Canada’s Express Entry Economic Immigration System: CRS Points Thresholds Remain High in 2020

One of the ways that an immigrant to Canada may become a Canadian permanent resident is to apply through Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC’s) Express Entry program. Express Entry was developed specifically for skilled workers who wish to become permanent residents of Canada, and is an online application process. There are three separate economic immigration streams under Express Entry for which an applicant may qualify: the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), the Federal Skilled Worker Class (FSWC), or the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP), all of which have their own requirements which must be met by the principal applicant.

Each stream has one factor in common: to qualify for any of the Express Entry streams, an applicant must have a type of skilled work experience. In the immigration context, skilled work is defined as work that falls under Canada’s National Occupation Classification (NOC) codes 0, A, or B. There are five NOC skill categories in total, which reflect the various occupations across Canada and the skill type or education level associated with each: 0 (Management jobs); A (Professional jobs); B (Technical jobs and skilled trades); C (Intermediate jobs); and D (Labour jobs). An individual who only had work experience under NOC codes C or D would not qualify for Express Entry.

As a basic work experience requirement to qualify for the Canadian Experience Class, an applicant would require at least one year of skilled work experience in Canada in the last three years, which could be a combination of full or part-time work. To qualify for the Federal Skilled Worker Class, an applicant would require at least one year of continuous skilled work within the past ten years in their primary occupation, either inside or outside Canada. Lastly, the Federal Skilled Trades Program requires at least two years of skilled work in certain eligible trades occupations within the last five years either inside or outside Canada, which could be a combination of full or part-time work. Each stream has English or French language skill requirements which must be tested and met, and each stream may have some additional eligibility criteria, such as a valid job offer or Canadian trade certification (for the Federal Skilled Trades Program) or the ability to be assessed 67 points on the 100-point FSWC point grid based on factors such as age, language ability, education, experience, Canadian adaptability (for the Federal Skilled Worker Class).

An interested applicant would find out if they meet the eligibility requirements, collect some necessary documents to provide evidence of that eligibility, such as qualifying language test results and Educational Credential Assessments, and would create and submit an Express Entry profile online. The Express Entry system is points-based and is a popular and competitive program, in which applicants who have submitted an Express Entry profile are ranked against one another in the “pool” to receive an Invitation to Apply for Permanent Residence.

The Express Entry profile is the key to being invited to apply for permanent residence via the Express Entry program, as it is through the answers provided in the profile that an applicant’s points are determined. The value of an applicant’s points is determined by the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS), which assesses and assigns points to an applicant for various factors, which may include but are not limited to age, language ability, education, work experience (foreign or Canadian), or whether the applicant has a qualifying job offer, for example. When an applicant has a spouse (or a common-law partner) who would be included on the permanent residence application, the applicant’s points will also depend on their spouse’s information.

Once an applicant’s Express Entry profile has been submitted, they will be awarded a CRS points score and will sit within the “pool” of applicants. Throughout the year, invitation rounds will occur wherein IRCC sets criteria for that particular round, such as the number of invitations that will be issued, the stream(s) which are to be included, and the CRS point score cut-off for that round. Applicants with competitive CRS point scores for that invitation round may receive an Invitation to Apply for Permanent Residence, and will then have 60 days in which to complete and submit their online Application for Permanent Residence (eAPR). Their eAPR will then be assessed by IRCC to determine if that applicant should be granted Canadian permanent residence. In Alberta, there may also be a possibility of being selected out of the pool for Alberta’s Immigrant Nominee Program (AINP) based on that program’s own criteria.

Generally, there are two invitation rounds per month. While these invitation rounds usually invite individuals who qualify for any of the three underlying economic immigration streams, there are occasionally invitation round that only invite individuals who are eligible for a specific stream. Program specific rounds of invitation have usually been for the Federal Skilled Trades Program (individuals who are eligible only for the Federal Skilled Trades Program tend to receive fewer CRS points and as a result FSTP specific rounds of invitation will usually require far fewer CRS points to be eligible for invitation).

Below is a graph of the invitation rounds that occurred in 2019 and thus far in 2020 where all streams were invited (i.e. not counting the two Federal Skilled Trades Program specific draws that occurred in 2019):

CRS Point Requirements from January 2019 to February 19, 2020

Over the past three years, the points required to be invited have increased as the program becomes more and more competitive. The average number of points required to be competitive for invitation rounds (where all streams were invited) in 2019 was 460.7. In comparison, in 2018 that number was 443.4, and in 2017 it was 438.3. So far in 2020, we have seen the CRS points requirements remain fairly high.

If you are a skilled worker and are seeking to become a Canadian permanent resident, you may wish to consider applying to the Express Entry program, which may have shorter processing times than other types of permanent residence applications. However, we caution that Express Entry and the CRS points system can sometimes be more complicated than they seem on the surface. Interested applicants may wish to seek professional advice to ensure that they are presenting their information properly in order to receive all of the CRS points to which they are entitled and to discuss what actions they might take to try to increase their CRS scores.

McCuaig Desrochers LLP is a general practice law firm with Edmonton’s largest group of immigration lawyers ( This article first appeared in the Millwoods Mosaic – the Multicultural Voice of Southeast Edmonton and is intended to provide general information only and should not to be relied on as legal advice or opinion.

We invite you to contact one of the members of our experienced immigration group for assistance.