Have you heard about Express Entry?
If you haven’t yet, Express Entry is one of the many ways to immigrate to Canada. Well, technically, Express Entry is NOT an immigration program. It’s actually an online system that Canada uses to manage applications to its three immigration programs. One of those programs is the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), which is what my husband and I took.
“So, how do I check my eligibility to apply through Canada’s Express Entry? And particularly, in FSWP?”
I figured you’d ask that.
In this post, I’m going to show you a step-by-step guide on how to check your eligibility to apply for a PR in Canada through Express Entry’s FSWP. This post is quite long, but you have two options:
- You can download our self-assessment worksheet below, or
- You can watch this video (coming soon).
But if you have the time and you want to clearly understand how Express Entry works, then feel free to read this entire post.
Are you ready?
DISCLAIMER: The author of this post is not an immigration expert and this article is not meant to substitute professional advice. All information in this post were gathered from IRCC’s website. To verify the most-up-to-date information, visit www.canada.ca.
DISCLOSURE: This post contains an affiliate link by Grammarly. That means when you sign-up for a free account or when you upgrade to Premium using my link, I get a small commission but without extra cost to you.
JUMP TO CONTENTS
- What is Express Entry?
- How does Express Entry work?
- Am I eligible to apply for Express Entry’s FSWP?
- What’s the required work experience for Express Entry’s FSWP?
- I’ve met the minimum eligibility requirements for Canada’s Express Entry, what’s next?
- How to calculate your score for the Six Selection Factors
- Summary and next steps
What is Express Entry?
In the guidebook, “So You Want to Come to Canada, Now What?“, I’ve compared immigrating to Canada to a road trip where you start your journey in a bus station. In that station, there are several buses with different routes. But all of them end up in one destination (becoming a permanent resident in Canada, that is). Most routes have stop-overs except for one. And this direct route is called Express Entry.
So to define it, Express Entry is a “direct” route to becoming a permanent resident in Canada that doesn’t require stop-overs.
“What stop-over?”, you may ask. Here’s what I mean.
When you take the Express Entry route, you’re already applying to become Canada’s permanent resident. That means, once you get your visa, you can move, settle, and retire in Canada for good. You’re almost like a citizen (except having the blue passport and the right to vote during elections). But then, you can apply to become a citizen after 3 years.
Now, if you don’t take the Express Entry route, you need to take stop-overs. Here are some examples:
- If you’re taking the Student Pathway, you need to study first in Canada as an international student (first stop-over), gain a valid work experience (second stop-over), then apply for PR (final destination).
- If you’re taking the Atlantic Immigration Program or the Rural and Northern Immigration Program, you first need to get a valid job offer (first stop-over), then apply for PR.
In Express Entry, you get to skip those stop-overs. Although it doesn’t mean it’s gonna be a quick journey.
For my husband and I, it took us 2 years since we began our application through Express Entry until we became permanent residents. For Jo Anne, one of our blog contributors and a good friend of mine, it took her only one year.
So while Express Entry is a direct route, the waiting time to get your PR application approved depends on a lot of different factors. We’ll get to those factors in my future posts. But for now, we’ll have a look at the first steps you need to take if you want to go down this route.
And that is: finding out if you’re eligible.
Express Entry’s immigration programs have certain minimum requirements that you need to meet first before you can even start.
Which takes us back to the question of, “How do I check my eligibility to apply through Canada’s Express Entry?”
If you can’t wait to find out the answer to this, go here to skip the below explanation of how Express Entry works. Or continue reading in case you’re curious.
How does Express Entry work?
According to IRCC, Express Entry is Canada’s online system used to manage the permanent residency applications of skilled workers with foreign work experience.
They use a pointing system so it works like this:
- Meet the minimum eligibility requirements.
- Submit a profile and get points based on your English or French ability, work experience, education level, age, and other factors.
- If you’re among the top scorers, Canada will invite you to apply for a permanent residency.
- Submit the requirements with all the supporting documents and within 6 months, more or less, you’ll hopefully get your PR visa (but due to COVID-19, it’s taking more than 6 months this time).
Express Entry has three programs, namely:
- Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP)
- Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP), and the
- Canadian Experience Class (CEC)
In this post, I’ll talk more about FSWP because this is the program we applied for. Just so you know, this program is for skilled workers that don’t have experience working in Canada (for those who have, then they can also apply under CEC instead). FSTP, on another hand, is for those with work experience in the skilled trades (such as chefs, cooks, butchers, bakers–to name a few).
