ITA. For context, the current CRS score cut-off is approximately 440.
You will remain in the Express Entry pool for up to a year. If you are not invited to apply within this timeframe, then you will be removed from the pool and will need to submit a fresh entry.
While you’re waiting, it is advisable to begin the process of furnishing police clearance certificates. These are certifications of good conduct from all countries that you have lived in for a continuous period of six months or more, from the age of 18 onwards. Such documents are a critical part of the immigration process and are used to vet candidates for their suitability in Canada. Authorities typically take a long time to process them so it’s best for you to initiate it sooner rather than later.
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When you do receive the ITA, you will be required to submit scanned copies of all original documents within a period of 60 days. This deadline will not be extended under any circumstances. You will also be required to undertake a comprehensive medical examination, along with your spouse and other dependents, if they are part of the application. Your results will be uploaded to IRCC directly by the physician, so there’s no extra input required from your end.
As we mentioned earlier, most Express Entry applications are processed within six months or less. It is a stated objective of the Canadian government to complete 80 percent of all applications filed under Express Entry within this timeframe. Sometimes background checks will take longer depending on the complexity of individual cases so it’s a good idea to submit as much supporting documentation as you can. A strong profile appears trustworthy for the overseeing immigration officer and has a higher chance of expediting through the system.
Once your application is approved, the local Canadian embassy will request for your passport to issue you a single entry immigration visa. This does not apply if you hold a passport from a country that does not need a visa to enter Canada. You will also receive a document called the ‘Confirmation of Permanent Residence’ (COPR). Hold on to it and keep it safe, this is an important document that you will need at different stages of your new life in Canada.
Express Entry isn’t the only option for aspiring immigrants to Canada. Every province has their own set of requirements and gaps in the labor market to fill. However, this means that you will be required to reside and work within that province without the flexibility that the Express Entry program offers.
For more information, visit the Provincial Nomination Programs for each province and territory.
Generally speaking, the optimal chances of migrating to Canada are for applicants under the age of 35 years of age with a few years of work experience and reasonable IELTS scores. As you grow older, you are awarded fewer points as the Canadian government believes you might become a burden on its healthcare system. Since age is an unavoidable factor, the single most important method of increasing your CRS score is to aim for a higher IELTS grade. Even a difference of 0.5 points can make a substantial impact on your overall CRS standing.