Detour to Canada

I’m Eligible for Express Entry… What’s Next? (A Step-by-Step Guide to Express Entry’s FSWP – Part 1)

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So, you’re eligible for Express Entry’s Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP). Your question now is, “what are my next steps?”

If you haven’t checked your eligibility yet, go to this post first

But if you’re done with that, keep reading and I’m going to show you a step-by-step guide to Express Entry’s FSWP. Go through this in detail as we’ll dig down deeper into each step. 

Are you ready?

DISCLAIMER: This article is not meant to substitute professional advice. Information were gathered from both the author’s actual immigration experience and  from official websites. To verify the most-up-to-date information, check the list of sources at the end of this post.

Express Entry FSWP Step-by-Step Guide

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In overview, here are the steps that you need to do if you’re eligible for Express Entry’s FSWP. But in this post, I only focused on Steps 1 and 2. You can click on the links to skip to either step.

  1. Get an Education Credential Assessment (ECA).
  2. Take an approved language test.
  3. Once you have your language test result and ECA report, open an Express Entry profile. IRCC (or Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada) will give you a CRS score. IRCC will compute your score based on your work experience, language skills, age, and so on. 
  4. If your CRS score is high, wait for Canada to send you an ITA (Invitation to Apply) for permanent residency. Submit your application documents to IRCC and wait for your PR approval. 
  5. If your CRS score is low, you can improve it by doing some of the tips I’ll share later. Or better yet, apply for a provincial nominee program (PNP) for a higher chance of getting an ITA. Getting a PNP means you get an extra 600 points in your CRS score.

As I said, I only focused on Steps 1 and 2. And that’s because you can only proceed to Step 3 after getting the results from the first two steps. In Part 2 onwards of this post, I’ll then go in detail through the other steps. 

Now, to help you get started, let’s go through Steps 1 and 2. If you don’t have time to read through, you can also download a PDF version of this guide. Print it and refer to it anytime.

Express Entry Step 2

Step 1: Getting an Education Credential Assessment (ECA) 

What’s an Education Credential Assessment or ECA? 

ECA is a report that shows if your degree, diploma, or certificate is valid or equal to Canadian education. That is if you studied or graduated from outside Canada. Only IRCC’s designated organizations (which I listed down below) can do this assessment. 

Your Canadian equivalency must be a high school diploma or higher to qualify for FSWP. And it should also be from a recognized institution. ECA is not required for the Canadian Experience Class or Federal Skilled Trades Program. But those applying through these programs can still get an ECA if they want to get extra points for education.

Sample ECA Report
Sample ECA report from www.wes.org

So, how can you get an ECA?

To get an ECA, you need to request an assessment from any of IRCC’s designated organizations. These include the following:

Designated since April 17, 2013

Designated since August 6, 2015

Which one should you choose?

WES is so far the most popular and the one with the fastest processing time compared to the others. According to this website, WES processing time is between 1-3 months while others take longer than that. 

As for me, I can’t speak for the other organizations because my husband and I only knew about WES. We chose this organization as advised by the agency we hired during our application. As for its processing time, it took us over one month to get back our ECA report.

Though you can choose whichever organization. But remember that you need to get an ECA for immigration purposes as advised by IRCC. If you got another type of ECA, you may request a re-issue. But it depends on the type of ECA and/or issuing organization.

If you’re also using WES to assess your education, here are the steps to request for an ECA.

First things first: What documents should I send to WES?

If you’re not sure yet what documents you need to send to WES, go to this page from WES’ website to find out. Select ‘Canada’ for the Equivalency Country and ‘Yes’ for Applying for IRCC. Choose the applicable choices from the drop-down menu. Then click “View Requirements”.

Example
To find out what documents you need to send to WES, choose the applicable answer from the drop-down menu then click "View Requirements".

As per IRCC, you only need an assessment for your highest completed level of education. So if you completed a Bachelor’s Degree, you only need to send your college credentials. You don’t need to also send your high school credentials. And if you have a Master’s Degree, then you don’t need to also send your Bachelor’s Degree credentials. 

Also, according to WES, you can only have your completed degrees or diplomas evaluated. That means if you didn’t finish your degree or diploma, you can’t send them for assessment.

Going back to your required documents to send, here’s an example. 

I graduated from UP Diliman with a Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism. According to WES, I only need to send them my Academic Transcript. Although way back in 2015, I was also required to send a copy of my diploma. 

