THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO CANADA’S EXPRESS ENTRY
Everything you need to know, from two people who’ve done it.
Express Entry is Canada’s skilled worker program. This points based system is designed to identify people who will be successful in Canada, without discriminating based on nationality or other factors.
You do not need a job offer in order to become a permanent resident through Express Entry. A job offer will not guarantee that your application is approved.
If your Express Entry application is approved, you become a permanent resident the day you arrive in Canada.
If you’re already in Canada, you’ll need to travel to a port of entry and do what’s called ‘flag polling’ — technically leaving the country and returning. Upon re-entry, you’re a permanent resident.
As a Canadian permanent resident, you have nearly all the rights as a citizen. You can live anywhere in the country, access the healthcare system, work anywhere you’d like, start a business, or go to school.
In the future, you can apply to become a Canadian citizen.
You don’t need an attorney
The internet is full of immigration attorneys and consultants who are eager to work with you. Unless you have a situation that will raise a red flag, like a criminal conviction or a family member who’s on the terrorist watch list, you don’t need the help of an immigration attorney.
Express Entry was designed to be simple to use. If you’ve filled out those annoying job applications that make you re-type your whole resume into a hundred fields, you can do this on your own.
Neither of us are immigration consultants, but we successfully navigated the system immediately after it launched, long before there was any detailed information online about how it worked. This is the guide we wish we’d had.
Here’s how it works
- First, find out if you meet the basic eligibility requirements to apply by filling out a short questionnaire.
- You make an Express Entry profile, telling them about your skills, work experience, language abilities, education, and details about everything you’ve done in your life and every country you’ve visited in the past ten years. If you meet the criteria, you’ll be accepted into the candidate pool. This is your expression of interest in immigrating to Canada.
- If you’re accepted into the Express Entry program but don’t already have a job offer, you have to register with the job bank. Soon this step will be optional. You’re encouraged to look for a job if you don’t already have a qualifying job offer.
- If you receive an invitation to apply (ITA), you have 90 days to add more information to your profile and submit it as your application for permanent residence.
- They may request additional information or schedule an interview. You’ll get occasional email updates to let you know where your application is in the process. The process is intended to take about six months from when you submit your complete application to when you get final approval.
- Once you’re approved, you get documents allowing you to travel to the border and declare that you’re immigrating as a new permanent resident.
- You have a year from the date of your medical exam to declare yourself a landed immigrant. You don’t actually have to move the day you land, but you’re expected to move up soon after.
Is this a new program?
If you’re the sort of person to talks about immigration systems over beers, you might have heard that Express Entry is a new program. That’s not strictly true. It just brings the Federal Skilled Worker, Federal Skilled Trades, Canadian Experience, and the Provincial Nominee Programs online. It aims to turn a first-come first-served program into one that better serves the needs of Canadian companies.
Because Express Entry was designed to help Canada build a more flexible economic immigration program, they change it frequently. Express Entry’s already been adjusted since it was launched in January 2015.
Express Entry was adjusted in:
- November 2016
- June 2017
This guide has been updated to reflect the current changes. If you’re reading information that’s older than the most recent change, it’s likely to be outdated and possibly incorrect.
You should always verify information on the IRCC website before creating your profile and submitting your application.
Eligibility for Canada’s Express Entry
First, you need to meet the basic requirements to immigrate to Canada.
You won’t be allowed into Canada if:
- you are a security risk,
- you have committed human or international rights violations,
- you have been convicted of a crime, or you have committed an act outside Canada that would be a crime,
- you have ties to organized crime,
- you have a serious health problem,
- you have a serious financial problem,
- you lied in your application or in an interview,
- you do not meet the conditions in Canada’s immigration law, or
- one of your family members is not allowed into Canada. (CIC)
Second, you need to have job experience that meets their requirements.
There isn’t a list of occupations they want (or don’t want), but you need to have a National Occupation Classification (NOC) with code 0, A, or B.
