Detour to Canada

From Dubai to Canada: Our Express Entry PR Application Journey (Part 1)


Are you dreaming of moving to Canada with your family? Do you wonder what are the steps, how long will it take, and how much money to prepare? Here is our family’s Express Entry journey from Dubai to Canada to give you an idea of the PR application process. 

Disclaimer: This article shares our personal experience as PR applicants but all information here related to Express Entry is from and may change without notice. 

Our Canada Express Entry PR Application from Dubai

Three of the most common questions I get from friends and strangers alike are

  • “How do I start applying for permanent residency to Canada?”,
  • “How long will the process take?”, and
  • “How much did you spend?”

For aspiring immigrants, learning about immigrating to Canada through Express Entry could be overwhelming and confusing at first. Although Canada has a detailed guideline on its website about Express Entry, reading everything might make your head dizzy.

So in this article, I’m sharing our Canada’s Express Entry PR application process from Dubai that could also serve as a guide. This would be extra helpful if you’re applying with your family. But whether you’re applying from the Philippines or another country, or if you’re single, the process is almost the same anyway.

I’ve broken down this article into two parts: Part 1 is all about how to get started while Part 2 shows how long the process will take. At the end of both posts, I included an infographic showing how much you’ll be spending on your PR application more or less. 


So, how do we apply for a permanent residency (PR)?

We started our Express Entry application from Dubai in 2015, since it’s the fastest way to become a PR in Canada. 

Express Entry is Canada’s online system used to manage permanent residency applications. This is for skilled workers with foreign work experience.

Take note that these two factors are crucial: 

  • you should be a skilled worker, and with
  • foreign work experience (either in Canada or abroad).

skilled worker is someone whose work experience falls under the following NOC:  

  • 0 (management jobs)
  • A (professional jobs), or 
  • B (technical jobs and skilled trades). 
Express Entry Canada PR from Dubai - Skilled Worker

I was a Marketing Manager back then so I was under NOC 0. Meanwhile, my husband worked in Dubai Chamber of Commerce as a Statistician/Analyst (NOC A). 

If you want to know what your NOC is, you may read this article.

You can also read here about the National Occupation Classification (NOC). If your work experience is under any of these, you might qualify for Express Entry. 

Now, what they consider as foreign work experience is if you’ve worked in Canada or abroad for at least one year in the last 10 years. If you’re also wondering whether work experience in the Philippines (or your home country) is counted, yes it is (I verified this from an immigration consultant because I was also confused before). 

If you fit into these two factors mentioned, check the steps below. 

However, if you’re not qualified because either your work experience doesn’t belong to either NOC 0, A or B, download our free guidebook where I discussed the other ways for you to immigrate to Canada.

Download your free guidebook

What are the steps we need to take to apply for PR to Canada through Express Entry from Dubai?

I broke down our journey and steps to applying for a Canadian PR through Express Entry into four (4) stages. If you want to skip to a particular stage, click any of the below:

STAGE 1: Pre-assessment stage 

STAGE 2: Language test and education assessment 

STAGE 3: Signing-up for Express Entry 

STAGE 4: Applying for permanent residency

STAGE 1: Pre-assessment stage (October 2015)

This is the first step that you need to do if applying for a PR in Canada through Express Entry (from Dubai or elsewhere).

Our PR journey to Canada began when we attended an Express Entry seminar sponsored by an agency in Dubai. 

The agency pre-assessed us as eligible for the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP). FSWP is among the three programs under Express Entry. Here’s a quick overview of FSWP and the two other programs (the Federal Skilled Trades Program and Canadian Experience Class).

So, how do you pre-qualify for any of these three programs?

You need to meet the criteria set by IRCC (or Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada) for the Express Entry program you’re targeting. We’ll talk more about Express Entry and its three programs in another post.

To know if you pre-qualify, you can try to do any of these ways:

  1. Use the Come to Canada tool, the official online pre-assessment questionnaire by IRCC. Or read the detailed program requirements to check if you qualify.
  2. You can contact a licensed immigration consultant for a pre-assessment.
  3. Or you can check this step-by-step guide.

(My aunt is a licensed immigration consultant. So if you want to inquire for a pre-assessment, send a message here.)

If you pre-qualify in any of the three programs under Express Entry, then proceed to the next stage. 

Just a few notes… 

In FSWP, there are six selection factors: language skills, education level, work experience, age, arranged employment in Canada, and adaptability. You will get points on each factor, and you need a total of 67 points or higher (out of 100) to qualify for FSWP.

Most applicants don’t have their IELTS result and ECA report yet in Stage 1. Now, how did they get pre-qualified then? Their points in language skills and education level were based on assumption.

This is where Stage 2 comes in.