 

So, how do I send my Academic Transcript or Transcript of Records (TOR)?

In my case, WES gave two options. As you can see in the screenshot below, I can either:

  1. Ask my school where I graduated to send my TOR directly to WES in a sealed envelope. The envelope must be signed or stamped across the back flap by the appropriate official at the institution, or
  2. I can get my TOR from my school then send it to WES. The TOR must be in a sealed envelope. If the envelope is opened or there is no stamp or signature across the back flap, WES cannot accept the document.
Example
In my example above, this is what I need to send to WES.

In 2015, I did Option 1. Since we were in Dubai at that time, I called the registrar’s office of UP Diliman to check the process. Luckily, they’re familiar with it because they’ve done it a couple of times before for other alumni. So they asked me to send the Request Form provided by WES by e-mail. They also told me to pay for the TOR and courier charges.

Sample WES Request Form
Sample Academic Records Request Form from www.wes.org

Now, before you contact your school, make sure to create your WES account first. And that’s because you need to mention your WES Reference Number in the Request Form. Plus, you also need to pay the evaluation fee first.

Follow the below steps to create your account.

  1. In WES’ website, click GET AN EVALUATION and choose CANADA when asked with “where will you use your evaluation?”
  2. Choose the ECA Application for IRCC, and click START APPLICATION.
  3. You will need to provide your e-mail address to create your WES Account. 
  4. Once you have an account, you will have a reference number that you should keep.
  5. Pay the evaluation fee of CAD 220+tax (around AED 648 or PHP 8,798). You might also need to pay other costs like courier charges. Then, send your documents to WES by following their instructions. They also have an option for you to upload your documents instead (read here for full details).
  6. You’ll receive an e-mail with your ECA report usually after a month. WES will also send you a hard copy by mail. 

I’ve read somewhere that you can also download WES’ mobile app. Here, you can track the progress of your request. I’m not sure if they have this way back in 2015, but perhaps not yet.

If you plan to do Option 2 (where you get your TOR and send it directly to WES instead), make sure to follow WES’ instructions. These include the following:

  1. The TOR must be in a sealed envelope with a signature or stamp of a school official across the back flap. 
  2. You must not open the envelope before sending it to WES.

You can send it to WES’ office in Canada using any courier company. In our case, we used DHL Express (to send our college diploma; at that time, WES also required us to send this).

 

Do I need to send original documents to WES?

According to WES, never send original documents unless you’ve been requested to do so. If you do, you won’t get back the original copy because WES won’t return them. You only need to send official document copies or certified true copies.

 

What if I’m the principal applicant, should my spouse or partner also get an ECA?

The answer is yes, especially if both of you are graduates of a Bachelor’s degree or higher. This is because you can get extra points for your spouse or partner’s education. In our case, my husband and I both sent our credentials to WES. My Canadian equivalency was a Bachelor’s Degree (4 years). My husband (who graduated from DLSU Dasmariñas with BS Business Administration Major in Economics) got an equivalency of two-year diploma.

 

What if my partner went to college but didn’t complete his or her studies?

According to WES, you can only have your completed degrees or diplomas evaluated for IRCC. That means if your partner didn’t finish his/her degree or diploma, you can’t send their credentials for assessment.

 

Let’s now go to the next important step of the Express Entry’s FSWP process.

Step 2: Taking an approved language test

To immigrate through Express Entry, you should be proficient in English or French. As you may have heard, these two are Canada’s official languages. 

Whichever the case, you can take a language test for any of these two, or for both. The advantage of taking both language tests is that you get extra points. Plus, if you’re good at French, you get 50 extra points in your CRS score. But it’s not necessary to know French to immigrate to Canada.

I assume that you know English more than French, so we’ll focus on that. 

To qualify for Express Entry’s FSWP, you must get a score of at least CLB 7 in your language test in all four abilities. Here’s a quick explanation of this.

The approved language test for English is either IELTS or CELPIP. Both tests have four sections or abilities: listening, speaking, writing, and reading. After taking the test, you will get a score for each.

In IELTS, CLB 7 is equal to a band score of 6. In CELPIP, the test scores are set against the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) levels. So CLB 7 is also equal to a CELPIP score of 7 and so on.

IELTS equivalency to CLB
(IELTS) – General Training – Test score equivalency chart / screenshot from www.canada.ca

IELTS vs. CELPIP: Which one should I take?

