Immigration to Canada: Tips for Improving Express Entry Comprehensive Ranking System Scores

by David Cohen

In January of 2015, the government of Canada introduced a system called Express Entry to manage applications for three popular Canadian immigration programs: the Federal Skilled Worker Class (FSWC), Federal Skilled Trades Class (FSTC), and Canadian Experience Class(CEC).
Whereas the old system treated applications on a first-come, first-served basis, Express Entry involves the government selecting candidates from a pool on a priority basis, according to a ranking score, using a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). Points are awarded differently under the CRS than under the three immigration programs, and candidates have a large incentive to gain as many ranking points as possible. Doing so increases their chances of receiving the all-important Invitation to Apply (ITA) for Canadian permanent residence.
Express Entry candidates should know that increasing their score beyond the eligibility requirements is key, and that being eligible to enter the pool is a different thing than having enough points to obtain an ITA.

Distribution of Points within the CRS

The CRS awards points for a candidate’s age, level of education, language ability in English and/or French, work experience (both in Canada and abroad), whether he or she has a job offer in Canada, and whether a Canadian province has issued him or her a nomination certificate through one of the enhanced Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) categories. Additional points may be awarded to candidates who obtain a province-recognized certificate of qualification in a trade.
Certain factors, as well as combinations of factors, are rewarded more than others. Moreover, candidates with an accompanying spouse, common-law or conjugal partner (hereafter ‘spouse’) see a slight difference in how the various factors are weighted, as certain spousal factors are also taken into account.
There is a total of 1,200 points available, of which 600 may be awarded for a job offer or provincial nomination. Of the remaining half, up to 500 are available for human capital factors in their own right, and 100 for skills transferability combinations of those human capital factors. Of the 40 Express Entry draws that have taken place so far, 35 draws have seen ITAs issued to candidates who had neither a job offer nor a provincial nomination.

Increasing CRS Score

The nuances of the system dictate that there are numerous ways in which a candidate in the pool can increase his or her ranking. These nuances are important, as even a seemingly slight change in one factor—for example, improving a language ability from intermediate level to initial advanced—can have hugely positive effects on one’s ranking. Although many potential improvements may seem obvious, others are not so obvious.


Let’s first look at education, a highly valued factor under the CRS. There is much to consider on this front, but we’ll begin with candidates who enter the pool under the CEC program. Although FSWC candidates who studied outside Canada must prove their education credential(s) by way of an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA), CEC candidates may enter the pool without an ECA or Canadian credential. Some CEC candidates might enter the pool, sit back, and wait for an ITA. They could be waiting a long time, however, and often in vain, but they can increase their score by having their level(s) of education assessed. Doing so can bring up to 200 points—150 for human capital, with a bonus 50 in combination with Canadian work experience and/or language ability. Having a bachelor’s degree assessed can bring up to 170 points. So, educated CEC candidates in the pool with no ECA, I have a simple question: what are you waiting for? Get your ECA as soon as possible.
There are other potential ways in which candidates from all three programs may claim additional points through education. For candidates with more than one post-secondary credential, getting each credential assessed is recommended. Canadian equivalencies may vary from one credential to another, the CRS awards points for multiple credentials, and any credential may help a candidate become eligible under a PNP. If an Express Entry PNP category opens and you need to react quickly, it is crucial to have a fully updated education section in your profile. Proving all your education, and not just what might be deemed the highest level, can be important in this regard.
Furthermore, completing an additional level of education can also be beneficial. Some candidates are only a few courses or months away from completing a degree, diploma or certificate that, when assessed, would help to improve their ranking under the CRS. Other proactive candidates may consider enrolling in a higher level of education, knowing that completing the program would increase their chances of realizing their Canadian immigration goals.