- 0: Management jobs
- A: Professional jobs
- B: Technical jobs and skilled trades
- C: Intermediate jobs
- D: Labour jobs
If you manage a team, in an office, restaurant, or on a boat, you likely fit into class 0. If you sit at a desk all day and have a degree, you’re probably in class A. If you went to vocational school, did an apprenticeship, or have a degree from a trade school, you’re probably in class B. Class C jobs typically require a high school degree and/or some training. Class D jobs usually only require on-the-job training. If you’re in class C or D you can still apply to become a provincial nominee, but not through Express Entry.
In 2015, the top 10 invited occupations were:
- Information systems analysts and consultants
- Software engineers
- Computer programmers and interactive media developers
- University professors and lecturers
- Graphic designers and illustrators
- Financial auditors and accountants
- Financial and investment analysts
Food service supervisors, cooks, and retail sales supervisors were also top occupations last year, but they are no longer eligible for the Canadian Experience Class stream of Express Entry and people who were approved had likely been living and working in Canada for years.
Professors, IT professionals, and accountants often had high scores without a job offer. If you work in one of those professions (like we do) then you’ll probably have good luck with applying through the Federal Skilled Worker program.
The CIC has a quiz to tell you if you’re eligible to apply. The problem is that without having already taken your language exam, you’re told you’re not eligible to apply. You’ll also be rejected if you select Quebec as your province of choice without the additional paperwork that’s necessary to move to Quebec.
You can check out the rough scoring parameters that the CIC will use to determine if you’ll qualify for Express Entry. You can also try to calculate your score from an unaffiliated third party to get a general idea of what your score will be. We found that the score we got more or less matched up with the official score the CIC determined later, but it should go without saying that there’s no guarantee the scores will match.
What about your family?
You can bring your spouse and kids.
My wife and I will joke that we got married to move to Canada, but that’s not really true. Canada will let you bring your common-law partner, so if you’ve lived together for at least a year and can provide documents to demonstrate your commitment, you don’t need to be legally married.
If you have legal reasons why you can’t get married and can’t live together — say your partner lives in a country where being gay is an executable offense — you can still apply together, but you’ll face additional paperwork requirements and may want an attorney. This needs to be an extreme situation you can provide documents to corroborate.
Your spouse will have to submit language test results and the same security background checks that you will need to gather as the main applicant.
Children count as dependents if they’re under the age of 19 when you submit your application. If you create your profile while your child is 19, you’d better hope you get an ITA quickly so you can submit your application right away.
All dependents need to pass a medical examination.
Creating your Express Entry profile
Creating your Express Entry profile isn’t difficult, but it’s tedious.
You know those online job applications that have you upload your resume and then make you type it all out, one line at a time? That’s what the Express Entry profile is like, only it wants to know a lot more about you and your family.
It took some time to find start and end dates for:
- Every job I’ve ever had
- Every place I’ve ever lived
- Every school I’ve ever attended
- Every country I’ve ever visited
There’s no clear way to account for time spent being unemployed, traveling, or bumming around. The engineers who designed this must have had a very clear life path. We improvised.
As someone who’s worked for the same companies on and off for several years and done a lot of freelance work, it wasn’t easy to complete my work history. I did my best to accurately portray my work experience in their system. Given the number of graphic designers who’ve been invited to apply, they appear to be okay with that.
Hopefully they’ve fixed this, but when I submitted my profile, they didn’t allow letters or special characters in house numbers. My previous addresses have a ½ as well as all those NYC apartments with letters, which it rejected. I also wasn’t sure how to account for that time they built a new street in front of my house, so my address changed (twice!) even though I never moved. I think I just left it out, since I didn’t technically move and I could provide paperwork to back that up if anyone asked.
Mercifully, you can save your profile and log back in. You have 90 days to complete your profile, otherwise you’ll have to start over again (this is an improvement from when we applied in 2015 and had only 60 days).
