Posted on - Nov 26, 2019

By Catherine Sas, Q.C

Catherine Sas Q.C.

Having just returned from a trip to India where I met with aspiring international students from across the country, I feel it imperative to share an observation: not all current and prospective international students are destined to become permanent residents of Canada. I share this important conclusion so that international students to Canada can assess their circumstances and determine the best means to achieve their objectives. The vast majority of students that I meet with that are either contemplating, or are in the process of coming to Canada or are already in Canada, fully anticipate that they will be able to obtain Canadian permanent residence after completing their studies. With the continuous changes to Canada’s Express Entry selection program, students are no longer assured of this outcome. You need to fully understand and prepare for this reality!

The Shifting Express Entry Landscape

International students need to be aware of the ever-changing dynamic of the Express Entry selection process to be aware whether they are likely going to garner an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence. Prior to the introduction of Canada’s Express Entry selection system, an international student that completed two years of education in Canada and one year of work experience, was pretty much certain to be able to qualify for permanent residence. But that all changed in January 2015. The premise behind Express Entry is that it allows the government to select both the caliber and number of applicants to best suit it’s needs. As the figures below will show, the numbers are constantly changing making it difficult to predict what scores will be offered ITAs two, three and four years down the road. A review of the range and average of CRS scores which have been offered ITAs are set out below:

CRS Scores 2015 High 886 Low 450 Average 53
CRS Scores 2016 High 538 Low 453 Average 481
CRS Scores 2017 High 468 Low 415 Average 438
CRS Scores 2018 High 456 Low 440 Average 443
CRS Scores 2019 High 475 Low 438 Average 457

For more information see: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/mandate/policies-operational-instructions-agreements/ministerial-instructions/express-entry-application-management-system.html

As can be seen above, at the introduction of Express Entry (EE), the CRS scores that garnered ITAs were initially very high but soon were reduced to the low 400 range. For the past couple of years, the eligible EE scores have been in the mid 400’s ranging from

440-460. However, for the past several months, the ITA eligible EE scores have been between 470 -475 points. Currently there are approximately 14,000+ applicants registered in the Express Entry pool with CRS scores between 451-600. It is likely that the CRS scores that will garner an ITA will continue to increase in the months and years ahead.

What does that mean for internationals students keen on obtaining permanent residence?

Do Your Homework

Firstly – learn the Express Entry System. You need to know whether you will be eligible to register for Express Entry as a Federal Skilled Worker (FSW), Canadian Experience Class (CEC), Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) or Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) applicant. You will need an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) confirming your foreign educational credentials and an accepted language test confirming your language proficiency. You will also need a detailed reference letter confirming your previous work experience setting out your job duties in accordance with the National Occupational Classification (NOC). If this Express Entry jargon makes no sense to you – then you are not yet ready to confirm your ability to qualify for permanent residence to Canada. Do your homework.

Timing is Everything

Secondly obtain education and work experience in your home country before coming to Canada to study. With the rising CRS scores needed to qualify for an ITA under Express Entry, it is becoming more and more difficult, if not impossible, for high school graduates with no previous work experience to come directly to Canada to study and qualify for permanent residence soon after graduation. A foreign bachelor’s degree, three years of foreign work experience and high English or French proficiency will significantly enhance your chances of success to qualify for Canadian permanent residence as an international student.

Postpone your Post Graduate Work Permit

It is important to note that you are only eligible for ONE PGWP in Canada. If you are not likely going to qualify for PR under Express Entry after concluding your studies, you may want to choose to continue your studies at a Master’s level and then apply for your PGWP. Or you may choose to apply for your PGWP to obtain Canadian work experience and then return to your home country to obtain additional foreign work experience to increase your CRS points. The combination of foreign education and foreign work experience together with Canadian education and Canadian work experiences provides for the highest CRS scores. You need to be realistic with your ability to qualify for Express Entry and then choose the best path to achieve your goals.

Since its introduction in January 2015, Canada’s Express Entry selection program continues to evolve. Students cannot and should not consider a Canadian education as a guaranteed pathway to permanent residence. If living in Canada is your ultimate goal,

familiarize yourself with the Express Entry selection model to determine when is the best time for you to come to Canada to study to maximize your chances to become a Canadian permanent resident. And remember – sooner is not always better!


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 8 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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