Language is another crucial factor, as it is worth up to 260 points. Fluent English and/or French speakers may have maximized their points potential on entry to the pool. Candidates with room for improvement in language test results, however, should consider preparing for and re-taking a test. Any improvement across any of the four abilities (speaking, writing, reading, and listening) may bring a corresponding improvement in CRS ranking, but the big payoff occurs when a candidate reaches initial advanced level (Canadian Language Benchmark 9) across the board. When this happens, he or she may trigger a higher threshold in the combination factors and receive up to 100 points, in addition to the points received for the language factor in its own right.
A final note on language—bilingual candidates, should take language tests in both English and French. By not doing so, they are leaving up to 24 points on the table, unclaimed.


Although Canadian work experience is more valued than non-Canadian work experience, the latter is nonetheless a factor within the combinations. For example, a candidate with strong language skills (CLB 9 or better across the board), but who only has one or two years of skilled work experience outside of Canada, may be awarded 25 points. As soon as he or she adds a third year of experience, however, an additional 25 points may be awarded. So, a word to the wise—keep working!
For candidates with Canadian work experience, similar principles apply, only the potential for obtaining points is greater because of two things: Canadian work experience is valued as a factor in its own right (i.e., not only in combination with something else, as non-Canadian work experience is), and points may be gathered for up to five years of experience. If you’re working a skilled job in Canada, keep at it and ensure you maintain your legal work status throughout.
I would also advise candidates to update their profile with any additional work experience, even if it does not directly increase CRS score. I say this because doing so may help to make a candidate eligible for a PNP category. You may not increase your score by a few points today, but you may increase it by 600 points tomorrow.

Couples Increasing Their Chances

The improvements outlined above apply to all candidates, whether they have an accompanying spouse or not. Candidates with a spouse, however, may have additional potential for improving their CRS score because the spouse’s level of education, language ability, and Canadian work experience may all be rewarded. Up to 40 points may be awarded for the spouse’s factors, 20 of which may be awarded for language ability (and 10 each for education and Canadian work experience). Having a spouse sit a language test and/or obtain an ECA could bring hugely valuable points. Moreover, some PNP categories reward the spouse of an applicant for his or her education, work or study experience and/or language ability.
Furthermore, every couple should carefully review who should be the principal applicant. Indeed, there is nothing to stop both partners from each creating a profile. Consider the following scenario: a 36-year-old rocket scientist and his or her 29-year-old partner, who works as a cook, want to immigrate to Canada. The rocket scientist may appear to be the superior candidate, but, other things being equal, it is, in fact, the cook who would be awarded more points, simply because he or she is younger. We could substitute surgeon for rocket scientist and plumber for a cook, and the result would be the same. Also, it should be noted that three years of skilled work experience is worth the same as 10 or 15 years, as the number of points awarded ‘caps out’ at three years. With this in mind, it is worth seeing if a candidate’s spouse can obtain more points as the principal applicant.

Provincial Nominee Programs

Each of the above sections has touched on the reality that every improvement to a candidate’s profile may also bring the candidate closer to being eligible to apply to an Express Entry PNP category—and this is really where the big gains are to be found. We’re talking about 600 points, an ITA at a subsequent draw, and a straight pathway to permanent residence. To achieve this, however, it’s important to display your full education and work record, stay up to date on Canadian immigration news, and have all your documents ready and reviewed in preparation to make an application promptly. PNP categories often open and close quickly, sometimes within days or even hours.
Saskatchewan’s Express Entry-aligned PNP category, for example, has opened and closed seven times since it was first introduced last year. Not only that, but it recently changed its eligible occupations list—a change that came with no prior warning. Candidates who are not ready to apply to a PNP, or who do not keep their profile up to date, are in a far worse position than organized, knowledgeable candidates.

Combinations Are Key

As I have outlined above, the skills transferability factors (also known as combinations) are an oft-forgotten or underestimated area for boosting a CRS ranking. I can’t stress enough how much these combinations may be the key to success. Very often, candidates are so wrapped up in one or two areas that they miss the forest for the trees, so please consider combinations when looking at improving your CRS score.

