Not all newcomers to Canada move here as permanent residents. Despite Canada’s welcoming immigration policies, the competition for most permanent residence (PR) programs is intense, leaving behind many skilled candidates.
If you don’t currently qualify for PR, another alternative is to apply for a work permit or study permit and qualify for PR through the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program once you gain some Canadian work experience. In this article, we look at what the CEC program is, including its eligibility requirements and application process, and how to apply for PR under the Canadian Experience Class program.
In this article:
- What is the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program?
- Eligibility criteria for immigration through the CEC program
- Who is the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program best suited for?
- How to apply for permanent residence under the CEC program
- Do I need to show proof of settlement funds while applying for PR through CEC?
- What is the processing time for PR applications under the CEC program?
- What is the PR application fee for the Canadian Experience Class program?
- Will there be any CEC draws in 2022?
The Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program is one of the three economic immigration streams under the federal Express Entry program. Unlike the other two Express Entry streams, which are the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) and Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP), the CEC program requires Canadian work experience.
Many skilled individuals who come to Canada on work permits or get a Post-Graduation Work Permit after their studies in Canada later apply for PR and settle down here. The CEC program helps the government retain skilled talent and encourages temporary residents who’ve already started adapting to life in Canada to stay on as permanent residents.
To qualify for the Canadian Experience Class program, you must meet certain minimum work experience and language skills requirements, as outlined in the section below. In addition, you must meet general admissibility criteria, including security, background, and medical checks, to qualify for immigration to Canada.
Work experience required for the CEC program
- You can only apply for the CEC program if you have at least one year (1,560 hours) of paid skilled Canadian work experience within the last three years.
- You can accrue qualifying work experience by working full-time at one or more jobs, or completing an equivalent amount of hours in one or more part-time jobs.
- Part-time work as a student, self-employed work, and unpaid work, such as volunteer work and internships, do not count towards your Canadian work experience for this program.
- You must gain your Canadian work experience while you have temporary residence status and authorization to work in Canada.
- Your work experience must be in managerial, professional, or technical and skilled trade jobs (NOC TEER 0, 1, 2, or 3, previously skill type 0 or skill level A or B).
The government’s calculation of work experience is based on a 30-hour work week for full-time work. Any additional hours you work in a week, whether full-time or part-time, will not be considered.
Language skills required for the CEC program
The minimum Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) level required to qualify for CEC depends on your job’s National Occupation Classification (NOC).
- If your work experience is in a NOC TEER 0 or 1 (previously skill type 0 or skill level A) job, you must have a CLB score of 7 or more. For NOC TEER 2 or 3 (previously skill level B) jobs, a minimum CLB level of 5 is required.
- You must take an approved language test—IELTS or CELPIP for English, TEF Canada or TCF Canada for French. Your language test results must be less than two years old and still valid when you apply for PR.
Education requirements for the CEC program
The Canadian Experience Class has no minimum education requirement. However, you can get points for your educational credentials to improve your Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score and your chances of qualifying for PR if:
- You completed high school or post-secondary education in Canada, or
- You have a foreign high school or post-secondary certificate, diploma, or degree that has been deemed valid and equal to a Canadian one through an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA).
Individuals who receive PR through the CEC must live outside the province of Quebec. If you plan to live in Quebec, you can apply for immigration through the Quebec-Selected Skilled Workers program instead.
Since the CEC asks for prior Canadian work experience, this immigration program is best suited for individuals who are either in Canada, have recently spent time working in Canada, or are on a temporary resident permit.
The CEC program can also be an ideal long-term option if you want to apply for permanent residence, but your estimated CRS score doesn’t meet the current cutoffs for the Federal Skilled Worker or Federal Skilled Trades Program. In such a case, you may want to consider moving to Canada temporarily with a work permit or study permit and apply for PR when you have a few years of Canadian work experience under your belt.
While it’s easier to get a study permit than a work permit, work experience gained while studying doesn’t count towards your CEC eligibility. However, you may be eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) after you finish your study program in Canada.
The length of your PGWP is tied to the duration of your study program, so if you plan to apply for CEC after you graduate, be sure to choose a Canadian study program that’s at least one year long.
Step 1: Gather at least one year of eligible Canadian work experience
Before you apply for Express Entry under the Canadian Experience Class program, you need at least one year of Canadian work experience in a NOC TEER 0, 1, 2, or 3 (previously skill type 0 or skill level A or B) occupation. You can either look for a job in Canada from abroad and apply for an employer-specific work permit once you receive a job offer or check if you qualify for an open work permit.
To start your job search, you’ll require an impressive Canadian-style resume customized for each job listing. Since a majority of job openings in Canada are filled in through recruiters’ networks without ever being posted online, it’s also a good idea to start building your professional network in Canada. Check out our career guide and networking guide for valuable tips to help with your job search as a newcomer in Canada.
Although finding a job in Canada while still in your home country is possible, it’s not easy. Many newcomers choose to study in Canada instead and qualify for a PGWP after they graduate, which allows them to gain some work experience.
Step 2: Calculate your estimated CRS score
Before you create your Express Entry profile, use the CRS score calculator on the federal government’s website to get an estimate of your score. Although this step is not a requirement, comparing your projected score to the cutoffs from recent draws will help you gauge the likelihood that you will qualify for PR.
Step 3: Gather essential documents
Collect the documents and information needed for your Express Entry profile before you create one. Typically, you require your passport or travel document, language test results, proof of Canadian work experience, an ECA report if you studied outside Canada, or your Canadian educational credentials.
Step 4: Create and submit your Express Entry profile
Once you have your paperwork in order, create an account on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website. Fill in your Express Entry profile and pay the application processing fee online with your debit or credit card before you submit the profile.
Step 5: Receive an ITA and apply for PR
Your Express Entry profile will remain in the candidate pool for up to one year or until you receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA). Once you get an ITA, you must respond to it within 60 days and submit your application for permanent residence. At this stage, you’ll need to upload your documents, including your travel documents, language test results, ECA, employment reference letters, and valid work permit. You may also need a police certificate, medical exam result, marriage or birth certificate, and the use of a representative form (if you hire an immigration consultant or representative).
Unlike the FSW and FSTP programs, you don’t need to show proof of settlement funds while applying for permanent residence through the Canadian Experience Class program. The proof of funds requirement is also waived off for other Express Entry programs if you’re authorized to work in Canada and have a valid job offer from a Canadian employer.
According to IRCC’s estimates, the processing time for permanent residence applications under the CEC program is nine months from the time you respond to the ITA. This estimated processing time includes the time you need to submit your biometrics.
It’s important to note that this duration does not include the time taken to complete and submit your Express Entry profile online or the time your profile stays in the Express Entry pool. Moreover, the processing time may vary based on the existing application backlog, whether your application is complete, how easily your information can be verified, and more.
The processing fee for PR applications under the CEC program is $850 CAD per adult. In addition, you need to pay a right of permanent residence fee of $515 CAD. If you’re applying with your family, an additional fee of $230 CAD applies for each dependent child.
In most cases, applicants to the CEC program have already submitted their biometrics when they apply for a study or work permit. If fresh biometrics are required, a fee of $85 CAD per person or $170 CAD per family will apply.
CEC draws resumed in the second half of 2022. Draws for the CEC program were paused in September 2021 to give the government time to clear the application backlog resulting from pandemic-related travel restrictions.
Although CRS cutoffs will remain higher than normal in 2022, the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program remains one of the easiest ways for individuals with Canadian work experience to qualify for permanent residence.