- Passport or another national identity document
- Language test results
- The ability to scan and upload documents
- A credit card to pay the fees
- Education Credential Assessment
- Written job offer
- Provincial nomination
- Paperwork to immigrate to Quebec
While this is the only paperwork you need to have in order to create your profile, I highly recommend you begin the tedious process of gathering all the paperwork you’ll need before you even submit your profile. The process moved so quickly for us and the paperwork took so long to gather that we likely would have run out of time had we not had everything ready to go when we submitted our profile.
Language test results
You need to be proficient in English or French. You’ll get additional points for speaking both, but it’s not required. You won’t get any points for speaking additional languages, sadly.
Everyone needs to take a language test, even if English is the only language you speak. It’s silly, but rules are rules.
It seems even more ridiculous that they tell native English speakers to study before the test. It’s good advice. Like any standardized test, it feels more like a test on your test taking skills than on your language abilities. I imagine the test for French speakers is the same way.
We took the general training module test through IELTS (International English Language Testing System) for $225 each. They have testing locations throughout the United States, but if you don’t live near a major city then be prepared to travel. The testing slots fill up fast so schedule your test sooner rather than later. You will need to bring a valid passport in order to take the exam.
The test itself feels reminiscent of taking the SATs. You leave all of your personal belongings in a separate room including your wallet and cell phone, then you’re given a pencil (a pencil!) to take a hand written test. The test is made up of four different parts: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. This will involve listening to an audio recording of a subject matter and answering questions about what you heard, reading a short story then answering questions about what you read, writing essays about two different topics, and finally talking to a test facilitator for about 30 minutes about a specific subject.
All together, expect to spend about 6 hours getting quizzed in how well you speak, write, and understand English. It’s not necessarily difficult, but it is time consuming and somewhat stressful, especially if you aren’t used to writing things out by hand for several hours straight or needing to ask permission to go to the bathroom. The whole experience felt a lot like being back in high school, which isn’t usually a good thing.
The test results will be mailed to you about two weeks after you complete the test.
You can take practice tests online if you’d like to get a better idea of what you’re in store for. For the record, only one of us got a perfect score even though we’re both native English speakers.
Education Credential Assessment (ECA)
Canadian employers recognize US degrees, but the CIC doesn’t. You’ll need to get your credentials assessed by an approved company if you’re applying under the skilled worker class.
You can find out if your degree will be recognized using the WES preliminary evaluation tool. This won’t be recognized by the IRCC, but it’ll save you time (and money) if your degree is going to be rejected.
We got our degrees assessed by World Education Services (WES) for $205 per person for a “Course-by-Course” evaluation. It took about six weeks between when we submitted everything to when we received the official letters authenticating our degrees from U.S. colleges. The ECA that WES provides is valid for five years and you can even order additional reports through their website if you happen to lose the original copy.
WES will ask for several different documents for each degree that you are seeking an ECA for:
- Photocopy of your actual diploma or graduation certificate
- Academic transcripts sent directly to WES from your school (usually $25-$50 each)
- A legal document verifying any name change if the name on your diploma or transcripts does not match your current legal name (such as a marriage certificate or divorce order)
Getting all of my college records for the ECA was a pain. I once had a year long battle with the New School to get a copy of my transcript. The transcript office claimed I owed $25, so couldn’t get my transcript. The billing department wouldn’t accept my $25, since they had no record of my debt. Don’t assume you can just mail a transcript request form and actually get one.
You have to pay transcript fees and then pay for an approved organization like WES to assess them. For US and European schools, this requires zero work on their part, but you still have to do it. If you’re like me and didn’t keep a copy of your diploma, then you’ll also have to pay your school for them to send you a new one (which costs me $50 per diploma).
