The Express Entry pool can often mean a long waiting period for candidates seeking Canadian permanent residence (PR). While the processing times after receiving an invitation to apply (ITA) may take 6 months or more, the time spent waiting in the pool for an ITA can span even longer.
However, this time does not have to be idle. There are a number of steps that candidates can take while in the Express Entry pool to maximize their chances of receiving an ITA, and to optimize their preparedness for life in Canada once they immigrate.
Updating Your Express Entry Profile
One of the most effective ways to improve your chances of getting an ITA while in the Express Entry pool is to update your profile with any details that could increase your ranking under the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). The CRS is the points-based system Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) uses to score and rank candidates in the Express Entry pool, with a maximum score of 1200 points.
The factors considered in the CRS touch on various aspects of a candidate’s human capital, such as their:
- Level of education
- Official language proficiency
- Canadian work experience
- Spouse’s education, language ability, etc.
While some of these factors remain static, there are a few key ways that candidates can actively boost their CRS score while waiting in the pool:
Increasing Language Proficiency
A candidate’s language ability in English and/or French plays a major role in their CRS score, accounting for up to 260 points. Candidates are scored based on their demonstrated ability in four categories: reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
For each category, candidates receive a score on the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) or Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens (NCLC) scale from 1 to 12. You need a minimum CLB level of 4 per ability to begin accruing any points.
However, significant jumps in points are awarded for improving from CLB 6 to CLB 9. For example, increasing your score by just one level from CLB 7 to 8 will earn you an extra 8 points per ability – that’s 32 additional points!
Candidates proficient in French can also benefit, earning up to an extra 30 points per ability if their first official language is French, and their second official language (English) is at CLB 4 or higher.
Bottom line: dedicating time and resources towards improving your official language skills can yield substantial ranking rewards.
Gaining Foreign and Canadian Work Experience
While foreign work experience alone does not directly increase your CRS score, it can be very advantageous when combined with strong language skills. For instance, just one year of foreign skilled work experience combined with a CLB 7 yields 13 extra points.
With two or more years of foreign work experience, you could earn up to 50 more points depending on your CLB levels. The same CRS boost applies to any skilled Canadian work experience you may acquire.
Picking up even one year of skilled work experience in Canada can also bump up your score significantly. One year nets you 40 extra points, while two or more years gives you 80 additional points. Gaining Canadian work experience should be a top priority.
Furthering Your Education
Pursuing higher education may be worth the investment if it notably increases your score. For example, completing a three-year post-secondary program gets you 112 CRS points.
But if you finish an additional one-year credential on top of your original three-year program, you’ll obtain 119 points instead. Carefully weigh the costs and benefits before taking the plunge into further studies solely for immigration purposes.
Applying to Provincial Nominee Programs
In addition to the core Express Entry system managed by IRCC, most provinces and territories in Canada run their own Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs). These allow the provinces to select and nominate candidates from the Express Entry pool to help meet local economic and labor market needs.
Candidates nominated through an Express Entry stream of a PNP get an additional 600 CRS points, effectively guaranteeing an ITA in a subsequent Express Entry draw. Therefore, researching the PNP options in your preferred destination province can significantly maximize your chances.
Note that PNPs require candidates to demonstrate intent to reside in the nominating province, so make sure you are willing to make the move if nominated.
Getting Licensed for the Canadian Job Market
For immigrants working in regulated professions, one of the major roadblocks to employment in Canada is obtaining the proper professional credentials or licensing. This can stall newcomers’ job searches for months as they wait to get qualified.
However, candidates in the Express Entry pool can use their waiting time to get a head start on the licensing process by:
- Researching the certification steps for their occupation’s regulating body in their destination province.
- Checking if their international qualifications and experience will be recognized in Canada through the World Education Services.
- Looking into bridging programs offered by Canadian colleges to help international professionals meet licensing requirements. Some programs are even offered online.
- Reaching out to regulatory bodies to ask about necessary exams, documents, costs and timelines.
Laying the groundwork for licensing while still overseas will help pave the way for faster entry into Canada’s job market and minimize delays in starting your career.
Networking with Canadian Professionals
Gaining meaningful connections with professionals in your field based in Canada is invaluable both for securing employment and expanding settlement support networks.
Luckily, modern tools like LinkedIn enable candidates worldwide to build virtual relationships with individuals across borders and industries.
While still in the Express Entry pool, you can start mingling with relevant contacts by:
- Joining industry-specific LinkedIn groups based in your target Canadian location.
- Following key companies and professionals in your sector.
- Commenting on discussions and establishing your expertise.
- Starting respectful conversations and asking insightful questions.
Avoid overt self-promotion and build rapport organically to nurture promising leads. With time and care, virtual relationships can blossom into the types of strong professional and personal ties that ease the immigration journey.
Seeking Settlement Support
Finally, time in the Express Entry pool can also be used to proactively build up your settlement support system in Canada.
This involves connecting with:
- Family or friends already based in Canada who can provide housing, guidance, and community.
- Cultural associations, religious centers, or hobby groups related to your background.
- Settlement services organizations that assist newcomers. Many offer online seminars.
- Other immigrants who have already made the move through forums and networking.
Gaining wisdom and assistance from those who have already gone through the immigration and settlement process can help manage expectations and smooth the transition.
The waiting period between your Express Entry submission and receiving an ITA certainly feels unproductive. However, this time can be leveraged in many constructive ways.
Focus your efforts on improving your CRS score, getting a headstart on licensing, networking in your field, and gathering settlement insights from others.
While the Express Entry pool may seem static, you can take targeted steps to both maximize your likelihood of selection, and optimize your readiness to hit the ground running once you immigrate.
Putting this waiting period to good use will amplify your chances of success in Canada when your ITA finally does arrive.