Obtaining a Job by Networking and Visiting Canada

Obtaining a Canadian job offer from abroad is a difficult, though not impossible, task. The task becomes far more realistic, however, if your network, make connections, and secure interviews. Employers generally prefer to meet with potential employees in person, and therefore potential candidates in Canada have an advantage. Serious candidates for immigration to Canada should consider taking the time to make a visit to Canada in preparation for the major life decision they are taking. Before coming, they can set up interviews and networking opportunities, perhaps even coordinate the visit with a job fair or similar recruitment event.
Not only would visiting Canada increase a candidate’s chances of landing a skilled job, but it may also increase their PNP options, as certain PNPs reward individuals for their previous visit(s) to a province.

A Final Note

If I were to offer only one piece of advice to Express Entry candidates, it would be to not lose heart. Explore all your options across human capital factors, combinations, work in Canada a PNPs, and give this everything you’ve got. It will be worth it in the end.


Using Your Credential Evaluation for Employment

by WES Global Talent Bridge 

Your previous education is one of the most important assets in your job search. It can be difficult to explain how a degree earned in your home country meets an employer’s education requirements.
How can you be sure a potential employer understands your educational qualifications and how it meets the requirements for a job? If you want your education to work to your advantage, you should make it easy for the employer to understand your foreign credentials. The best and most objective way to do this is to obtain a credential evaluation from a reputable credential evaluation agency.

What Are the Benefits of a Credential Evaluation?

credential evaluation provides a U.S. or Canadian equivalency for your foreign education. This means that an employer who is unfamiliar with foreign credentials and institutions can understand your background—and you can compete fairly for jobs with other candidates. Even if you have interrupted your post-secondary studies, a high school equivalency may qualify you for an entry-level job that could lead to different opportunities. Having a credential evaluation gives you and potential employers confidence that you meet the job requirements even if you have a foreign degree.
How Do I Obtain a Credential Evaluation?
Ask potential employers if they have guidelines for foreign-educated applicants. Some employers may already ask applicants for a credential evaluation. A basic or general credential evaluation is usually sufficient for employment purposes. Employers don’t typically need to see transcripts or grades.
If there are no guidelines, or if you are not yet focused on a specific employer, you can obtain a credential evaluation from an agency accredited by the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES).
World Education Services (WES), a member of NACES, offers credential evaluations that verify and evaluate high school and post-secondary credentials from more than 150 countries. You can also learn the U.S. equivalency of your foreign education by using the free Degree Equivalency Tool from WES.

How Can I Use My Credential in My Job Search?

With a credential evaluation, you will know what jobs you are qualified for based on the degree equivalency statement on the report. Evaluate job ads with your evaluation in mind. For example, if you have the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree, you might be overqualified for a job that requires only a high school diploma. Now you can judge with confidence which employers will likely value your credentials and invest your time in the best prospects.
You may also add your evaluation to your résumé and cover letter. Mention that you have your foreign education verified and evaluated and that you meet the education requirements of the job. You can even include the U.S. degree equivalency in the education section of your resume, next to your degree.
When you have a job interview, you can speak about your foreign education with confidence. Bring a copy of your evaluation to show the interviewer. Don’t forget to highlight your language skills and international experience as well.
If offered employment, ask if you should have your official report sent directly by the credential evaluation agency to the employer.
Are you ready to get started on your credential evaluation?

WES Global Talent Bridge is a program dedicated to helping skilled immigrants fully utilize their talents and education in the United States and Canada. Global Talent Bridge joins with institutional partners and community organizations to help skilled immigrants leverage their training, achieve their professional goals, and contribute their talents to their full potential.

