When you decide to move to Canada, one of the first things you need to do is choose an immigration program that you qualify for. Most newcomers apply for permanent residence (PR) through the Express Entry program or a Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). These programs have simple application processes and high intakes, making them popular choices. However, submitting an Express Entry profile doesn’t guarantee an invitation to apply for PR.
The selection for these programs is based on your Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score. With more people applying for Canadian immigration each year, the competition is becoming more intense, and the minimum qualifying CRS scores are on the rise. In this article, we explain what the Comprehensive Ranking System is, how CRS scores work, and share some tips on how to improve your CRS score to increase your chances of qualifying for immigration through Express Entry and PNP programs.
In this article:
- What is the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS)?
- What is a CRS score and how does it work?
- Factors that determine your Comprehensive Ranking System score
- How to calculate your CRS score
- How many CRS points are required for immigration to Canada?
- Ten tips to improve your CRS score for Canadian immigration
- What to do if your CRS score still doesn’t meet the cutoff?
The Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) is a points-based system used by the Government of Canada to determine your eligibility for the Express Entry immigration program. When you submit an Express Entry profile, the government calculates your profile’s score and uses it to rank your application.
All three economic immigration streams under Express Entry—the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP), and the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program—use the Comprehensive Ranking System. In addition, several Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) also rely on the CRS to assess applications received through their Express Entry streams.
When you create an Express Entry profile, you’re allotted points for various factors based on the information you provide. Your profile’s total score is known as your CRS score. The points for each answer are predetermined, and the Comprehensive Ranking System ensures that all scores are objective and fair.
The government conducts regular Express Entry draws to determine the minimum CRS cutoff applicants require to qualify for each program. If your CRS score is equal to or more than the cutoff at the time of the draw, you’ll receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for PR in Canada.
Your Comprehensive Ranking System score is based on several factors that help the government determine your ability to find employment, contribute to the economy, and integrate into Canadian society. When you fill out your Express Entry profile, you’ll answer several questions about core and additional factors such as job offer, provincial nomination, and more, which determine your total score. The total CRS score is out of 1,200, and the higher your CRS score, the better your chances of qualifying for permanent residence.
Core CRS points for Express Entry
Core factors, which make up a maximum of 600 points, focus on the following:
- Your age: Applicants between 20 and 29 years old qualify for 110 points (100 if you’re applying with a spouse or common-law partner), which is the maximum possible score in this category. The age score reduces each year after you turn 30, and applicants ages 45 and above get no age points. Applicants under 17 years also get zero points for age.
- Your education: Under this factor, you receive points for the highest degree, diploma, or certificate you’ve earned in Canada or another country. The maximum possible score for educational qualifications is 150 (140 if you’re applying jointly with a spouse or partner) for applicants with a doctoral or Ph.D. degree. If you studied outside Canada, you need an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) to verify that your foreign credential is valid and equivalent to a Canadian one.
- Language skills (first language): Canada has two official languages: English and French. You must take an eligible language test (IELTS or CELPIP–G for English, TCF Canada or TEF Canada for French) to demonstrate proficiency in either or both languages. Language points are based on your test scores in each of the four abilities (reading, writing, speaking and listening) and the maximum score possible is 136 (128 if you’re applying with a spouse or common-law partner).
Your proficiency in English or French (depending on the province you chose to move to) will have a huge impact on your ability to find a job and integrate into Canadian society, which is why this score is such an important part of your application.
- Canadian work experience: You must have at least one year of Canadian work experience to qualify for points under this parameter. A maximum score of 80 points (70 if you’re applying with a spouse or partner) is granted for five or more years of Canadian experience.
- Skill transferability: You can get up to 100 points for skill transferability based on your education and foreign work experience, paired together with your official language skills and Canadian work experience. For instance, if you have three or more years of foreign work experience and a CLB 9 or higher, you can qualify for 50 points. Similarly, if you have three years of foreign work experience and two or more years of Canadian work experience, you can get 50 points.
- Spouse or common-law partner factors: If you’re applying for Express Entry jointly with your spouse, you can get up to 25 points for their education, language skills, and Canadian work experience.
Additional CRS points for Express Entry
You can also get a maximum of 600 points for additional factors, such as:
- Post-secondary Canadian education: You can get 15 points if you completed a one or two-year diploma or certificate program in Canada. Applicants who have a degree (bachelor’s, master’s, or Ph.D.) or another three-year credential in Canada can get up to 30 points for studying in Canada.
- Second official language: Proficiency in both English and French can earn you up to 50 additional points.
