Express Entry: Improving Your CRS score Ranking


Canada’s Express Entry immigration system is competitive. Individuals who wish to immigrate to Canada must be eligible for one of the federal economic immigration programs. Then, and only then, they may create an Express Entry profile, enter the pool of candidates, and be assigned a score under the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS).

The highest-ranked candidates may then be issued an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for Canadian permanent residence. At this point, they have 90 days to submit a complete application, with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) processing the majority of applications within six months.

That’s Express Entry in a nutshell, but the details are more complicated than that. This page will clearly lay out the ways in which candidates already in the pool can increase their CRS score and ranking, thereby increasing their chances of being invited to apply.

Understanding the Comprehensive Ranking System

CRS scoreYou have determined your eligibility for a federal economic immigration program, created an Express Entry profile, been assigned a CRS score… now you just sit back and wait to be invited to apply, right? Well, unless you have been assigned a particularly high score, this is indisputably the wrong approach!

By adopting a passive attitude towards your Express Entry profile, you may not be awarded all of the points you may be entitled to, and you may be missing opportunities to improve your rank among the candidates under the Comprehensive Ranking System. You have created a profile, but the CRS is a dynamic system and your score is not “locked in” – you can take steps to improve it.

Some improvements may only nudge your CRS score up a few points, but these points could make all the difference. Other improvements can bring as many as 600 additional CRS points, essentially guaranteeing that you would be invited to apply in a subsequent draw from the pool.

Improving your CRS score

Some methods of increasing your CRS score may require a great deal of effort, but some other methods may be a case of proving something you have already accomplished. Let’s look at these in turn.

Sibling in Canada
Do you, or your spouse/common-law partner, have a brother or sister living in Canada as a citizen or permanent resident? This relationship can be through blood, adoption, marriage, or common-law partnership. If so, just prove the relationship and watch your CRS score increase by 15 points.

This one is aimed particularly at Canadian Experience Class (CEC) and Federal Skilled Trades Class (FSTC) candidates, because unlike Federal Skilled Worker Class (FSWC) candidates, CEC and FSTC candidates did not have to provide an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) or Canadian credential upon entry to the pool. What might that mean? It might mean that you are leaving up to 200 CRS points on the table, unclaimed. Education is worth 150 points in its own right, and up to 50 more in combination with Canadian work experience and/or language ability.

Did you know that language ability is worth up to 260 CRS points in total for a single candidate, or up to 270 points for a couple? Not only is language ability the most valued human capital factor under the Comprehensive Ranking System, but it is also a factor where incremental gains can make a huge difference.

Extra points are accumulated for each improvement in test results across the four language abilities (speaking, listening, reading, writing), but the magic threshold is when a candidate achieves a Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) level of 9 in each ability. Why? Well, because in addition to the points gained for improvements to that level, getting a CLB 9 in each ability also triggers a jump in points under the skills transferability factors in combination with your level of education and your non-Canadian work experience. One small step in your language ability; one giant leap for your CRS score.

Another thing to consider under language is your potential ability in French. If you ever studied French at school, or otherwise have a decent knowledge of the language, it may be wise to consider preparing to take the Test d’évaluation du français (TEF). Not only could you be awarded up to 24 points for a second language in its own right, but since June, 2017 IRCC has offered a bonus of up to 30 additional points if you reach an advanced-intermediate level of CLB 7. With a bit of revision, this level is attainable for someone who studied French many years ago and who has the will power to study again in search of up to 54 additional CRS points.

If you are working outside Canada but have less than three years of full-time (or equivalent part-time) experience, keep working! While this work won’t bring points under the human capital factors, it is nonetheless rewarded in the skills transferability combinations.

The goal of remaining in employment is even more acute for candidates currently working in Canada on a work permit, because more points are available for this work and it is rewarded for each annual threshold up to five years. Just make sure that if you are working in Canada, you maintain legal work status the entire time.

Provincial Nominee Programs
If you want a 600-point boost to your CRS score, plus the knowledge that you are being welcomed with open arms into your chosen destination province, it’s time to learn about the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs).

More and more, IRCC is gradually giving additional allocations to the provinces for the PNPs. In turn, the provinces are looking to the Express Entry pool in order to welcome a portion of the newcomers who will arrive under these programs. In 2015, around 13 percent of all invited candidates were provincial nominees. Through 2016, this share doubled to 26 percent.

Moreover, throughout 2017 provinces have been using their Express Entry-aligned (aka ‘enhanced’) PNP streams in innovative, dynamic ways. Ontario has targeted specific occupation groups, notably in the Information Technology (IT) sector; Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan have both reopened PNP streams for candidates across a range of occupations (no job offer required, it may be added); British Columbia continues to invite candidates to apply under its unique system; and other provinces have also been on board, issuing nomination certificates to candidates in the Express Entry pool.

Six hundred points. No more, no less. That is the prize on offer to candidates who adopt a proactive approach to the Express Entry system, follow developments, and prepare accordingly. See our Provincial Nominee Program section for more.