Theoretically, an invitation to apply is offered to people who:
- Are among the top ranked in the Express Entry pool
- Are nominated by a province or territory
- Have a qualifying job offer
Needing to be top ranked seems a little intimidating. Living in New York City made us feel like losers because we hadn’t made our first million by the age of 30. In fact, we still haven’t made our first million. Neither of us is rabidly pursued by headhunters. Thankfully, the CIC is less judgmental than your average New Yorker.Under 35? See if you can move to Canada Click To Tweet
You can go through the comprehensive ranking system (CRS) matrix and calculate your score. Scores range from 0 to 1,200. When Express Entry launched, the maximum score without a job offer or provincial nomination was 600. They’ve since adjusted this and job offers have less weight in the evaluation.
The CRS score needed for an ITA
As of April 2017, a score of 450 is likely to result in an ITA, but people with scores as low as 431 have been given an ITA. People applying to the Federal Skilled Trades program have been issued ITAs for scores as low as 199.
Those sound like terrible odds for anybody without a job offer or specific trade experience, but we scored just barely over 450 and were invited to apply a week after we submitted our Express Entry profile. In November 2016 they adjusted the system to make it easier for young professionals and people with experience working or going to school in Canada to make it through the Express Entry system. The CRS cut-off changes for each round of ITAs issued, so you may be passed over for several rounds and still be issued an ITA before your profile expires after a year.
There are ways to increase your CRS score, but none of them are easy.
How the CRS is calculated
You get points for your age. Age is calculated based on when you submit your application. You’ll receive maximum points if you’re in your 20s and fewer points for each year you’ve lived past the age of 29. We applied when we were 30 and 33.
The more education you have, the higher your score will be. While having a Master’s degree or PhD instead of just a Bachelor’s degree might not improve your job prospects, it will help you to immigrate to Canada. If you graduated from a post-secondary program in Canada you will be awarded with additional points.
Any Canadian work experience you have will get you points.
You have a major advantage if you speak French. Only 1% of people who expressed interest spoke French, but 2% of invited applicants spoke French. Provincial nominee programs favor those who speak French.Speak French? See if you can move to Canada Click To Tweet
Beginning in June 2017, you’ll get points if you have a sibling in Canada.
You’ll know your score and the scores for the most recent batch of applications to be invited to apply, but you won’t know where you rank.
You can stay in the Express Entry pool for a year. If you haven’t been invited to apply by then, your profile will expire. You can then create a new profile and try again.
- Re-take the language exam if you didn’t score high enough.
- Increase your work experience.
- Get more educational training, especially from a Canadian university.
- Work in Canada under a work permit, NAFTA, or as an inter-company transferee.
- If you have a spouse, have them increase their language proficiency or education level.
The best way to increase your score is to get a provincial nomination or find a Canadian employer willing to offer you a job. Almost everyone with a low personal CSR score who has been invited to apply has had a provincial nomination.
Things that don’t increase your score
- Lots of cash. The CIC wants to know you have the required minimum, but they don’t care about your benjamins or your retirement stockpile. If you an entrepreneur with a low CSR score, there are other immigration options for entrepreneurs, startups, and investors.
- You might think that owning a home in Canada would count for something. It doesn’t.
- Owning property anywhere. The CIC only cares about actual cash on hand so that they believe that you’ll be able to support yourself when you arrive in Canada.
- Your current salary. See above. The only thing you need to prove is that you have about $12,000 in savings and an additional $2000 per family member. Having an income source, such a remote work or annuities, does not get you points.
In 2015, 191k people created Express Entry profiles. Over 31k were given invitations to apply and 10k have already immigrated to Canada.
- 88k weren’t eligible
- 1k were awaiting verification
- 60k were in the pool
- 4k were invited to apply but hadn’t yet
- 21.5k had submitted applications
- 13.5k withdrew their applications
- 2.5k had applications expire
The lowest point requirement during 2015 was 450. In 2016, the lowest CRS score was 453. ITAs have been issued in 2017 for people with CRS scores well below that.
