Express Entry is the largest single immigration program that Canada has to supplement the Canadian labour market. As it is a points-based system, where only the highest ranking candidates are invited to apply, we are often asked the simple question “How can I get extra points?”
If you have submitted your Express Entry Profile, you will know how many points you have, and how that compares with recent express entry draws. In this post, we share tips for express entry applicants wanting to improve their score in the Comprehensive Ranking System and therefore their chances to receive an Invitation to Apply for Permanent Residence.
First a word of caution…
There are usually several options available to improve your score in the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS); but manipulating the points requires a multifaceted perspective that takes into consideration that changing one area of the CRS score may affect the scores in a different section. It is a wise investment to consult with a professional on how best to spend your efforts to improve your CRS points. You will save yourself significant $ if you prepare a proper strategy based on an informed understanding of the express entry system as opposed to just randomly spending $ to get new language tests, more education, or an LMIA.
This post combines our top general tips, but keep in mind that the best solution for each individual will depend entirely on their unique combination of factors. And your options can differ depending on how you qualify: as a Federal Skilled Worker, or under the Canadian Experience or Federal Trades Class – as these all have different criteria.
Make your spouse the Principal Applicant
If your spouse or common-law partner is fluent in either English or French, and is well-educated, has at least one year of skilled work experience and is younger than you are, you may find that their CRS score is higher than yours. If this is your situation, ensure that your spouse or common-law partner also puts a profile into the Express Entry pool because only one of you needs to be invited. The other will be approved as the accompanying spouse or common law partner and become a Permanent Resident at the same time.
Take another Language Test
Language skills have a huge impact on CRS points, generating points directly and because they are transferability factors as well.
There is a significant difference in the number of points awarded to an applicant who has Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) 7 as their minimum language score versus an application with CLB 9 as their minimum. If you feel that you have a legitimate expectation to improve your score to meet the CLB 9 threshold, then do some practice tests online or take a prep course, and then write the exam again.
Qualified candidates will need to score highly in at least one official language but points are available for fluency in the second official language. Most of our clients take the test in English as their first official language but we always keep in mind there are bonus points for both of Canada’s official languages. So if you have any reasonable level of proficiency in French as Canada’s second official language, it is worthwhile to see what additional points you would get by taking that test.
Also check to see if you would benefit from the maximum allocation of language points for your spouse or common-law partner, and ensure they take the test if viable. Since additional points are available for the language scores of the spouse or common-law partner, it may be worthwhile for them to take another test as well if there is a reasonable chance of improving their score.
Obtain an LMIA
There are a couple of possible ways to benefit from obtaining a Labour Market Impact Assessment. There are the 50 or 200 direct points that you will obtain under Express Entry simply for having arranged employment with a Canadian employer; but if those points don’t provide enough of a bump to your minimum CRS score, you can also obtain a valid work permit based on the LMIA and increase your CRS points by working in Canada.
It’s important to understand how an LMIA would affect your chances in the Express Entry draw before you actually set out to obtain arranged employment, so that you can be certain your prospective employer will obtain the correct type of LMIA for your situation. Not every LMIA will afford you the opportunity of a work permit, so you need to understand how and where you need the extra points well in advance of starting the LMIA process if you are hoping to use a valid job offer as a stepping stone to becoming a Permanent Resident.
Study in Canada
Studying in Canada has the potential to provide you with increased points for a Canadian educational credential, increased education points, increased skills transferability points and points for Canadian work experience. This is because if you complete a two year program at a University, College, technical school or other institute, you are eligible for a postgraduate work permit to gain work experience in Canada. Working for a Canadian employer can also increase your chances of getting a continuing job offer, plus can improve your language skills enormously. The points go up the higher the education credential achieved such as a professional degree, an MA or a PhD.
However, the pursuit of a Canadian degree or other education may ultimately decrease your points for age and may negate some of the time sensitive factors that you have used to calculate your current score – ie. foreign work experience, language test results or educational credential assessments.
Also, it is also not easy to secure a study permit for Canada, particularly for individuals from certain countries. Not to mention the expense of a Canadian degree. Ensure that you have considered all of the potential outcomes and get a professional opinion before you determine that Canadian education is your best option to increase your CRS ranking and your quickest path to becoming a Permanent Resident.
But if studying seems to be the most viable option for you, it is good to know that your spouse or common-law partner can usually accompany you, and get an open work permit. This can only improve potential future points that might become available for your spouse or common-law partner’s Canadian work experience, language ability, securing a job offer, etc.