Top 5 Barriers Skilled Immigrants Face and How to Overcome Them

 by Sahra Togone 

Over the past decade, American and Canadian job markets have experienced a shortage of skilled workers. Despite this, there are many barriers skilled immigrants face in Canada and the U.S. when it comes to finding jobs in their respective fields. Some of these challenges include encountering employers who are unfamiliar with international work experience and credentials, navigating the often complex trade and professional bodies, and facing employee discrimination and language barriers.
Here are five common barriers skilled immigrants face and how to overcome them:

Language and Communication

Although skilled immigrants have years of experience in their respective fields, most of them do not have experience working in the U.S. or Canada. Being unfamiliar with common workplace lingo and terminologies could slow down your career progress, but there are many ways to overcome this gap.
For example, enrolling at a local college for a course in medical terminology could help you enter that job market.
In addition to language and communication development, the process of highlighting your relevant skills and marketing yourself effectively is also important in getting hired. In Canada and the U.S., the art of “pitching” is having the ability to summarize who you are. This includes describing your professional background, your skills, and the relevant experience you have that makes you the perfect candidate for a position. Some skilled immigrants may not be used to the idea of self-promotion. The goal with “pitching” is to showcase how perfect you are for a role and your passion and enthusiasm for it.

Credential Recognition

As a skilled immigrant, you may be confident in your educational credentials, but they may not be recognized by Canadian and U.S. employers. When you are applying for jobs, employers may overlook your credentials simply because they are unfamiliar with the name of the education institution you graduated from. The best way to overcome this barrier is by getting a credential evaluation to determine the Canadian or U.S. equivalency of your degree. This will help employers recognize the legitimacy of your degree because it was evaluated by a reputable credential evaluation service such as World Education Services (WES).

Getting Licensed in a Regulated Profession

If you are a skilled worker in a regulated profession (for example, an accountant, nurse, or teacher), then it may be difficult to start working in the same role in a new country. This is because many professional regulatory bodies are decentralized and have different licensing requirements based on each province/territory and state. The process of relicensing in Canada and the U.S. is costly and time-consuming. It is important to do the necessary research and make preparations before applying for a role. If you find out you are unqualified in a regulated profession, you may consider starting a non-regulated job in your field first. This is also a great chance to use your relevant skills to gain experience working in a new country. Check out our related post to learn more about regulated and non-regulated professions.


For skilled immigrants in Canada and the U.S., language and cultural differences can make networking difficult. In general, the goal of networking is to meet individuals in your field who can provide tips and information that could potentially lead you to your next job. Lacking professional connections continues to be an obstacle for skilled immigrants who are new to Canada and the U.S.
As a solution, consider the options below:
  • Join a professional immigrant network in your city or region to expand your connections.
  • Network with other immigrants by sharing your experience in approaching new job markets.
  • Network online with professionals by setting up a well-designed and up-to-date profile on LinkedIn.

Lack of Local Experience/Discrimination

Many skilled immigrants in Canada find themselves being discriminated against by employers because they do not have work experience in Canada. It can be extremely frustrating because skilled immigrants feel that this requirement for every position to apply to is “disguised discrimination,” as a way to screen out newcomers from the hiring process.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) created a policy to ensure that a lack of work experience in Canada cannot stand as a barrier for newly arrived skilled immigrants in Ontario. Regardless of this legislation, employers still consider local experience as an important factor in the hiring process. If you do not have any work experience in Canada or the U.S., you can try volunteering and participate in different community programs to increase your networking and learning opportunities.

The most important thing to keep in mind is to not lose confidence. Always be on the lookout for training and networking opportunities, and know that there are many different services available to help you achieve your employment goals.

Navigating Employment Services in Canada

by Jodi Tingling

If you are interested in building your career, making connections in your field, or even gaining work experience, taking advantage of the many free employment services available in Canada is a great way to start your journey. Employment services are offered by non-profit organizations, settlement agencies, and universities/colleges and they are focused on helping you meet your career goals.
Start thinking about your employment goals and what you may need help with. For example, do you need help with marketing yourself including building your résumé and developing your interview skills? Do you need someone to help you understand your career path and the next steps you need to take? What about how to tackle building your experience to develop your skills, or opportunities to build professional connections? The following sections discuss some ways that employment services can help you.