You can go here in IRCC’s website if you wish to know more about FSTP and CEC.
But just to give you a quick overview of how these three programs are different from each other, here’s a table of comparison from a screenshot of IRCC’s website.
Am I eligible to apply for Express Entry’s FSWP?
For Express Entry’s FSWP, IRCC uses what is called the Six Selection Factors to decide if an applicant is eligible for the program. I’ll explain these factors later, but for now, there’s one step that you need to do first.
And this step is to check if you meet FSWP’s minimum requirements.
These minimum requirements apply to these:
- Language ability
- Work experience
- Score of at least 67/100 in the Six Selection Factors
For language ability, you need to prove that you are proficient in English (or French). You can do this by taking an approved language test (such as IELTS or CELPIP for English). To be qualified for FSWP, you need a score of CLB 7 or higher. But for the purpose of this assessment, you don’t need to take a test yet.
For education, you need to be at least a high school graduate in Canada. If you studied or graduated in the Philippines (or other country), you need an assessment to know if you’re considered a high school diploma holder here. But for the purpose of this assessment, if you’ve attended at least 2 or more years in college (or if you hold a BS Degree or higher), then you might qualify for FSWP.
For work experience, you need to have at least 1 year of continuous full-time paid work in jobs under skill levels 0 (zero), A, or B in the last 10 years. I know this part needs a bit of explanation, so I’ll do that now.
What’s the required work experience for Express Entry’s FSWP?
One of the minimum eligibility requirements for Express Entry’s FSWP is to have at least 1 year of full-time continuous paid work (or an equal amount in part-time) in any one of the job groups under NOC 0, A, or B within the last 10 years. Your current job and your work experience must also be in the same type of job as the one that you will use for your immigration application.
Whew! Did it also sound too technical for you?
Let’s first go to the terms NOC 0, A, or B.
NOC stands for National Occupation Classification. This is a system used by IRCC to sort jobs based on skill levels.
There are five main job groups (or skill levels), and each occupation belongs to one group. These groups are Skill Level 0 (zero), A, B, C, and D.
If you’re applying for FSWP, your current and previous jobs should fall under 0 (Zero), A, or B, which is any of the following occupations:
NOC 0 (management jobs)
- Manager or senior manager in either private or government sector
- Administrator or principal of educational institutions (school, college, university)
- Commissioned officer (police or Armed Forces)
- Fire chief or senior firefighting officer
NOC A (jobs that usually need a university degree)
- Financial auditor, officer, or accountant
- Financial and investment analyst, dealer, or broker
- Professional occupations in HR, business management consulting, advertising, marketing, public relation
NOC B (technical jobs and skilled trades that usually call for a college diploma or training as an apprentice)
- A supervisor or admin support officer/worker
- Executive/administrative assistant
- Conference and event planner
- Statistical officer and research-related occupation
The above are just examples from the many occupations listed in the NOC database. If you want to find out if your job (and past work experience) belongs to either NOC 0, A, or B, go to this website. Then, search for your present and previous job titles and you’ll see what NOC your occupations belong to.
So to recap, we can assume that you meet the minimum requirements of Express Entry’s FSWP if…
- you’re fluent in either English or French (which you later need to prove by taking an approved language test)
- you’re a high school graduate equivalent in Canada (which your ECA report needs to show), or completed at least 2 years in college if you studied in Philippines or other countries
- you have at least 1 year work experience in jobs that belong to NOC 0, A, or B.
For the purpose of this assessment, you don’t need to take a language test yet or to request for an ECA. We’ll then go to the Six Selection Factors.
If you don’t meet the above minimum requirements, there’s no point going through the next part (unless you’re just curious).
I’ve met the minimum eligibility requirements for Canada’s Express Entry, what’s next?
As I’ve said earlier, meeting the minimum eligibility requirements for Canada’s Express Entry is just half of the pie. The other half is to get a passing score in what is called the Six Selection Factors.
“Is this an exam or something?”, you may ask.
No, it’s not an exam. These selection factors are used by IRCC to decide if you’re actually eligible for Express Entry’s FSWP.