Gain Foreign Work Experience
Foreign work experience as a skilled worker can account for up to 50 CRS points, a significant amount that can make or break your chances to immigrate to Canada. If you don’t have any foreign work experience and need to bump up your CRS ranking score, try calculating your score with one year of foreign work experience and see if that will put you over the hump. Three or more years of foreign skilled work experience will give you the most points.
Pass the Trade Exam
Passing a Provincial Trade Exam will increase your CRS score by either 25 or 50 points, depending on your language scores. Each Province oversees their own system of licensing foreign tradespeople. Research the requirements and eligibility to take the exam by searching the particular Canadian province that you would like to move to.
Tradespersons should always complete a profile
If you are a tradesperson, you should always create an express entry profile no matter what level of CRS points you will have. Because the current educational credential assessment (ECA) system typically does not recognize foreign trade certification, and trades workers may not have high enough scores on the language test, their CRS scores are likely below the minimum required for standard draws, so you be at a disadvantage in the Express Entry pool. However, in the past, IRCC has made specific draws only for those express entry candidates who have qualified through the Federal Skilled Trades Class.
In such cases, the CRS score distribution is much less, and the express entry score to get chosen was less than 300 points. For that reason, we recommend that any tradesperson who qualifies for the Federal Skilled Trades Class submit a profile, because you never know when the next express entry draw may target only tradespeople. We do know that the Canadian job market is pretty desperate for qualified tradespeople generally.
Apply to a Province as well
If you have a profile in the Express Entry pool, a provincial nomination certificate will result in an automatic 600 points, so you will likely get an invitation in the next draw. The provinces have their own streams for choosing who to nominate, and they can choose candidates in the Express Entry pool with good scores but not necessarily high enough to get an invitation without a provincial nomination. So if you qualify as a Federal Skilled Worker or in the Canadian Experience Class, but have say 300-400 points, this could be your best bet.
Best Idea: Run your points by a Professional
Just because the online system assigned you a certain score, it is important to realize that is an automated number based on the way you answered the questions. The immigration officers are not bound by that. You don’t want any surprises. Only a professional can make an informed calculation of the points you will ultimately get, because there are so many definitions, rules and proof requirements that may apply to the points you may be (wrongly) relying on — for example, for your sister living in Canada, or your time as a skilled worker, or your two or more certificates. A danger is you will not get those points when an officer looks at your proof. On the other hand, you could be missing opportunities to claim points to increase your score. Either way, the system is very nuanced, especially when it comes to work experience, so we recommend having a professional calculate your CRS score before people submit their profile.
Most Key Factor – Maximum Points
Professionals are laser-focused on ensuring you get the maximum points you can prove – and they also keep updated on the changes in the system.
As we know, the entire Express Entry program is predicated on Ministerial Instructions that can change at any time. Most recently, the National Occupational Classification (2021) grid has been overhauled with a new TEER system of classifying the skill levels for all occupations. There are now five digits to your NOC number, not four. Applicants are expected to update their profile. Of course, when profiles expire, everyone will have to use the new system. In 2023, more major changes are coming to allow the Minister to target some occupations in key labour market sectors for preferential treatment in Express Entry draws. It will be even more critical to view your work experience through the lens of the correct NOC Code.
Forget about Express Entry?
Unfortunately, in many instances, individuals who would make great immigrants to Canada will simply not be able to meet the minimum CRS score to get an invitation, no matter how many different options are tried – their maximum points are still not high enough. This is often the case for experienced skilled workers abroad due the age factor alone – the age points are so significant in the CRS ranking system. So this path to permanent residence just might not be the one for you.
Don’t forget there are other options outside of Express Entry for attaining Permanent Residence. For one, there is the Federal Self-Employed stream for self-employed artists, performers, athletes and others in cultural industries. There is also provincial nomination (aside from the Express Entry option) through dozens of unique Provincial Nominee Programs available across the provinces. Unlike the federal Express Entry Program, which only selects skilled immigrants, some provinces have programs that include semi-skilled workers who are already working in the province on a work permit who have a valid job offer. Several provinces have programs for entrepreneurs or new graduates as well.
Sometimes it may be necessary to first pursue a temporary option, like working or studying in Canada in order to eventually qualify for Permanent Residence through a Provincial Nominee Program or Express Entry. But there is no substitute for advance planning and the smart navigation of the most feasible options – that is always our best advice!
The Way Immigration would be pleased to help you understand what steps you can take to maximize your Express Entry CRS ranking position, or what other options may be available to you if Express Entry is not likely a useful option in your situation. Do you have a dream to become a permanent resident or Canadian citizen? Contact our experts today and start on a concrete path to getting there. If you are married or in a common law partnership or have dependent children, we are happy to provide their options for status in Canada as well.