Pre-Arrival Programs

If you have not yet arrived in Canada, you may be able to access services before you even get here. These services can help you understand the steps you can take even before arriving. They often provide information about how settle in Canada, how to re-license in your field, how to effectively market your skills, and they may connect you to employers before you arrive. You can start by looking up pre-arrival services that would be useful for you. Not only will they help you prepare for what to expect in Canada but they may also provide you with an opportunity to create new networks.

Marketing Your Skills and Finding a Job

Most employment services offer help with marketing your skill set. Whether you need help with preparing your résumé or cover letter, strengthening your interview skills, developing your elevator pitch, or networking with people in your field, employment services offer this kind of support. A great tool to find employment and settlement services near you is by exploring immigrant-serving organizations. These organizations offer free services to help you start your career journey in Canada.
Once you have had help marketing your skills, you can seek additional support with your job search. Whether it’s researching the labour market, engaging in the application process, or following-up with employers, in Canada, there are employment services equipped with employment counsellors and job developers to help you. An employment counsellor is someone who helps you develop a career plan and provides resources and tools to help you meet your goals. A job developer works closely with employers to help develop employment opportunities for job seekers. Talk to your employment counsellor or job developer about the kind of opportunities you are looking for. For example, are you looking for opportunities that are short-term, long-term, specific to your field? Job search support is a great way to help you understand employer expectations as well as your role in the job search process.

Language-Specific Employment Training

If you are in a specific occupation and need to upgrade your English or French language skills, consider programs such as Occupation-Specific Language Training (OSLT). These programs are available to those who are new to the country and are residing in the province of Ontario. They offer language training that is geared toward a specific occupation; some examples of these occupations may include business, health sciences, technology, automotive trades, construction, and human services. These programs provide career planning, practical workplace communication tasks, and connections to resources including mentors and local employers. Also, consider enrolling in general language programs to help improve your language skills as well as your workplace communication skills. Improved language skills will be an asset to employers.

Bridging Programs

These programs offer a chance for internationally trained professionals to engage in skills training to land a job within their desired field. Bridging programs are in partnerships with colleges, universities, regulatory bodies, employers, and community organizations to provide skills training that is targeted and specific. They often have a classroom and workplace component to help with language training for the profession, preparation for certification or re-licensing, addressing any barriers to getting employed and hands-on experience in the workplace. Start by exploring Bridge Training Programs by sector.

Finding a Mentor

When starting to network in your profession, seeking a mentor is a great way to learn about your field in Canada. Organizations that specialize in mentorships can align you with a mentor that provides insider knowledge of the field you want to get into as well as coaching, advice, and connections to other professionals during your job search. Below are some organizations that can connect you with mentors in your field:

Employment services can be general or specific to your profession. It is important to consider your unique employment needs when researching employment services available to you. These services can provide the extra support you need to be successful in preparing yourself for employment opportunities.


English Proficiency: Mastering the CELPIP Test.

 by Chris Koelbleitner

The Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) is a multi-purpose English test that allows test takers to demonstrate their ability to function in English. The CELPIP has two versions: the CELPIP-General Test that measures four skills areas—listening, speaking, reading, and writing—and the CELPIP-General LS Test that measures only listening and speaking proficiency.
The CELPIP-General Test has been designated by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for use by individuals who are applying for permanent resident status in Canada. Other organizations, such as the Real Estate Council of British Columbia (REC BC) and the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC), also accept the test for membership to their organizations. All four skill components of the CELPIP-General Test are delivered by computer at three-hour test sittings that are held at CELPIP Test Centres located across Canada, and in select cities internationally.
The CELPIP-General LS Test has been approved by IRCC for use by individuals who are applying for Canadian citizenship. The Listening and Speaking components of this test are delivered by computer at one-hour test sittings that are held at CELPIP Test Centres across Canada.

