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Latest News on Express Entry Immigration Applications: What does Canada Value?


In an effort to offset our aging work force, Canada’s immigration system has been re-engineered to increase economic immigration by approximately 60 percent over the next three years. These quota changes are designed to achieve the immigration of one percent of Canada’s population on a yearly basis by 2020, which will begin with 310,000 new permanent residents in 2018, and growing to 330,000 in 2019 and 340,000 in 2020.

Economic immigration is managed by approximately 100 federal and provincial immigration programs. However, the main immigration vehicle to Canada is Express Entry. To date in 2018, we have seen Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) issue ten rounds of invitations to Express Entry candidates. The minimum scores selected have been consistently in the range of 440-446, with the lowest score drawn so far this year being 440.

Given the current volume of high-scoring candidates in the pool, including a growing number of disgruntled US H1B status holders, candidates must be highly competitive to be selected. The following factors can significantly impact a candidate’s chances of success and reflect the qualities most desired in Canada’s current economic immigration system.


A candidate’s age continues to have a significant impact on their chance of being selected under the Express Entry System. A single candidate between the ages of 20-29 scores the maximum 110 points under the age factor. Upon turning 30, the candidate loses five points per year every year from age 30-40, and ten points or more per year from 40-44. At 45, the candidate receives 0 points for age. As a result, it is difficult for candidates over 45 to be selected, even if they score high in other areas such as education and work experience.

Language Ability and Bilingualism

A candidate’s language ability makes up a significant portion of their score. A single candidate with fluency in one of Canada’s official languages can score up to 136 points under the Official language Proficiency Factor.

Additionally, candidates are awarded additional points under the skill transferability factors for achieving a language proficiency score of Canadian Benchmark Level (CLB) 9 or higher in every category. As a result, candidates who cannot score a CLB 9 or higher in every category on their language tests often struggle to be competitive.

A single bilingual applicant who speaks both English and French can score up to 160 points under the language proficiency factor. In 2017, IRCC also introduced an additional up to 30 bonus points for bilingual applicants. As a result, a bilingual candidate can score significantly higher than a unilingual candidate with the same qualifications, giving bilingual candidates a significant advantage.


Candidates can earn up to 150 points under the Education factor. As with language, candidates also earn additional points for education under the skill transferability factors. A single candidate with no post-secondary education is awarded only 30 points under the education factor, and no additional points for education under the skill transferability factors. Candidates with no post-secondary education therefore struggle to be competitive, even if they score very high under other factors. This is a significant problem for candidates with high-skilled work experience but little formal education. Even where they have extensive Canadian work experience and arranged employment in Canada, it is difficult for these candidates to be selected. The focus on education can also put skilled tradespeople at a disadvantage, as apprenticeship training is generally not assessed as equivalent to formal education for the purposes of allocating education points.

Ties to Canada (employment, education and/or family)

Candidates are awarded points for skilled Canadian work experience, and Canadian work experience can also result in additional points under the skill transferability factors. Additionally, candidates with a job offer meeting the criteria for arranged employment receive an additional 50 points, or 200 points for those in a senior management role. The latter additional score allows older highly skilled workers to make up some of the points they’ve lost on age, resulting in a more competitive score. In 2017, additional bonus points were also added for candidates who had Canadian post-secondary education or a sibling who is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. This is a reflection of the government’s desire to attract immigrants with ties to Canada who can easily adapt both economically and culturally. Likewise, the policy allowing for additional points for siblings in Canada encourages applications from individuals who have a higher incentive to remain in Canada, upon receipt of their status.

The Express Entry scoring system demonstrates that the primary qualities Canada values in economic immigration are:

1.Age, with a preference for applicants under 30;
2.Very high proficiency in English or French, and bilingual applicants have an advantage;
3.High level of education. Candidates often must have a master’s degree, or a bachelor’s degree with a post-graduate diploma to succeed
4.Ties to Canada. Candidates with high-skilled Canadian work experience and/or a job offer meeting the requirements for arranged employment have an advantage

While candidates also receive points for their foreign work experience, this factor is not prioritized to the same degree as the factors listed above. As a result, younger applicants with less work experience but strong language abilities and a high level of education tend to be prioritized over older applicants who may have more skilled work experience. With the current volume of high-scoring applicants in the Express Entry pool, candidates who can demonstrate the factors outlined above are the most likely to succeed.

Firm News:

• Jacqueline Bart and Carrie Wright co-authored the legal article “Canada: Immigration Compliance for Employers: Sanctions and Penalties under the IRPR” for the Union Internationale des Avocates May 2018 newsletter.

• Jacqueline Bart spoke at the Canadian Employee Relocation Council event – Canada’s Changing Immigration Landscape and What it means for your Business for the “Reducing Corporate Risk: Best Practices in Immigration Compliance” panel in Ottawa, Ontario in April 2018

• Jacqueline Bart spoke at the WorldWide Employee Relocation Council – America’s Mobility Conference for the “NAFTA Immigration Update” panel in Dallas, Texas in May 2018

• Jacqueline Bart and Clara Morrissey co-authored the legal article “Integration in Canadian Immigration Law” for the ABA Section of International Law – Immigration and Nationality Law Newsletter, spring 2018 edition.

• Jacqueline Bart was recognized as an Ambassador of the Leader’s Circle of Toronto for her work as president of the 61st UIA Annual Congress held in Toronto in fall 2017.

• Jacqueline Bart and Carrie Wright co-authored the legal article “Judgment Day: Employer penalties for IRPR non-compliance” for the Lawyer’s Daily, April 17, 2018. View the article here.