These six factors are your:
- Language skills
- Work experience
- Arranged employment (or an existing job offer) in Canada; and
- Adaptability (such as having relatives).
Each of these factors has corresponding points, and you’d get an overall score out of 100 based on the criteria set by IRCC.
If your score is 67 points or higher, you may qualify for FSWP. In this case, you need to go to Step 2 (which I’ll explain in my next upcoming post).
But if not, then you won’t qualify for FSWP. In this case, IRCC suggests a few things that you can do (but we’ll go to that later).
In the next part, I suggest that you get a pen and paper (or download the self-assessment worksheet) because I’ll help you compute your score.
If you’re using a pen and paper, write down the six selection factors I mentioned above and put a blank next to each. Like this in the photo below.
So, are you ready?
How to Calculate your Score for the Six Selection Factors
Before I help you calculate your score, I have important things to tell you. There are other tools that you can actually use to check your eligibility.
You can either use IRCC’s online questionnaire (or the Come to Canada tool), or get a free assessment offered by a licensed immigration consultant or agency like my aunt who co-founded and owns FlyNorth Immigration based here in Ontario. Or you can use this article.
Whichever tool you decide to use, just know that the actual assessment will be done by IRCC. That means that even if you appear to be eligible based on your initial assessment (and have taken your IELTS and ECA report), IRCC can still decide that you’re not qualified for Express Entry’s FSWP.
I’ve encountered other applicants who have already submitted their profile only to get a message from IRCC that says: “you’re not eligible”. And they don’t have an idea why. But I guess the point is, IRCC has the final say.
But anyway, let’s move on and find out your score for the Six Selection Factors using the below guideline together with this worksheet.
Disclaimer: The points outlined below are taken from IRCC’s Six Selection Factor. To verify the most up-to-date scoring chart, visit this website.
Language Skills (maximum 28 points)
At this point, I assume that you haven’t taken any language test yet. I also assume that your first language is English (and not French). So for the purpose of this assessment, you can assign yourself 16 points. This is what you’ll get if you can get at least CLB 7 in your language test.
If you can get a higher score on your actual test, the better. But for now, let’s keep it at 16 points. If you get below CLB 7 in your actual test, then you are automatically not qualified for FSWP (you may need to retake the test or request a re-evaluation for a fee). So make sure to ace that test.
If you are a bit fluent in French, you can get 4 points under the second official language (if you get at least a score of CLB 5 on the test). Again, I assume you are not. So write 16 points for your language skills.
If you have already taken your language test, you may use the below chart. Check here your CLB level based on your test results.
Education (maximum 25 points)
I assume that you graduated from a school outside Canada. That means that your actual points will be based on your Education Credential Assessment (ECA) report (which you’ll only get in Step 2, so you don’t need it yet in this step). If you look at the FSWP factor points from IRCC’s website, you might also get a heart attack. I looked at it and it was too technical.
For the purpose of this assessment, I’ll give an actual example.
My husband graduated from a university in the Philippines with a 4-year Bachelor’s Degree. Based on his ECA report, his education is equivalent to a 2-year degree/diploma/certificate. In some cases, you might also get the same result. But depending on your school and program of study, you might be equivalent to a Bachelor’s Degree holder.
For us to move on with your assessment, choose an education level below your actual degree. And then use the corresponding points below for your education.
Again, once IRCC assesses your actual eligibility for Express Entry, your education equivalent in Canada will be based on your ECA report.
Let’s now go to the next factor: work experience.
Work experience (maximum 15 points)
In this part, you get points based on the number of years of experience that you’ve worked under NOC 0, A, or B.
The minimum required is at least 1 year of continuous paid work (30 hours per week for 12 months if full-time, 15 hours per week for 24 months if part-time).
If most of your work experience is under 0, A, or B, just count the number of years you’ve worked within the last 10 years and use the chart below. If you’ve had any jobs in the last 10 years that aren’t under NOC 0, A, or B, exclude the number of years you’ve worked in that job.
Just note that IRCC will assign you with your actual points on your work experience based on the description and list of main duties that match what you did at your job(s). So your job title won’t be the basis for your work experience points on IRCC’s actual assessment.
Next, let’s go to age.
Age (maximum 12 points)
When it comes to Express Entry, age does matter. And here’s why.