STAGE 2: Language test and education assessment for FSWP’s selection factor (November 2015)

In stage 2, there are two steps that we did that were crucial for us to qualify for FSWP and move to stage 3. Remember, our points in Stage 1 were only an assumption. So these two steps would give us our actual points. 

Our concern at this stage is to get the minimum score in IELTS (or any other approved language test such as CELPIP), and the education level we need based on our ECA report. So here are the steps we took:

First, we took an IELTS test in November 2015 (since our first official language is English). We need at least a score of CLB 7 to further qualify for Express Entry’s FSWP (remember, we were only pre-qualified). 

If you’re wondering what CLB 7 means, that means you need to score at least 6 (9 is the highest) in each of IELTS’ Reading, Listening, Writing, and Speaking tests. If you score 5 or below in ANY of these four tests, then you’ll automatically be disqualified from FSWP.

Going back, we got our results back after two weeks and we scored fine to make us qualify for FSWP. 

Second, we sent our education credentials for assessment to World Education Services (WES).

We sent our college diploma and transcript of records, then after more than a month, they sent back an ECA report. This report tells us what our education level is equal to Canada. To qualify for Express Entry’s FSWP, your education should be equivalent to a secondary graduate (high school graduate) or above in Canada.

Say you’re a four-year course graduate from the Philippines (like my husband). Most likely, you’re equal to a two-year post-secondary diploma holder in Canada. In my case, I took 6 units of Master’s Degree. But when WES assessed my education, they considered me a Bachelor’s Degree graduate. Some people I know spent five years in college but never graduated. However, their ECA report shows they are equivalent to a three-year diploma holder in Canada. I don’t have an idea how WES assesses everyone’s education, so the best thing to do is just send away your documents.

Now that we completed these two steps and we got the required minimum, we then proceeded to Stage 3.

Please note that this is applicable to the Federal Skilled Worker Program. The two other programs have different language and education requirements (for example, in both programs there’s no minimum education required).

Here’s a step-by-step guide in getting an ECA and taking a language test.

STAGE 3: Signing-up for Express Entry (January 2016)

After we received our IELTS results and ECA report, we then signed up online for Express Entry (without these two documents, you can’t submit a profile). Our agency did it on our behalf, but if you’re doing it DIY-style, you need to visit IRCC’s website to create an account. 

After you submit your profile, you’ll get a CRS score based on a Comprehensive Ranking System. Don’t get confused here.

CRS score is different from the selection factor points. Selection factor points (maximum 100 points) is what you need to qualify for FSWP. CRS score (maximum 1,200 points) is what you need to get invited for PR. In Stage 3 onwards, we’ll only talk about CRS score.

If I remember it right, we only had an initial CRS score of 438.

So, how did IRCC calculate our score? They use a standardized scoring system that assigns points based on the following: 

  • our age,
  • education level per our ECA report,
  • IELTS score,
  • work experience, and
  • so on. 

IRCC then ranked us among other candidates in the Express Entry pool. 

The highest possible CRS score is 1,200. Canada only invites candidates for permanent residency with the highest score. So the only thing you need to get invited for PR is a high CRS score.

Once or twice a month, IRCC sends out invitations to the top candidates. 

As of August 3, 2021, there are a total of 169,505 candidates in Express Entry. Canada only invites the top 5,000 (sometimes more, sometimes less) candidates. So if you’re lucky enough to get invited, then you proceed to Stage 4, or the final round. 

Now, stage 3 is where most candidates get stuck for months, or sometimes, years. 

And the reason why most candidates get stuck is due to many reasons, but one of them is because their CRS score is low. As of December 23, 2020, the lowest-ranking candidate who made it through under FSWP had a score of 468. But since January to August 2021, there hasn’t been any draw under the FSWP category.

But there are ways to improve your current CRS score (which I’ll share in another post). 

Now, I will end this article here. This is enough to show you the first initial steps to applying for a PR to Canada through Express Entry from Dubai. To summarize:

  1. First, find out if you’re eligible for any of the three programs under Express Entry. Either use the Come to Canada tool, read Express Entry’s program requirements, contact a licensed immigration consultant, or read our step-by-step guide.
  2. If you’re eligible, take a language test (such as IELTS) and/or an education assessment from WES. You must get at least CLB 7 in IELTS if you’re aiming for the Federal Skilled Worker Program. Read this article for a step-by-step guide.
  3. Create your Express Entry profile. Then, wait until you get an invitation to apply for permanent residency. 

In Part 2 of this post, I shared more of our journey while on Stage 3 and once in Stage 4. 

To see an overview of how much we spent approximately, check out the below infographic.

Express Entry Expenses from Dubai to Canada
These Express Entry expenses exclude other fees like courier, printing, consultation fees, etc.
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 want to know the step-by-step process of Express Entry’s Federal Skilled Worker Program? Sign-up on our Roadmap to Express Entry Blog Post Series.

Roadmap to Express Entry: Dubai to Canada

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