How to Move to Canada: Express Entry Explained

Tina Sieber 09-11-2016

Canada’s popularity is rising steadily. First Canada elected Trudeau, then Brexit happened, and now Trump won the US presidential election. Canada could be the new promised land.


While Trump was taking the lead, thousands of desperate US Americans turned to Canada’s immigration website to consider alternatives. As a result, the website has been suffering server errors and outages.

CIC 500 Internal Server Error

If you’re curious about immigrating to Canada, know that technically it’s easy, provided you qualify and can afford it Expat on the Cheap: A Quick Guide to Affordable International Living We love to travel, and as such, we know a few things. Here are some tips to becoming an expat in an affordable way. Read More . This article will give you an overview of your options and a three-step program to get started.

Note that while I mainly address US citizens, this article is equally valid for other nationalities. I’m a European citizen myself and received the Canadian Permanent Residence (PR) this year.

Who Can Aspire to Move to Canada?

Canada’s aim is to attract skilled workers who can contribute to Canada’s economy and society. Hence, all immigration programs are tailored to meet the country’s needs. Unless you’re a refugee, have Canadian family to sponsor you, or want to study in Canada, you’ll have to enter through one of the economic programs. And you better have some savings too.


Skilled Workers

If you want to permanently move to Canada, you need to become a permanent resident. To become a permanent resident, you must meet certain criteria in terms of your education, language skills, or work experience. If you have both education and work experience in a sought-after field, or you already have a job offer, you’ll have no trouble receiving the PR.

Non-US Millennials

If you have very little work experience or haven’t even completed your formal education yet, your chances to find a job or receive the PR are extremely low. However, if you’re in your 20s or early 30s (depending on your country of origin), Canada welcomes you too. You should look into the International Experience Class (IEC), a set of programs designed for young people who wish to temporarily live and work in Canada.

The pool for 2017 Working Holiday, Youth Professionals, and International Co-op Internship visas was opened on October 17, 2016. Now is the perfect time to apply for a temporary visa. Unfortunately, this program is not available to US citizens.


US Millennials

If you’re from the US or another country that does not participate in youth exchanges with Canada, you should use a Recognized Organization (RO) to obtain a temporary work visa. You can see an overview of ROs here. It includes student organizations such as AIESEC, universities, and volunteer organizations. The cutoff age with most ROs is 35, except for AIESEC, where it’s 30.

Should you be eligible for one of the programs under IEC or receive a temporary work visa through a RO, you will have the chance to collect Canadian experience. This in turn will count towards other immigration programs, such as Express Entry.

Business People

If you are an investor, entrepreneur, or self-employed 8 Websites For Creative Business Ideas If You Want To Be An Entrepreneur When it comes to ideas you never know which ones will work. Without crazy ideas we wouldn’t have the airplane or the Frisbee. If you are an enterprising entrepreneur, you probably are in search of... Read More , look into the business immigration program. For example, entrepreneurs skilled enough “to secure a commitment from a designated Canadian angel investor group or venture capital fund to invest in [their] business idea”, can apply for a Start-Up Visa.

How Does Immigration to Canada Work?

In 2015, Canada launched Express Entry, a new immigration program that targets skilled immigrants. IRCC chooses qualifying candidates “based on their ability to settle in Canada and take part in our economy”.


As you would expect from a progressive government, Express Entry is entirely web-based and user friendly. The agency for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) promises to process Express Entry applications within six months or less. However, it could take months until you receive an invitation to apply for PR. Here’s why…

Express Entry Pool of Candidates

Before you can apply for PR, you must submit your profile to a pool of candidates. In that pool, all candidates rank based on points earned under the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS).

You can collect CRS points for a number of criteria, including your age, English and French language skills How I Finally Learned a Different Language. And You Can Too. No single language learning app is the magic wand. The secret to learning a new language is a blended solution. With desire and motivation you too can learn any foreign language. Read More , education, work experience, Canadian experience (work or study), a job offer with a positive labor market impact assessment (LMIA), a provincial nomination (PN), and more. If you have a family and apply together with your partner, you can receive extra points as well. There is no minimum number of points to join the pool.

Invitation to Apply for PR

Every month, IRCC invites many candidates to apply for PR based on their CRS points. So far, candidates had to have at least 450 points to receive an invitation to apply (ITA) for PR. Recent nominees from the November 2 draw needed at least 472 points. Note that a valid job offer 7 Big Job Search Engines to Help You Find Work Searching for the next good job is a continuous activity for many of us. Start your job search on seven of the biggest job search engines on the web. Read More or PN alone will give you 600 points.


Right now, the situation for highly skilled professionals is extremely promising.

Once you receive an ITA, it’s almost guaranteed that you will receive the PR. The conditions are that you’re healthy, can support the claims you made in your Express Entry profile, and don’t make any grave mistakes during your application.

How to Become a Canadian Permanent Resident

1. Check Whether You Qualify for Express Entry

First, estimate your points using the Comprehensive Ranking System tool. If you have less than 400 points, it’s literally pointless to complete your profile. Candidates with more than 400 points used to receive an invitation to apply for PN with Ontario, which — if granted — would give them 600 points.

Canada Ontario PI

In addition to CRS points, federal skilled workers need to reach at least 67 points under the six selection factors. The factors are essentially the same as the criteria under CRS.

Canada Six Selection Factors

Even if you do have plenty of CRS points and pass the six selection factors, you still need to fill a gap in the Canadian labor market. To that end, your education and work experience must match one of the professions listed under skill type 0 (management jobs), level A (professional jobs), or level B (technical jobs) on the National Occupational Classification (NOC).