In this factor, you get points based on your age. For those between 18-35, they get the maximum possible points. But once you reach 36, you lose one point. And for every year that passes by, you lose another point. When you reach 47, you no longer get points under the age factor. That doesn’t mean you’re not qualified anymore for FSWP. If you can get higher points in other factors, then you might still get the minimum overall score of 67 points.
To know your points for age, use the below chart.
For the purpose of this assessment, you can use your present age. But IRCC will give you actual points on age by the time you submit your profile. So if you worry about losing points, it’s better to not delay your application.
Arranged employment in Canada (maximum 10 points)
This only applies if you already have a valid job offer from an employer in Canada. IRCC has conditions to consider a job offer valid. If you think the job offer you have (if any) meets this condition, then you can get 10 points.
Since I assume that you don’t have this, then you just put 0 under this factor.
Take note that a job offer isn’t required to qualify for FSWP, so it’s okay if you don’t have this yet.
Adaptability (maximum 10 points)
In this factor, you get points based on how likely you are to settle in Canada. This includes:
- your spouse’s language skills
- past studies or work experience in Canada (of you and your spouse, if any)
- valid job offer; and
- relatives in Canada.
Since I assume that you haven’t been to Canada yet and that you don’t have a job offer, then you get points on your spouse’s language skills (5 points, which means he/she needs to also take a language test) and on your relatives (5 points if you or your spouse has a relative living in Canada who’s 18 and above).
You can get actual points for your spouse’s language skills if he/she gets at least CLB 4 on his/her test.
For the relatives, you can get points if your relative is either your:
- your or your spouse’s sibling (child of your or your spouse’s parent)
- your or your spouse’s aunt or uncle (by blood or marriage)
- your or your spouse’s niece or nephew (grandchild of your or your spouse’s parent)
Again, it’s not required for you to have relatives in Canada or to meet any of the other conditions mentioned under adaptability. But it gives you additional points for eligibility.
So, are you eligible for Express Entry?
Did you get at least 67 points in the six selection factors? If yes, then you might be qualified for FSWP.
But if you got 66 points or below, there’s one thing you can do: try to adjust your points in the language skill factor and see if you can reach at least 67 points. If yes, then that means you need to aim for this score in your actual language test.
Also try to play around your score in the education factor and see what level you need to reach at least 67 points. Of course, this is not something you can control compared to your language test. So for the purpose of this assessment, it’s safe to assume the lower points you can possibly get.
If your score still won’t reach the passing level even if you get the maximum points in language, IRCC suggests the following:
- complete another degree, diploma, or certificate; or
- apply for jobs in Canada to receive an employment offer.
Again, the result you got from this assessment is not valid until you have your actual language test results and ECA report (which we’ll discuss in my next post). And not until you’ve submitted your Express Entry profile to IRCC.
Even if you get 67 points or above in this assessment, IRCC might have a different decision. In that case, you might have miscalculated your score.
That’s why it’s important that before you decide on a DIY application, you need to make sure you can actually pull it off. Because just one or two mistakes would greatly affect your application. Otherwise, you might want to just hire an immigration consultant to assist you with the entire process.
But if you’re hiring a consultant, you need to make sure they’re legit and find someone who offers great service (another tedious process but might be beneficial in the long run).
If you’re still unsure whether to do a DIY application or to hire a consultant, here are the pros and cons of each to help you decide.
Summary and next steps
In summary, to know if you’re eligible for Express Entry’s Federal Skilled Worker Program, you must:
- be equivalent to at least a high school graduate in Canada (or have completed at least 2 years in college if you studied outside Canada)
- have at least 1 year of work experience (in the last 10 years) in jobs under NOC 0, A, or B
- be fluent in English (or French); and
- get at least 67 points in the six selection factors.
If you think you’re not eligible, don’t worry because there are other pathways that you can take. You can get an overview of these pathways from the guidebook, “So You Want to Come to Canada, Now What?”
But if you seem to be eligible to FSWP based on your initial assessment, your next step is to take a language test (either IELTS or CELPIP for English) and get an ECA report from an authorized institution.
About the author:
JK Legaspi is a permanent resident of Canada since 2018. She and her family lives in the beautiful Niagara Region. As the founder of Detour To Canada, she aims to help aspiring and future immigrants reach their Canadian dreams by sharing her family’s own immigration and newcomer story.
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