2023-10-13T15:38:56-04:00Aug 16, 2023|

Category-based selection under Express Entry: What you need to know

As one of Canada’s most popular immigration programs, Express Entry is crucial in encouraging foreign talent, including skilled professionals and tradespeople, to settle in Canada permanently and help the country achieve its economic goals.

To ensure that the Express Entry system is adequately equipped to bridge crucial labour market needs, category-based rounds of invitation were introduced in 2023, in addition to the existing program-based draws. In this article, we provide an overview of how category-based selection under Express Entry works, including the priority categories for 2023 and eligibility requirements to receive an invitation to apply under category-based invitation rounds.

In this article:

What are category-based rounds of invitation under Express Entry?

In 2023, the Canadian government announced that it would begin inviting candidates from the Express Entry pool who qualify for certain pre-defined categories to apply for permanent residence (PR) in Canada. These categories will be chosen annually based on Canada’s economic goals and may relate to candidates’ language skills, work experience, or education.

Category-based rounds of invitation will be conducted in addition to the existing Express Entry selection rounds for the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW), Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP), Canadian Experience Class (CEC), and Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP). However, only candidates who are eligible for one of the three Express Entry programs and have an active Express Entry profile will be eligible for category-based selection.

Priority categories for 2023

New categories for priority selection will be announced in advance each year. For the year 2023, the following were chosen for category-based selection rounds:

  • French-language proficiency: Candidates who can demonstrate at least an intermediate proficiency in French (NCLC 7 or higher in all four language abilities).
  • Healthcare occupations: Including candidates with work experience as an audiologist or speech-language pathologist, a chiropractor, dentist, general practitioner or family physician, licensed practical nurse, laboratory technologist, medical sonographer, nurse practitioner, nurses aide, occupational therapist, optometrist, paramedic, pharmacy assistant, physiotherapist, psychologist, registered nurse, veterinarian, etc.
  • Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) occupations: Including candidates with work experience as an architect, engineer (including civil engineer, computer engineer, electrical and electronics engineer, engineering manager, or software engineer), science manager, computer and information systems manager, developer or programmer, cyber security specialist, data scientist, land surveyor, mathematician, statistician, software developer, web designer, etc.
  • Trade occupations: Including candidates with work experience as a residential and commercial installer, elevator constructor or mechanic, machine fitter, construction millwright or industrial mechanic, carpenter, plumber, electrician, welder, machine operator, etc.
  • Transport occupations: Including candidates with work experience as an aircraft assembler, transport truck driver, railway or marine traffic controller, engineer officer or deck officer for water transport, air traffic controller, air pilot, flight engineer, flying instructor, aircraft mechanic, or manager in transportation.
  • Agriculture and agri-food occupations: Including candidates with work experience as a landscaping, ground maintenance or horticulture contractor or supervisor, agricultural service contractor, farm supervisor, or butcher.

Who is eligible for category-based selection?

To be eligible for category-based selection under Express Entry, you must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Meet all the Express Entry requirements, including work experience and proof of language proficiency, and be eligible for at least one of the three Express Entry programs—Federal Skilled Worker, Federal Skilled Trades Program, or Canadian Experience Class.
  • Have a valid Express Entry profile.
  • Fulfill all the category-based instructions issued by IRCC when that category-based round of invitations is announced.

Eligibility criteria by category

In addition to the basic eligibility requirements for Express Entry, candidates must also meet certain category-specific criteria. 

Although category-based eligibility requirements are usually announced when invitations are issued for a particular category, the IRCC has published certain minimum requirements that candidates must meet. The eligibility requirements may change over time as the country’s economic goals and requirements evolve.

Eligibility criteria for the French language category

Candidates can only qualify for the French language category round of invitations under Express Entry provided they:

  • Appeared for an approved French language test (TEF Canada or TCF Canada) less than two years ago (expired test results are not accepted), and 
  • Scored a minimum score of 7 in each of the four language abilities (reading, writing, listening, and speaking) on the Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens (NCLC).

Eligibility criteria for occupation-related categories

To be invited to apply for PR under an occupation-related category, candidates must meet all of the following requirements:

  • Have accumulated, within the past three years, at least six months of full-time, continuous work experience (or equivalent part-time work experience) in a single eligible National Occupational Classification (NOC) in the relevant occupation category.
  • The work experience may be gained in Canada or abroad. 
  • The work experience must cover all the essential duties and most of the main duties listed in that NOC.
Tips Icon  Tip: Some of the occupations in these categories are regulated or require additional certification in order for candidates to be able to work in Canada. To avoid delays in finding employment in Canada, candidates should plan to obtain the corresponding certifications before or soon after arrival.

How the government chooses priority categories for Express Entry

The Canadian government chooses priority categories for the year based on labour market information and projections, as well as inputs the government receives from provinces, territories, and a wide range of other stakeholders.

The categories are chosen to further Canada’s economic goals, such as to fill chronic labour shortages and meet the country’s economic priorities. They will be re-evaluated on a regular basis.

How to qualify for category-based selection under Express Entry

You can only qualify for category-based selection under Express Entry if you meet all of the following criteria:

  • Have a valid Express Entry profile with an application under the FSW, FSTP, or CEC program.
  • Are proficient in French OR have qualifying work experience under one of the priority occupations (The job duties must match the ones listed under that NOC.)
  • Have at least six months of full-time, continuous experience in your field in the last three years.
Note Icon  Note: New categories may be selected for 2024, so if your profile will continue to be valid next year, keep track of the priority categories and qualification requirements.

How do category-based rounds of invitation work

Category-based invitation rounds are conducted over and above the regular bimonthly Express Entry draws (for Federal Skilled Worker Program, Canadian Experience Class, Federal Skilled Trades Program and Provincial Nominee Program.) 

The first category-based round of invitations was conducted on 28 June 2023 for candidates in healthcare occupations. Since then, category-based selections have been announced for several of the chosen 2023 categories, with anywhere between 500 and 3,800 candidates being issued invitations to apply (ITAs) in each round.

Since all candidates are part of the Express Entry pool, the cut-off rank is determined based on the number of ITAs to be issued in each round. Following that, the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score of the lowest-ranked candidate who meets the cut-off rank is determined. 

For instance, if 500 candidates are to be invited under a particular category in a given round and the 500th candidate (the lowest-ranking candidate who meets all the category requirements) has a CRS score of 380, then that becomes the CRS cut-off for the invitation round.

All candidates with a CRS score that exceeds the cut-off and who meet the eligibility criteria for that category are issued invitations to apply for permanent residence (PR). Once a candidate receives an ITA, they have 60 days to submit their PR application for Canada.

As of 2023, category-based draws are being conducted in addition to program-based and PNP draws under Express Entry. Category-based selection allows the government to invite applicants in high-demand occupations and categories to fill gaps in the labour market. If you’re in a priority occupation or category, this could increase your chances of being selected for permanent residence in Canada.