Posted on - Sep 26, 2017

By Catherine A. Sas Q.C.

Catherine Sas Q.C.

We are frequently consulted by prospective immigrants who want to know if they qualify for permanent residence to Canada under the Express Entry program. Express Entry is Canada’s immigration selection system for the majority of economic immigrants and it has been in operation for nearly three years now, having been introduced on January 1, 2015. Express Entry requires applicants firstly to demonstrate that they meet the criteria of one of four distinct immigration application processes – the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW), Canadian Experience Class (CEC), the Federal Skilled Trades (FST) or the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) criteria. Each of these immigration streams have unique criteria but there are several aspects that are common to all of them: Education, Language Proficiency and Work Experience. Let’s review how Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) evaluates these criteria in the Express Entry process.

In order to be given credit for your education, unless it is education obtained in Canada, it is necessary to have your credentials evaluated by an IRCC recognized institution and to obtain an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA). The list of these recognized ECA institutions are listed on the IRCC website at:

http://www.cic.gc.ca/search-recherche/indexeng.aspx?search=basic&query=Educational+Credential+Assessments&s=0&l=e

The purpose of having your education evaluated, is to ensure that it is the equivalent of a Canadian certificate, diploma, or degree. Without having the ECA, it is not possible for an immigration professional to advise you with certainty what credit IRCC may give you for your education. We recently prepared an application for a US applicant with a Bachelor’s Degree from a State in the US. Of course, a Bachelor’s degree from a US college or university would be equivalent to a Canadian Degree! Wrong! When we received the ECA, this degree did not meet the Canadian equivalency requirements and we were not able to allocate any points for education for this applicant. Had we been provided with the ECA at the outset, we would have taken a different approach to applying for permanent residence for this applicant.

To determine language proficiency in either English or French it is necessary to obtain a language test from an IRCC designated testing centre. IRCC has approved two English testing agencies – CELPIP and IELTS and one French testing agency -TEF. These agencies are listed on the IRCC website at:

http://www.cic.gc.ca/search-recherche/index-eng.aspx?search=basic&query=Language+proficiency+tests&s=0&l=e and http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/skilled/language-testing.asp

An applicant will be scored on each of reading, writing, speaking and listening and without the test results it is not possible to determine your eligibility for immigration with certainty. These test results are valid for only two years so you need to apply for permanent residence before they expire.

IRCC requires work experience to be confirmed by all previous employers generally from within the past ten years. Firstly, it is necessary to determine your occupation(s) in accordance with the National Occupational Classification (NOC) code. Then an employer will need to confirm the length of your employment, the specific job duties performed and whether it was on a full-time or part-time basis. Reference letters are vital to confirming past work experience and without them an immigration professional will not be able to confirm an applicant’s eligibility for permanent residence in any of the Express Entry application categories.

Each of the four immigration application criteria within Canada’s Express Entry program have their individual evaluation systems. It is essential to determine whether an applicant will meet the criteria for any of these programs prior to registering a profile on the IRCC or PNP websites. Knowing, with certainty, that an applicant will qualify for permanent residence under Express Entry requires advance preparation to obtain an ECA, a language test and detailed letters of reference from past employers. Also posting inaccurate information on a profile can lead to a determination of misrepresentation. You are well advised to take these steps before you make register a profile under the Express Entry system.


Catherine Sas, Q.C. is a Vancouver immigration lawyer at Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre in Vancouver, BC Canada. Catherine has been practicing law for over 25 years, and has been voted Vancouver’s Best Immigration Lawyer by the Georgia Straight newspaper for 6 consecutive years.

To learn more about immigrating to Canada, becoming a permanent Canadian resident or bringing your family to Canada, email Catherine Sas or call her at 1-604-689-5444.

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