- A provincial nomination: If you apply for a Provincial Nominee Program and receive a nomination certificate, you receive 600 CRS points.
- Valid employment offer from a Canadian company: The score under this factor depends on the National Occupation Classification (NOC) code of your job offer. For an offer of employment for a NOC 00 job, you can get 200 CRS points, while for a NOC 0, A or B job offer, you get 50 points.
- A sibling living in Canada: If your brother or sister resides in Canada, is over 18 years of age, and is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you can get 15 extra CRS points on your profile.
Before you create your Express Entry profile, you can use the CRS score calculator on the Government of Canada website to get an estimate of your CRS score. You can then compare your projected score with the current CRS cutoff to assess the likelihood of whether you will qualify for PR.
The government’s CRS calculator is a simple, easy-to-use tool. All you need to do is answer some basic questions about your age, education, work experience, and language test scores (or estimated scores, if you haven’t taken a language test yet). If you plan to apply for PR along with your spouse or common-law partner, you should input their information as well.
Before you use the CRS calculator, make sure you meet all other eligibility requirements for one of the Express Entry programs or Express Entry streams of a PNP program. You can also use the CRS score calculator if you received an ITA and want to see if changes to your profile will impact your CRS score and eligibility.
One of the most common questions newcomers have while applying for immigration to Canada is, “What is a good CRS score to qualify for PR?” Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer.
The CRS cutoff can vary with each draw and typically depends on the number of applicants in the candidate pool, as well as the government’s immigration targets. The number of applicants invited after each draw is predetermined.
Once you submit your Express Entry profile, it remains in the candidate pool for up to one year or until you receive an invitation to apply. During this time, there will likely be several draws to determine the CRS cutoff for that period. While your profile is active, you may be invited to apply for PR if your score meets or exceeds the CRS cutoff in any draw for your chosen immigration program.
In the Express Entry draw conducted on April 27, 2022, the CRS cutoff for Provincial Nominee Programs was 772. Due to the pandemic, there’s a backlog of applications for some Express Entry programs and draws for the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) and Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) are expected to resume later in 2022. You can visit the federal government’s website to keep track of the latest CRS draw results for all Express Entry streams.
In the event of CRS score ties, the government may use a tie-breaking rule to prioritize applicants who’ve been in the candidate pool longer. So, if several people meet the lowest cutoff score, but only a limited number of ITAs remain, applicants who submitted their profile prior to a set date will be invited first.
You are responsible for keeping your Express Entry profile up to date. Even after submission, you can update your active profile if you have new information to share, such as a Canadian job offer, that may modify your CRS score.
There may be instances where you’ve decided to move to Canada, but when you check your estimated CRS score, it’s not good enough and likely won’t qualify you for permanent residence. If you’re in such a situation, don’t worry. There are several ways to improve your CRS score before (and even after) you submit your Express Entry profile.
It’s useful to understand which aspects of your score you can potentially improve and which ones you can’t. For instance, you can’t change your age points, but you may be able to work on your language skills and get a better IELTS score. In this section, we share ten tips that can help you improve your CRS score and your chances of qualifying for Express Entry.
1. Get a job offer from a Canadian employer
Having an offer of employment from a Canadian company can get you up to 200 CRS points, making it much easier to qualify for an ITA. While it isn’t easy to get a Canadian job offer if you’re outside Canada and don’t have a work permit, it’s not impossible and is definitely an approach worth trying.
You can look for job opportunities in Canada through online job portals and virtual job fairs, or tap into the hidden job market by networking with Canadian professionals in your industry through LinkedIn.
2. Get a provincial nomination
If you’ve already decided where you want to live in Canada, applying for immigration through the Provincial Nominee Program Express Entry stream may help improve your chances. Some provinces also choose eligible applicants from the larger Express Entry pool, so don’t forget to enter your preferred provinces and territories when you fill out your Express Entry profile. Our guide to Canada’s provinces and territories can help you research various aspects of life in these regions, including the culture, job market, climate, key cities, and more.
A provincial nominee certificate is worth 600 CRS points, which is the maximum possible score for additional factors. Given that the CRS cutoff for the PNP is generally in the high 700s, receiving a provincial nomination can compensate for a low CRS score and almost guarantee an ITA.
| Tip: Shortlisted a province to live in? Read our articles to learn about the eligibility criteria and application process for the various provincial nominee programs:
3. Choose the principal applicant wisely
If you’re submitting a joint Express Entry profile as a couple, it’s important to carefully decide who the principal applicant should be. Although you can get spouse points for the secondary applicant’s education, language skills, and Canadian work experience, most of your score will be based on the primary applicant’s information. To maximize your total CRS points, the partner with higher qualifications, more experience, or better language skills should be the principal applicant.
