Immigrating into an English speaking country has always been a tricky challenge, especially for people for whom English is not their native language. However, for many people, successfully immigrating would allow them to create a new life. For educated, young people who are fluent in English or French, Canada remains one of the easiest countries to immigrate into through a program is known as Express Entry.
Canada chooses immigrants based on their skills and ability to contribute to Canada's economy. The government uses a point system to determine who they allow to immigrate under the Federal Skilled Worker Program. The program works by assigning a score, out of 1,200, to your application. Applicants with higher scores are more likely to get an invitation to become a permanent resident in Canada. So, what goes into getting a high score?
Under the Comprehensive Ranking System, points are earned through language skills, education level, age, and work experience. The ranking system is broken down into two portions, the Core and Additional, each worth 600 points. Here, each section will be broken down individually, to better explain the process. However, this article is only meant to provide general knowledge about the application process; for detailed advice about applying Express Entry into Canada, please consult an immigration attorney who specializes in Canadian law.
Overview of Core and Additional Points
The core section is broken up into three sections titled Human Factors, Spouse Factors, and Skill Transferability. Human Factors consists of age, level of education, language proficiency, and Canadian work experience. Spouse Factors are identical, with the exception that age is not included. Skill Transferability looks at education, foreign work experience and certificates of qualifications.
The points in the Additional section are less complicated. They are based on whether the applicant has siblings in Canada, French language skills, education in Canada, successfully arranged work in Canada, and has a nomination from the government. As this is the less complicated section, let's start here.
The additional section is worth up to 600 points, but there is more than one way to get there. The easiest way is to have a province or territory nominate your application, as this will earn the applicant the full 600 points. However, this is beyond the scope of this article due to the complexity involved. The next most valuable set of points is having arranged employment as a senior manager, which is worth 200 points. Other job offers are only worth 50 points, if they count at all. Having gone to university or college in Canada is worth 30 and 15 points respectively. Scoring well on both French and English tests can earn the applicant up to another 30 points. Having a sibling in Canada earns only 15 more points.
As can be seen, it is not easy to earn points in this section. In fact, this section mostly exists so that if a certain company or governmental body really want someone to immigrate, they can heavily weight that application towards getting one of the permanent resident invitations. As such, let's move on to areas that are easier to improve.
Core Points: Human Factors
The Canadian government is looking for skilled workers who are going to spend most of their careers working in Canada. As such, it makes sense that applicants who are between the ages of 20 and 29 get the most points in the age subsection. People younger than 18 or older than 45 get no points.
In the same vein, the higher degree you have when applying, the more points you receive for education. The most points are awarded to people who are unmarried and have a PhD; this earns them 150 points. A bachelor's degree, which is the most common, is worth 120 points. Keep in mind that all of these degrees have to be verified by an independent third party. They will assign an equivalent Canadian degree, which takes time and it is not guaranteed to be the same as what was earned overseas.
The language subsection is broken up into reading, writing, speaking and listening. These are determined based on a language test, which can be taken in English, French, or both. Most applicants choose to take an English fluency test, which means either the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) or the International English Language testing System (IELTS). Scores on either test are converted into a Canadian Language Benchmark (CBL) level, and applicants can get up to 34 points each for their reading, writing, speaking and listening proficiencies for a total of 136 points for single applicants. Turning in scores in a second language can result in an additional 24 points, maximum.
Last, points are awarded for time spent working in Canada. If you have done this, great. However, it is hard to get work in Canada when leaving overseas, which makes the 80 points which are awarded for Canadian work experience difficult to obtain.
Obviously, the two subsections which are easiest to get points for are the language and the degree subsections. However, due to the required degree verification, the easiest way to earn points in this section is to improve language test scores.
Core Points: Spouse Factors
Single Express Entry applicants obviously do not earn any points in this category. This is why single applicants earn more points in the Human Factors subsections compared to people applying with their spouse or common law partner. However, the amount that is deducted from each subsection in the Human Factors core category for married applicants is not always the same amount of points that is awarded to the spouse in this category.
For instance, in the education subsection, a single applicant with a master's degree earns 135 points. However, a couple applying who both have master's degrees will earn 136 points. One will earn 126 points in the core subsection and their spouse will earn 10 points for their degree in this subsection.
As you can tell, this is convoluted to tease apart. Thus, if you are married and interested in applying to Express Entry to become a permanent resident of Canada, talk to a professional immigration attorney who specializes in Canadian Law. This is a complicated decision which is different for each couple. An attorney will be able to give the best advice on how to use Spouse Factors to your advantage, or whether it would be better to apply as two individuals.
Core Points: Skill Transferability
All points in this subsection are awarded for the applicant having two qualities in concert with each other. In other words, not only do applicants get points for having certain experiences, but they also get additional points for having more than one. The maximum number of points that can be earned here is 100, but just like in the Additional section, there are a number of ways to get there.
The first section awards points for high scores on the language test and a verified academic degree. The maximum number of points, 50, is for a PhD who scored a CBL of 9 or more on all four sections of their language test. If you do not have any education beyond high-school or have scored less than a CBL of 7 on any section of the language test, you are ineligible for these additional points. For the CELPIP, this is a score of less than 7 on any section, while for the IELTS this is a score of less than 6.0 across the board, except for listening, which can require a higher score.
The following section once again awards points for high scores on a language test, but this time paired with forgein work experience. If the applicant has been working for more than 3 years and scored a CBL of 9 or more on all four sections of their language test, they are also eligible to earn 50 points. Again, having less than a year of work experience and scoring less than a CBL of 7 on any section makes the applicant ineligible for these additional points.
Applicants who have scored a CBL of 7 or higher in all categories and have a certificate of qualification to work in a trade can also earn 50 points. For those who scored a CBL of 5, with one category between 5 and 7, they can still earn 25 points. However, those with less than a CBL of 5 in any category earn nothing, even if they have a certificate of qualification.
The remaining two sections awards points for work experience in Canada combined with either foriegn work experience or a verified academic degree. Maximum points in both sections, which is once again 50, are awarded for people with two or more years of work experience in Canada.
How can I improve my application?
There are a number of ways to improve your application, some of which are more achievable than others. For instance, going to school to get another degree will probably gain you 20 points. However, the time this will take could easily cost you 10 or more points as you age, resulting in a gain of less than 10 points. Another way to get points on the application is to spend time working in Canada. Unfortunately, this requires a visa, which is hard to get and also takes time.
By far, the best way to get points on Express Entry applications is to increase language proficiency. Scoring well on the IELTS or CELPIP can increase scores by over 200 points. That is the difference between an application sitting in a folder forever and the applicant getting an invitation to apply for permanent residency. The lowest scores invited are usually around 460, and the best way to score above that is to do better on the language test.
If you are interested in improving your language score in English, French, or both, Helppo is a tutoring service which can help you achieve that goal. Connect online to English and French speakers across the world to hone your skills and master standardized language testing, setting you apart and increasing your chances of getting into Canada via Express Entry.