Preparing for the CELPIP Test

For individuals preparing to take the CELPIP Test, Paragon Testing provides a variety of free and purchasable study materials. Free study materials for the CELPIP Test include:
  • Sample test: Available on the CELPIP website, the free sample test includes sample test questions and answers to help test takers understand what to expect on each component of the CELPIP Test.
  • Practice test: Available for free when test takers register for a CELPIP account, this is a complete practice test, covering each component of the CELPIP Test, including detailed answer keys for each section.
  • Webinars and workshops: Available online, a free CELPIP information session is hosted live each week, giving test takers an overview of the CELPIP Test components, as well as an informal question-and-answer session. In addition to information sessions, free workshops are held regularly to help test takers prepare for the Speaking component of the CELPIP Test. Recorded webinars and workshops are also available on the CELPIP YouTube page.
Purchasable study materials for the CELPIP Test include:
  • Study guides and practice tests: Available in the online store, online practice tests and study guides are available to help test takers prepare for the CELPIP Test. Each practice test includes a complete answer key as well as sample responses taken from actual CELPIP test takers. Study guides are available in ebook and print versions.
  • Online study programs: Online study programs, available in the online store, provide in-depth preparation for CELPIP test takers, and offer instructional videos, interactive quizzes, and extensive analyses of sample responses. Online study programs are suitable for test takers of all language abilities and are accessible on tablets and cellphones.
  • CELPIP Preparation Program: Offered in partnership with organizations across Canada and internationally, the CELPIP Preparation Program gives test takers personalized instruction from experienced instructors.

CELPIP Strategies for Success

Here are 10 tips to help you successfully prepare for the CELPIP Test:

  • Practice using a computer. The CELPIP Test is fully computer delivered, so ensure that you are comfortable with a mouse and keyboard. Practicing with CELPIP’s free online sample test and free online practice test are good ways to familiarize yourself with this format.
  • Remember that CELPIP is a test of general English proficiency. CELPIP assesses your ability to use English in everyday situations. It is not a test of business English or academic English. One of the best ways to prepare is just to get out and use English as much as possible in your daily life.
  • Use a wide range of vocabulary and grammatical structures. Try to show the range of your vocabulary in your writing and speaking. Avoid using the same words over and over again. You don’t need to memorize the dictionary—just use words that would be natural in daily life. Remember to use varied grammatical structures and construct sentences that differ in length and complexity.
  • Manage your time. The CELPIP Test is fully computer delivered, and you will see a timer on each screen, telling you how much time you have left for that section. Keeping an eye on these timers can help you gauge how to pace yourself throughout the test.
  • Check your work. If you have any time left over while completing the reading, listening, or writing components of the test, make sure to read over your answers and make sure that you have attempted to answer all questions as well as you can. In particular, try to spend a few minutes reviewing your writing, ensuring that you have no typos that could impact the clarity of your response.
  • Speak clearly and at a natural pace. Speak clearly into the microphone, which should be close to your lips but without touching them. It is natural to speak quickly when you are nervous—try to slow down and speak at a normal pace.
  • Do not worry about your accent. Our raters are trained to disregard accents. Unless your accent prevents you from being understood, do not focus on it. Instead, concentrate on using good grammar, accurate and varied vocabulary, and providing complete answers.
  • Take notes. While taking the CELPIP Test, you will be provided with notepaper and a pen. You may use these to take notes during any point in the test, though you may find it especially useful to outline some ideas for your speaking or writing responses. It is also a good idea to take notes about main ideas and specific details during the listening test.
  • Focus on what you know. You may come across some difficult words in a reading or listening passage. Do not get stuck worrying about words you do not understand. Focus on general meaning and the parts of the passage that you do understand. Sometimes it is possible to understand a new word based on your knowledge of the words that are around it.
  • Use a variety of reading strategies. You do not have to read every single word in a passage to successfully answer questions on the reading test; instead, use reading strategies, such as skimming and scanning. These may help you with some of the simpler questions, leaving more time to spend with the more difficult questions.

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