You can also use the government’s CRS score calculator to compare scores and determine who should be the primary applicant. You cannot change the primary applicant after the profile has been submitted, so be sure to choose wisely.
4. Retake the language test and get a better score
Your score for proficiency in the first official language can vary from 24 to 144 points, depending on how well you perform in each of the four test sections. If your initial test score is low, you can always try again after some more preparation and improve your score.
There’s no limit to how many times you can retake the language test before creating your immigration application. However, bear in mind that language tests cost around $300 CAD per attempt. As shown in the table below, improving your language test score by even one Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) level across all four abilities can significantly improve your CRS score.
|First official language score||CRS points per ability (individual applicant)||CRS points per ability (applying with a spouse)|
|CLB 4 or 5||6||6|
(Based on the government’s CRS calculator; accurate as of Apr 28, 2022)
Your spouse or common-law partner can also take a language test if you’re applying for immigration jointly. Although the secondary applicant can only get a maximum of five CRS points for language skills, it can still be useful if your score is just below the cutoff.
5. Become proficient in a second language
You can also get extra CRS points for being proficient in both English and French. A score of CLB 7 or more in French and CLB 5 or more in English can get you up to 50 extra points. If you already have beginner or intermediate level fluency in the second official language, try to brush up your skills and sit for both language tests.
6. Get all your foreign qualifications assessed
Many applicants only get their highest educational credential assessed for their immigration application. However, you can get more CRS points if you show two or more post-secondary credentials, as long as at least one of the programs was three years or longer. Most ECA-issuing organizations charge by application, not the number of credentials, so you should get all your higher education credentials assessed at the same time to save money and time.
If you plan to apply for immigration jointly with a spouse or common-law partner, you can also get up to 10 additional CRS points for their foreign education. However, they must submit a separate ECA application.
7. Study in Canada
Many newcomers choose to pursue post-secondary education in Canada on a study permit for a few years before applying for permanent residence. You can get 15 to 30 CRS points for a Canadian education credential, which increases your chances of qualifying for PR later.
There’s no age limit to apply for a Canadian study permit and even professionals with several years of work experience abroad can choose this pathway. It’s important to note that education in Canada can be quite expensive for international students. You can use Arrive’s cost of studying in Canada calculator to get an estimate of the tuition and living expenses for international students.
8. Apply for a work permit and work in Canada
If your CRS score falls short of the cutoff, consider working in Canada temporarily first. You’ll need a job offer to qualify for a work permit, but even one year of Canadian work experience can add 40 points to your CRS score when you’re ready to apply for PR. Plus, you can get skill transferability points if you’re also fluent in English or French and have foreign work experience.
You can also qualify for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) after studying in Canada on a study permit. You don’t need a job offer to get a PGWP, so many newcomers find this approach easier. The duration of your PGWP is typically linked to the length of your study program, so opt for a program that’s at least one year long.
In addition to the FSW or FSTP programs, you may also qualify for the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program under Express Entry if you have one or more years of Canadian work experience.
9. Gather more education credentials in your home country
Instead of coming to Canada to study, you can improve your CRS score by pursuing additional education in your home country. If you already have an undergraduate degree, completing a master’s degree can add 15 points to your CRS score. However, before exploring this option, make sure you won’t end up gaining education points at the expense of age points.
10. Maximize the points you can get for foreign work experience
If you recently joined the workforce in your home country, you may want to consider postponing your immigration application until you have three years of foreign work experience. It’s important to note that foreign experience is a skill transferability factor, and you only get points for it if you also have good language test scores (CLB 7 and above) or Canadian work experience. Bear in mind that if you’re 30 years or older, you will lose age points every year that you delay your application.
If you plan to apply for immigration to Canada through Express Entry or a Provincial Nominee Program, you’ll need a good CRS score to qualify. Even though Canada’s immigration targets are increasing each year, intense competition has been driving CRS cutoffs upwards.
The tips we share in this article can help you improve your CRS score and increase the likelihood that your immigration application is accepted. However, if your score still doesn’t meet the current cutoff, don’t worry. Your Express Entry profile remains active for as long as one year, so there’s always a chance that you may qualify a few months down the line. You can also explore other immigration programs besides Express Entry that don’t take your CRS score into account.