Profiles with over 600 points are typically issued invitations to apply in the next draw after the profile is created. Most profiles submitted last year with over 450 points appear to have been invited to apply. People with scores as low as 415 have gotten ITAs.
The first year’s results were skewed by applicants who have long been living and working in Canada or had outstanding job offers and therefore had very high scores. In fact, over 78% of invited candidates were already residents of Canada. The country of origin for the remainder of those invited to apply reflects the origin of qualified candidates in the pool, according to the CIC. Only 3% of candidates invited to apply were US citizens.Only 3% of skilled workers moving to Canada come from the US Click To Tweet
In 2016, more of the candidates who were issued ITAs were IT analytists, software engineers, and computer programmers. However, many people still got PR through Express Entry based on their experience as a cook, graphic designer, or retail manager.
My wife and I waited for the Express Entry system to launch before submitting our application, since the new system promised to be faster than the old (which was true). You can obsess over the numbers yourself. In fact, we have a friend that has been working in Ontario for years and is even married to a Canadian but got his a year after we got ours since he applied before the Express Entry system launched in 2015.
Ready to create your Express Entry profile?
When you create your account, you’ll get a MyCIC number. Save that information or you’ll have a heck of a time logging back in.
Things you need to know for Express Entry
Make sure your profile and application are correct and complete.
Even if you have enough points for an ITA without one, most of us want to find work ASAP.
A comprehensive list of the documents you’ll need for Express Entry, with or without a spouse.
These 9 ways will bump up your comprehensive ranking system points without breaking the rules.
Registering on the Canada Job Bank
After you submit your profile, you have 30 days to register with the job bank. If you don’t have a valid job offer from a Canadian company, you will need to register with the job bank in order for your express entry application to be considered active. This is only the case until June 2017. After that, registering with the job bank will be optional.
While this is a requirement in order to proceed with the application process, we did not find any benefit to being registered. Theoretically, employers can check out your resumes that you’ve posted to the job bank and offer you an interview at their company, but I’m skeptical that this actually works out for many people. After some cursory searches I lost interest in this, since it aggregates job listings from other sites. Many of these listings have been removed from the original site, but still show up in the job bank.
We did get some weird emails offering us restaurant manager positions. Neither of us has ever worked in a restaurant and probably couldn’t get hired as a server if we tried, so I’m guessing these were the start of an immigration scam story. In order to get points for a job offer, it has to meet specific requirements and you need to be qualified for the job itself.
The Express Entry pool
Hopefully after you register for the job bank, you’ll get an email letting you know you have a top secret message in your MyCIC account to let you know you’ve been placed in the Express Entry pool. You’ll also be told your official score.
Don’t just sit back and relax. Continue gathering your paperwork. If you don’t already have a job offer, this is the time to look for one.
If anything you’ve put in your profile changes, you’ll need to update your profile.
If one of your kids turns 19 while you’re waiting for an invitation to apply, they’re no longer considered a dependent and would require their own application.
What happens once you land?
Get the full story in our book. Find out everything you need to know about moving to Canada without an immigration attorney, from applying for residency, to getting across the border, and getting settled in your new life.
After you get your ITA
Once the CIC has a chance to review your Express Entry application and determines that you meet the criteria to immigrate, you’ll receive an invitation to apply (ITA) for permanent resident status. We received our ITA about a week after the Express Entry application was submitted and registered with the job bank. You have 90 days to submit your complete application after this point. Getting paperwork together will absolutely take more than 90 days, so be sure to start collecting documents early on when you’re creating your profile.
If your documents don’t support the points initially awarded or you’re deemed inadmissible, your application will be denied.
If you decline an invitation to apply, you’ll be placed back in the pool. If you’re eligible for multiple programs, you may be invited to apply again.
If you don’t submit your application within 90 days, your profile will expire. You’ll have to start over if you’d like to be invited to apply again.
