Is it worth entering the Express Entry pool if your CRS is low?

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Express Entry-managed programs stand out as preferred avenues for skilled newcomers seeking Canadian immigration.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) sets a service standard of six months for processing Express Entry applications, earning it the reputation of being one of the swiftest routes to Canadian permanent residency.

The likelihood of receiving an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent resident status through Express Entry hinges largely on a candidate’s Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score. A higher score increases the probability of obtaining an ITA.

A Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score is determined by various human capital factors, including age, work experience, occupation, language proficiency, and education.

Recent Express Entry draws, particularly general draws, have seen minimum CRS scores surpassing 500. However, as of February 28, the Express Entry pool comprises 18,106 candidates with scores above 500 out of a total of 211,487 candidates.

To put it into perspective, less than one-tenth of Express Entry candidates possess CRS scores high enough to be considered for a general Express Entry draw in 2024.

For individuals with CRS scores below 500, this data might prompt consideration of whether entering the Express Entry pool is still advantageous or if pursuing an alternative pathway to Canadian immigration would be more beneficial.

Recent Express Entry draws

In 2024, the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) scores required to receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) in Express Entry draws have exhibited notable variation, influenced by factors such as the draw type and category-based selection.

As of March 12, ten Express Entry draws have occurred:

  • Six of these draws were general, encompassing candidates from all Express Entry programs and categories. The CRS scores for these draws ranged from 525 to 541.
  • The remaining four draws were conducted for candidates eligible through category-based selection. These draws targeted individuals with specific attributes, such as occupation-based categories like healthcare, STEM professions, trades, transport, agriculture, and French language proficiency. The CRS scores for category-based draws ranged from 336 to 437, depending on the category.

This variation underscores the dynamic nature of Express Entry draws and highlights the importance of monitoring draw trends to understand the competitiveness of different categories and the corresponding CRS score thresholds.

CRS scores for these draws have typically been lower than general draws, ranging from 336 to 437, depending on the category. Category-based selection draws were introduced in May 2023 as a means for IRCC to target Express Entry candidates who possess specific in-demand attributes. Five of the six categories are occupation-based for:

  • Healthcare occupations
  • Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professions
  • Trades occupations, such as carpenters, plumbers, and contractors
  • Transport occupations
  • Agriculture and agri-food occupations

The remaining category is for Express Entry candidates with strong French language proficiency.

The variation in CRS score requirements across different types of Express Entry draws highlights the potential opportunities for candidates with lower CRS scores to still receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) through category-based selection.

For instance, candidates eligible under specific categories, such as those with strong French language proficiency, have seen lower CRS score requirements compared to general draws. In the case of the French language proficiency category, a draw on February 29 issued ITAs to candidates with a CRS score as low as 336, demonstrating the potential for candidates with lower scores to still receive invitations.

This emphasizes the importance for candidates to explore all potential pathways within the Express Entry system, including category-based selection, to maximize their chances of receiving an ITA for permanent residence in Canada. With category-based draws offering significant opportunities, candidates with CRS scores that may be considered too low for general draws should assess their eligibility for category-based streams to enhance their immigration prospects.

What is Express Entry?

Express Entry serves as the application management system for three main Canadian immigration programs: the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP), and the Canadian Experience Class (CEC).

Individuals interested in applying for one of these programs must first assess whether they meet the eligibility criteria. If they do, they proceed to create and submit their Express Entry profile, which generates a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score. This score is based on factors such as age, education, work experience, language proficiency, and other criteria.

Once candidates have their CRS score, they enter the Express Entry pool and await an Invitation to Apply (ITA) from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Upon receiving an ITA, candidates can then proceed with their application for permanent residence in Canada.

How to improve your score

Express Entry candidates with lower scores can work on improving it while they wait for an ITA. Any update to human capital factors can be updated in their profile.

Language skills

The study conducted by Statistics Canada underscores the significant impact of language proficiency on the economic integration of skilled newcomers in Canada. According to the findings, immigrants with higher language abilities, specifically those with a level 10 (CLB or NCLC) reading ability, earned significantly more than their counterparts with lower language proficiency levels.

In the context of the Express Entry system, language proficiency plays a crucial role in determining a candidate’s Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score. Candidates can earn a maximum of 136 points for language ability, distributed equally across four language skills: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Achieving higher scores in these language tests can substantially boost a candidate’s CRS score and increase their chances of receiving an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence in Canada.

Candidates have the flexibility to take any of the IRCC-recognized language tests multiple times to achieve their desired scores in English and/or French. These tests include the CELPIP General Test, IELTS General Training, Pearson Test of English (PTE) Core, TEF Canada, and TCF Canada. By investing in improving their language skills and obtaining higher scores in these tests, candidates can enhance their CRS score and improve their prospects for successful economic integration in Canada.

Eligible tests include:


pursuing higher levels of education can be a strategic decision for candidates aiming to increase their Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score in the Express Entry system.

IRCC assigns points for education based on the level and duration of the completed degree or diploma. Candidates without an accompanying spouse who obtain a post-secondary degree of one year are eligible for 90 points, while those with a post-secondary degree of three years or more receive 120 points.

For individuals considering immigration to Canada through Express Entry, furthering their education could indeed be a beneficial option to boost their CRS score. By completing additional qualifications or longer-duration programs, candidates can increase their CRS points and improve their competitiveness in the Express Entry pool.

Moreover, investing in education not only enhances a candidate’s CRS score but also equips them with valuable skills and qualifications that can enhance their employability in the Canadian job market. This, in turn, can lead to better employment opportunities and successful integration into the Canadian society and economy.


Candidates who are considering applying to an Express Entry program are advised to do so sooner rather than later because younger candidates receive more points than those who wait until their 30s or 40s.

Those who enter the pool between the ages of 20 and 29 (without an accompanying spouse) will get 110 points. After a candidate turns 30, this goes down to 95 points and continues to decrease each year until 40, when the maximum points for age goes down to 50.

Provincial Nomination

Receiving a provincial nomination indeed provides a significant advantage to Express Entry candidates, as it awards them an additional 600 Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points, virtually ensuring an Invitation to Apply (ITA) in an upcoming draw.

Candidates in the Express Entry pool have two main avenues for obtaining a provincial nomination:

  1. Direct Application: Candidates can directly apply to the province in which they wish to reside. This involves submitting an application to the province’s immigration authority, demonstrating their eligibility and suitability for nomination based on the province’s specific criteria.

  2. Expression of Interest (EOI) Draws: Some provinces issue periodic invitations through Expression of Interest (EOI) draws, inviting candidates from the Express Entry pool to apply for provincial nomination. Similar to receiving an ITA in the Express Entry system, an EOI for nomination signals that the candidate meets the province’s requirements and is eligible to apply for nomination.

Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) are tailored to address the specific economic and demographic needs of each province. Therefore, the eligibility criteria, targeted occupations, and application processes may vary between provinces.

It’s important for Express Entry candidates to understand that the PNP is a separate immigration program from Express Entry. Candidates who receive a provincial nomination will need to submit a separate application and fee to the nominating province.

While a provincial nomination doesn’t guarantee permanent residency (PR), it significantly strengthens the candidate’s PR application. It signals to Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that the candidate is a strong contender and has been endorsed by a provincial government, enhancing their chances of success in the PR application process.

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