Gaining permanent residency in Canada through express entry and provincial nominee programs

Express Entry (EE) is Canada’s point-based online application system for skilled immigrants and is typically the quickest route to permanent residency (PR)This system is used for immigration to all Canadian provinces, excluding Quebec, and all three territories. Applicants create an online profile and are entered into the EE pool as they wait for the federal government’s draws, which occur every few weeks. Individuals who meet the draw’s points threshold are invited to apply for PR, and then have 60 days to submit their full application. 

In order to enter the EE pool, applicants must be eligible for one of Canada’s three streams: Canadian Experience Class, Federal Skilled Worker Program, or Federal Skilled Trades Program. Each stream has its own set of criteria. Canadian Experience Class requires applicants to have at least 12 months of full-time or equivalent part-time skilled work experience in the three years before submitting the application. The Federal Skilled Worker Program uses selection factor points to assess eligibility based on age, education, work experience, whether you have a valid job offer, language ability and adaptabilityThese factors are part of a 100-point grid used to assess eligibility and applicants earn points based on how well they do in each of the six factors. The current pass mark is 67 to 100 points. 

The Federal Skilled Trades Program requires applicants to have at least two years of full-time or equivalent part-time skilled work experience in the five years before applying. The current list of skilled trades includes industrial, electrical and construction trades; maintenance and equipment operation tradessupervisors and technical jobs in natural resources, agriculture and related productionprocessing, manufacturing and utilities supervisors and central control operatorschefs and cooks; and butchers and bakers. The applicant must also meet any educational requirements for the occupation. 

The required language level also differs by stream. Applicants must score a minimum language score of Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) of 7 or higher to qualify for the Canadian Experience Class or Federal Skilled Worker Program, while a CLB of 5 or higher is required for the Federal Skilled Trades Program. 

Applicants in the pool are awarded up to 1200 points under a ranking system meant to identify those candidates most likely to succeed in Canada. Specifically, applicants can earn points for Core Human Capital Factors, including age, education, language ability and Canadian work experience. Up to 100 points can be earned for Skill Transferability, which is a combination of foreign qualifications, work experience, education and language ability. 600 points can be earned for a Provincial Nomination certificate from an Express Entry-based stream. Moreover, 50 to 200 points can be earned for arranged employment in Canada. The current processing time for PR applications under EE is approximately six to eight months.  


In 2019, the lowest score selected was 443 CRS points or higher, and the minimum score has been climbing steadily. Recently, ithe draw on Sept. 4, 2019, individuals with scores of 463 or higher were invited to apply for PR. In the last six months, the draws have been 451 or higher, hitting 470 on May 29, 2019. It is anticipated that the scores selected will remain high, given the number of individuals in the pool with lower scores. Specifically, as of Aug. 30, 2019, there were a total of 119,042 individuals in the Express Entry pool and 111,821 of them had 450 points or less.[1]  

Aside from the high scores being drawn, the growing pool of candidates is in large part due to the high number of individuals in Canada on work permits who have not earned enough points to be invited to apply for PR. Due to the rising scores and growing number of individuals in the pool, foreign nationals typically need more Canadian work experience to be selected than previously required. For example, there are many students who obtain post-graduate work permits after their study in Canada. In the past, an individual on a post-graduate work permit would typically earn enough points to be selected based on their education and Canadian work experience earned while on their post-graduate work permit. However, at present, many individuals on post-graduate work permits are stuck in the Express Entry pool, as their points are not high enough to be selected. As a result, many workers are required to extend their work permits and continue working to incur enough points to qualify for PR. As more students are granted post-graduate work permits, the total number of individuals in the pool will continue to grow and it will become increasingly difficult to be selected with the Canadian work experience earned while on the post-graduate work permit alone. 

This issue is also causing an increase in Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)[2] - based work permits, as Canadian employers who wish to continue employing foreign workers who have not obtained PR are required to obtain an LMIA to extend their work authorization, should no LMIA-exemption apply. The unfortunate reality is that there are many highly skilled and valuable foreign workers in the Express Entry pool waiting to be selected. As a result, it anticipated that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program will soon be inundated with LMIA applications, due to foreign workers’ inability to obtain PR in a timely manner, given Express Entry’s current point allocations.  


Individuals with a high level of education, strong English and/or French language ability, years of Canadian work experience, and arranged employment are most likely to be invited to apply for PR under EE. 

Individuals with arranged employment at an executive level are also more likely to be invited to apply for PR, given that they are awarded 200 points for the arranged employment as opposed to the standard 50 points for other high-skilled positions. Individuals with a provincial nomination from an Express Entry-based stream will have an additional 600 points. 


Most Canadian provinces have Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), allowing the province to actively manage immigrant selection in accordance with provincial plans and priorities. Each PNP has its own criteria and procedure, as well as streams. For instance, PNPs have streams which target certain groups such as entrepreneursstudents, skilled works, or semi-skilled workers.   

While the exact requirements of the PNPs vary from province to province, in general, these programs tend to be based on job offers from an employer located within the nominating province and an intention to establish residency in that province. Generally speaking, the applicant will need to have some connection with that province.  

