Published on October 19th, 2022 at 08:00am EDT
Express Entry is Canada’s largest source of immigration.
When applicants apply to immigrate to this country through Express Entry, eligible Express Entry applicants are scored through a point-allocation grid called the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS).
Introduction to Express Entry and the CRS
The CRS is a points grid that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) uses to rank Canadian immigration hopefuls that apply through any of the three programs contained within the Express Entry system application management system — the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), the Federal Skilled Workers Program (FSWP) and the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP).
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The CRS starts by assessing what the Canadian government refers to as “core human capital factors”, which include the following characteristics: age, education, first language ability (English or French), second language ability (English or French) and Canadian work experience.
For these purposes, we will be focusing on the first item in the above list, age.
Canada’s CRS system provides the most age points to Express Entry applicants aged 20-29 (100). If you are 30 or older, the points you receive in the age category will progressively decrease every year (95 points for an applicant aged 30, 90 points for a 31-year-old applicant and so forth). Applicants aged 45 or older receive 0 points in the age category under the CRS.
Thankfully, simply being 30 or over does not mean an applicant’s Express Entry hopes are gone with the wind. There are many ways prospective Express Entry applicants can maximize their CRS score if they are applying at or after age 30.
Strategy 1: Getting a provincial nomination through a Provincial Nominee Program (PNP)
One way for applicants to increase their CRS score is by receiving a nomination through any of Canada’s enhanced Provincial Nominee Program streams that are tied to Express Entry. In fact, a provincial nomination through a PNP is the single best way to maximize a CRS score and receive an invitation to apply for Canadian permanent residence because receiving a nomination before applying through Express Entry can earn an applicant an extra 600 points.
PNPs exist in all Canadian provinces and territories (excluding Quebec and Nunavut) as a tool for each individual region to nominate permanent residence candidates who are interested in settling in a particular area within Canada.
Designed to spread the benefits of immigration across Canada — especially because Canadian immigration has historically been disproportionate to Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec — there are currently over 80 country-wide PNP streams available for prospective Canadian immigrants across Canada’s 11 PNPs.
If an Express Entry hopeful applies to a PNP and receives an invitation to apply, then applies and receives a provincial nominee certificate, they can proceed to upload their certificate to their Express Entry profile and receive the 600 available CRS points. Again, this will practically guarantee they receive an invitation to apply for permanent residence in Canada.
Strategy 2: Getting a job offer
Another way that an applicant can maximize their CRS score is by applying through Express Entry while holding a valid job offer that is in writing and details all job requirements, including pay, duties, and employment conditions. In fact, this strategy is one of the best ways to boost an applicant’s CRS score because candidates with a valid offer of employment can obtain either 50 or 200 additional CRS points depending on the position.
Strategy 3: Evaluating work experience
Work experience can help improve an applicant’s CRS score in several different ways. Firstly, simply obtaining additional work experience can aid an applicant in improving their score. Moreover, doing a better job of articulating current work experience can do much of the same to help applicants.
Strategy 4: Improving language ability
Language ability is another crucial element of CRS scores that falls under the category of “core human capital factors”. As mentioned above, language as a larger category is split into first language ability and second language ability to test an applicant’s proficiency in English and French. This component of an applicant’s CRS score can add up to a significant number of points, making it an essential part of any Express Entry application.
Language — broken down into proficiency with writing, reading, speaking, and listening — can earn a single applicant between 128 and 136 points (depending on spousal/partner status, but more on that later).
Additionally, the language category is valuable for maximizing CRS scores because of its ability to count for points across multiple sections. More specifically, language as an individual element of the CRS can count for points within the following four larger categories: human capital factors; spousal factors (if applicable); skills transferability and “additional factors”.
Furthermore, language can also be combined with other factors such as education to further improve an applicant’s CRS score.
Example 1: An applicant with a post-secondary program credential of one or more years + a first language Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) 7 in one or more abilities (and one ability at CLB 9) can earn 13 CRS points
Example 2: An applicant with two or more post-secondary program credentials (one at least 3 years long) + CLB 9 or more in all first language abilities can earn 50 CRS points
Strategy 5: Strengthening educational credentials
Education, another element of “core human capital factors”, can count for between 200 and 250 CRS score points depending on where the applicant received their credential (inside Canada or outside of Canada). Therefore, earning additional credentials such as another degree or obtaining an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) for an existing degree can help applicants maximize their Express Entry CRS score.
Strategy 6: Considering using spouse/partner as the principal applicant (if applicable)
In certain cases, Express Entry applicants may find that their spouse or common-law partner has a better CRS score. In situations such as this, it may be advisable to consider swapping the principal applicant and the dependent spouse or common-law partner.
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