As I said, the approved language test for English is either IELTS or CELPIP. IELTS stands for the International English Language Testing System. CELPIP stands for the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program. 

Since IRCC accepts both tests, you can take either of these two. But take note that CELPIP is not available in many countries compared to IELTS. So far, CELPIP has test centers in Singapore, UAE, India, Philippines, China, USA, and Canada. 

My husband and I took IELTS since at that time we weren’t familiar with CELPIP yet. So here in this blog, I’m going to focus on IELTS. Also, CELPIP has only one test center in UAE and it’s located in Dubai Silicon Oasis. So, for those who don’t live here, the obvious choice is taking IELTS. Especially since it has test centers across all seven emirates. In the Philippines, CELPIP has only one test center as well which is in Manila. So again, for those living outside this city, IELTS is the better choice. 

But if you have an option to choose, here’s an article that might help you decide.

 

How do I book my language test?

If you plan to take CELPIP, you can book your test online here. The test fee in UAE is CAD 340 + tax (computer-based only), which is around AED 995+ (plus tax). In the Philippines, it’s CAD 215 + taxes, or PHP 8,600+ (plus tax).

Make sure to take the CELPIP General Test and NOT the CELPIP General LS Test. It’s because the latter only gives the Listening and Speaking test, which is for citizenship applications.

If you plan to take IELTS, you can go here to book your test online. Make sure to choose the IELTS General Training. The test fee in UAE is AED 1,130 for paper-based and AED 1,260 for computer-delivered. In the Philippines, it’s PHP 11,650 for either paper or computer-delivered tests.

 

Should I take a paper-based or computer-delivered IELTS test? 

The only differences between the two are:

  1. Computer-delivered tests in some countries cost a bit more. In the UAE, you pay an extra AED 130. In the Philippines, the price is the same for both. 
  2. The Writing part in the computer-delivered test has a word counter. In a paper-based test, you need to count if you’ve reached the word limit.
  3. You get 30 minutes to sit down for the Listening test. In a paper-based test, you get the same but with extra 10 minutes to transfer your answer on the Answer Sheet. 
  4. If you take a computer-delivered test, you’ll get your results in 3 to 5 days. In a paper-based test, you need to wait for 13 days.

But aside from that, the questions are the same for both and you still need to go to the test center for your exam. Plus, your Speaking test would still be face-to-face regardless.

If you’re comfortable using a pen and paper, especially in the Writing part, then go for the paper-based. 

But if you’re willing to pay for an extra AED 130 so you can get the results faster, go for computer-based. 

 

Which one is better, IDP or British Council?

IDP and British Council are two different organizations that run the IELTS test. But it doesn’t matter where you take your exam. 

IDP and British Council (alongside Cambridge Assessment English) are actually co-owners of IELTS. The test fee, exam questions, topics, and scoring system would still be the same regardless. The only tie-breaker you might consider would be which test center is closer to your home.

 

Summary and next steps

So to recap, the first two steps that you need to do if you’re applying through Express Entry are:

  1. Get an Education Credential Assessment (ECA) from any of IRCC’s designated organizations; and
  2. Take an approved language test (IELTS General Training or CELPIP-General Test for English). 

You can download below a summary checklist of Express Entry’s FSWP step-by-step process.

To qualify for Express Entry’s FSWP, there are two things you need to meet:

  1. Your ECA must show that you have a Canadian equivalency of a high school diploma or higher. 
  2. Your language test result must be CLB 7 or higher in each ability. CLB 7 is equal to a Band Score of 6 in IELTS, and Level 7 in CELPIP.

If you don’t meet these requirements, you will not be eligible to apply through Express Entry. You may need to do the following:

  • Re-take your language test
  • Request a re-evaluation (for speaking and writing), or 
  • Upgrade your education. 

But if you do, you can now go to the next step of the FSWP process: creating your Express Entry profile.

If you have any questions about getting an ECA or taking a language test, leave them in the comments section. 

Express Entry Step 2

To verify the most up-to-date information, check the below official sources:

For currency conversions of CAD to AED and PHP, I used www.xe.com.

This post has been checked by Grammarly
Kevin and Kris

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. 

Do you have some questions about immigrating to Canada? Join our Facebook group, “Explore Your Ways to Canada” to ask your questions and meet other immigrants.

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