PNPs are suitable for individuals who have the experience and education to contribute to the economy of the specific province, wish to live in the province, and are looking to become a PR. When considering PNPs, applicants should first determine whether the program includes a language or job offer requirement, to assess their eligibility.  

There are two primary tracks of PNP programs for skilled workers: one that operates with Express Entry, and one that operates outside of Express Entry. Under the Express Entry streams, the candidate must meet still meet the requirements of either the Canadian Experience Class, Federal Skilled Worker Program or the Federal Skilled Trades Program. They must select which provinces they are interested in when completing their Express Entry profile. In some cases, such as Alberta and Ontario, the provinces will directly seek candidates in the Express Entry pool who have expressed an interest in their provinces. In other cases, the Express Entry candidates must enter a second pool for the PNP (British Columbia) or apply directly online to the program (Newfoundland).  

The benefit of a PNP program attached to Express Entry is the processing time. Once an applicant successfully obtains a nomination certificate, they will be issued 600 additional points in the Express Entry pool. This means that they will quickly be selected in the Express Entry system, will have 60 days to apply for PR, and will likely be granted permanent residency in 6-8 months. In contrast, applicants who apply through a PNP outside of Express Entry need to file a paper-based application once they receive their nomination certificate. Their PR application will then take approximately 1.5 years to process.

While processing times can be up to two years, depending on the province, PNPs are often the choice of individuals who do not qualify for PR under EE. For instance, if an individual does not meet the minimum CLB for EE, they may qualify for PR through a PNP. There may be other benefits in processing outside of the Express Entry system. For example, the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) has a program for graduates of Ontario universities who hold master’s degrees. While the spots available in this stream are very limited, this stream does not require any work experience. The OINP Employer Job Offer: Foreign Worker Stream allows eligible Ontario employers to support the PR of a foreign worker who may not meet the high language requirements of an Express Entry stream. Many of the provinces have programs for international student graduates who are now working for an employer in their province and have permanent job offers.  

Overall, the PNP can be a valuable resource for individuals who have a strong connection to a particular province and in many cases, local employer support, who would not otherwise be invited to apply for PR through the Express Entry system.  


The Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) is the largest PNP program in CanadaThere have been many notable changes to the program and trends of note in 2019. 

There are three OINP streams under the Express Entry system: the French-Speaking Skilled Worker Stream, the Human Capital Priorities Stream, and the Skilled Trades Stream. Candidates are selected directly through the Express Entry pool based on criteria for each of the streams.  

There are several notable trends this year. Last year, the OINP frequently selected candidates under each of these streams, selecting fewer candidates during each draw. This year, the province has infrequently issued Notifications of Interest (NOI) and has instead, selected more candidates each time. In 2018, the province conducted four targeted draws in the Human Capital Priorities Stream (three up to September 9), targeting candidates with a job offer or particular language skills out of a total of nine draws (8 up to September 9).  So far in 2019, 4 of 5 of the Human Capital Priorities Stream draws have been targeted focusing on priority occupations in one case and occupations and technology-based occupations in the other three

Table 1 – OINP Express Entry Draws [3] 

While overall, more NOI have been issued this year compared to last year at this time, there have been significantly fewer draws. The result is in line with the overall Express Entry trends, candidates spend more and more time waiting in the Express Entry pool to be selected. This can impact their ability to continue to stay and work in Canada. As indicated above, this trend may also put more pressure on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program if candidates will need to rely on a LMIA to obtain a new work permit or if obtaining a LMIA will help them avoid a potentially long wait for a NOI from the OINP.  

In conclusion, it is anticipated that it will become increasingly difficult for individuals without a Canadian job offer to qualify for PR. In short, applicants who have a Canadian job offer, experience in Canada, and a high level of education have the highest chance of being selected for PR under Express Entry. Typically, individuals whose occupation is considered in-demand or a job offer in their desired province have the highest chance of success under the PNPs.



[2] ALMIA is an employer-based application, which requires the employer to conduct recruitment efforts to first attempt to locate a qualified Canadian or Permanent Resident of Canada to fill the role. 

[3 Source: 

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About the Author

Stephen Green
Stephen Green
Stephen W. Green, a partner of Green and Spiegel LLP in Toronto, has practiced law for 30 years and is experienced in all areas of Canadian immigration. As head of the law firm’s Investment and Entrepreneur Department, Green helps professional business people and high-net worth individuals invest in Canada and obtain permanent residence.Green’s clients range from large multinational corporations to startups to entrepreneurs. He represents clients in such industries as Internet technology, telecommunications, hospitality, transportation, and consulting.Green, who is certified as a Specialist in Immigration Law by The Law Society of Ontario, focuses on corporate employee transfers, federal skilled worker and investor applications, work permitsapplications, and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). He also advises clients on North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) confirmation exemptions.Green is the director of the Canada Employment Relocation Council, and he’s co-chairman of The Law Society of Upper Canada’s Annual Immigration Law Summit. He’spast chairman of the Citizenship and Immigration Section of the Canadian BarAssociation, the Citizenship and Immigration Section, Canadian Bar Association; andthe Citizenship and Immigration Section, Canadian Bar Association of Ontario.Green received a Bachelor of Laws degree at the University of Windsor, and heearned a Bachelor of Arts degree, with honors, in communications at YorkUniversity. He speaks English.

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