Canada NOC

If your experience falls under another skill level (intermediate or labor jobs), you may still qualify for another immigration program, but not Express Entry. If your job is not listed at all, you’re out of luck

2. Take a Language Test and Get an Education Assessment

If you qualify for Express Entry and have a chance of achieving at least 400 points, you should proceed with this step. You need to collect at least two documents before you can complete your Express Entry profile:

Language Test: Whether or not you’re a native speaker, you must let a recognized institution evaluate your English and/or French language skills. It’s enough to prove proficiency in one of Canada’s two national languages. IRCC accepts results from the following language tests: CELPIP and IELTS for English, TEF for French. You can find more details on accepted language tests here.

Education Assessment: You also need an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) to verify that your education is valid and equal to the Canadian equivalent. You can choose from several organizations. I personally have used and can recommend World Education Services (WES). Find more information on ECA here.

3. Complete and Submit Your Express Entry Profile

While you are waiting for the results from your language test and the education assessment, you should go ahead and fill in your Express Entry profile. It may take a while to collect all the information required.

Canada Express Entry Forms

Be meticulous! Provide your travel, employment, and education history in chronological order. Check everything at least three times to avoid mistakes. This is crucial because an innocent mistake could ruin your application later.

Once the results are in, you can complete your profile and submit it to the pool of candidates. Now watch the draws from the pool (see Express Entry rounds of invitations for past draws) and hope that the points for an ITA will drop to or below your number of points. Should this happen, you will receive an ITA; there is no further selection.

What Happens If I Receive an ITA?

When you receive an ITA, the real hustle begins. Now you have to provide the documents that support your Express Entry profile and verify your claims. That’s why it’s crucial not to make any mistakes or give false information!

Canada ITA

For example, you will have to provide proof of your work experience and education, police clearance certificates, copies of your passport, and you’ll have to pass a medical checkup. All documents should be in English or French or you need to include certified translations. Note that you must also show that you have enough money to settle in Canada. You can find a list of funds required here.

As mentioned above, once you received an ITA, not much can stop you from receiving PR.

What else would you like to know about immigrating to Canada?

Feature Image Credit: Alex Indigo via [Broken URL Removed]

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    • Tina Sieber
      July 3, 2017 at 6:09 pm

      I think you scrolled too far and left this comment on the wrong article, Aarav.

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  4. A41202813GMAIL
    November 17, 2016 at 1:52 pm

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    Maybe We Will Meet There In A Not So Distant Future.


  5. Lou
    November 11, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    Recommend you do some research, and ge well-informed, about life and reality north of the 49th, before considering the immigration option. Unemployment and under-employment for Canadian 20 and 30 somethings is higher than the US. Outsourcing in the tech, banking and other sectors continues to grow. Part-time and contract work is becoming the norm. Our economy, for better or worse, is tightly tied to the American economy, and American corporations have a huge presence in Canada. Should the US political situation continue to worsen, those companies could face pressure to rid their Canadian operations of Trump "enemies". It's happened before, most recently when Americans fled to Canada to avoid the draft in the 60's.
    Please don't expect Canada to just be a more polite version of the USA. We share a border, a history and some heritage with America, but, we also have different traditions, laws, political systems and rights, as well as uniquely Canadian problems, and challenges.
    Be especially aware Canadians, for the most part, are hugely disappointed with the election of Donald Trump. Most Canadians would prefer all Americans work to fix their country, not run away.

    • Tina Sieber
      November 11, 2016 at 7:11 pm

      Well said, Lou.

  6. Rodrigo
    November 10, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    What a bunch of cry babies! they can't handle disappointment and opposing opinions.

    I know it sounds crazy, but the world does not revolves around you, spoiled kids.

    • A41202813GMAIL
      November 17, 2016 at 2:24 pm

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  7. robert
    November 10, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    Does Canada offer PR for US retired, self supporting citizens?

    • Tina Sieber
      November 10, 2016 at 12:42 pm

      Not that I know of.

      What they do offer is family sponsorship and kids can sponsor their parents.

    • Jan Steinman
      April 19, 2017 at 5:40 pm

      There's the student route. You can enroll in a Canadian college, and you are entitled to work in Canada for between eight months and three years. Then when you have your work permit, you can apply for PR.

      Probably not what a retiree has in mind, but it's a route.

      Another possibility is a modified "marriage of convenience." They are pretty savvy catching such when someone marries a Canadian, but if you can find someone who wants to come in as a student, you can come in at the same time with relatively little scrutiny as their spouse.

      Otherwise, Canada wants people who are productive members of society, not simply people with a nest egg or retirement income. In fact, there is a strong backlash right now against rich foreigners coming in and driving up real-estate prices in Toronto and Vancouver so high that "real" Canadians with real jobs are having trouble affording housing.

      • Tina Sieber
        April 19, 2017 at 9:41 pm

        Thank you for sharing, Jan.

        Yes, this is another possible route and quite expensive. Though if someone was planning to get a degree in the US or another country that charges tuition, attending university in Canada instead could be cheaper, plus help with establishing residency in Canada.

      • Jamz
        September 15, 2017 at 11:55 pm

        I'm offended that you omitted uneducated, unemployable Mexicans.

  8. likefunbutnot
    November 9, 2016 at 9:55 pm

    It's probably easier for an American citizen to emigrate to one of the smaller nations of the Commonwealth and then resettle elsewhere. Canada and Oz are pretty hard to get in, but I know someone who took about a decade to move from Antigua to the UK proper.

    • Tina Sieber
      November 10, 2016 at 9:42 am

      This is not what you said, but just in case anyone is wondering: It's not easier to immigrate to Canada from a Commonwealth country.

      I'd be interested in hearing how that immigration from Antigua to the UK worked.