You’ll need paperwork for yourself and any family members you’re sponsoring. We found it was vital that we had already gathered most of these documents before we submitted our Express Entry application:
- Police certificate
- Language test results
- Educational credential assessment
- Medical exam
- Proof of funds (not needed if you don’t have a valid job offer or if you’re already living in Canada)
- Verification of your work history
- Proof of relationship status, if applicable
- Marriage certificate
- Divorce certificate
- Death certificate if you are a widow
- Evidence of a common law relationship
- Proof of parental status, if applicable
- Birth certificates for any dependent children
- Adoption certificates for any adopted dependents
- All addresses you’ve ever lived at
- All international travel within the past 10 years
- Personal information about all immediate family members, even if they will not be immigrating (such as full names, address, date of birth)
The FBI record check took a very long time and they don’t provide any status updates or even proof that they received your request. They’re only valid for six months, so you may have to get two to be safe. This costs $18 per person.
You need to be fingerprinted by your local police department before you can submit the request to the FBI. Since we were living in NYC, we spent an afternoon at the NYPD headquarters getting this part done. It took about two hours, costs $25 each, and wasn’t nearly as difficult as we expected it to be. You should request this very early in the process, since the FBI website clearly says it’ll take 3-4 months to receive your identity history summary.
You can’t just go to any doctor, you need to see a panel physician for your medical exam. There are only three in New York State and two of them are in Manhattan. Be sure to tell the doctor you need an Express Entry medical exam.
The CIC recommends you wait until you get your invitation to apply before scheduling your medical exam. Your exam results are only valid for 12 months and need to have six months when you submit your application. If the medical exam is valid for less than six months, you’ll have to get another exam done. This doesn’t seem like the best advice when there are only two doctors and it can take weeks to schedule an appointment. We scheduled our appointments as soon as we received our ITA. The date that you get your medical exam is extremely important because the timeframe that you’ll be able to immigrate will expire exactly 1 year after the date of this exam.
When you go to your appointment, bring two passport photos, your MyCIC number application number, and your passport.
You will need to give a general medical history, get bloodwork and a chest x-ray. Our x-ray tech seemed very excited to tell us we didn’t have TB. From what we can figure, the bloodwork is to rule out HIV and syphilis.
The doctor’s office will submit your medical exam results directly to the CIC and so won’t give you any actual information to you. A few weeks after the medical exam you’ll receive an update on your CIC page letting you know that you passed the medical exam.
The doctor will also give you a sealed letter that you will need to hold onto. In theory, the immigration office might ask to see this letter when you officially move across the border. We weren’t asked to show ours, but it should go without saying that you’ll want to keep this in a safe place so there are no chances of being turned away at the border.
We each paid $300 and an additional $50 for the x-ray.
If you don’t have a job offer, Canada wants to make sure you have some money to cover your living expenses when you first arrive in the country. It’s reasonable to assume you might be to be unemployed for a period of time since you will probably be moving up without a job. You will need to prove that you have approximately $12,000 CAD cash available yourself, about $15,000 CAD for a couple, and more for each additional family member, even if they won’t be immigrating with you.
If you plan to immigrate with your spouse, cash in either of your bank accounts will count towards the total amount of funds you’ll need to document.
Since they want to make sure you haven’t borrowed this money, you’ll need to prove that you have had this money in your personal accounts for several months before applying.
You will need to get an official letter from your bank printed on letterhead that includes:
- Your name
- Bank address, telephone, and email address
- Account numbers
- Total funds in each account
- Date each account was open
- Current balance of accounts
- Average balance of each account for the past six months
Getting this proof ended up being more difficult than it should have been, partly because we both have several bank accounts each plus a shared joint account. That meant that we needed to get letters from several different banks that all wanted to insist that they only needed to give us the information that the United States immigration process requires, and not whatever requirements we told them we needed for Canadian immigration. Don’t let them talk you into what they think you need, insist on what you know you need.
Verification of your work history
If you’re applying as a skilled worker, you will need to prove that you’re actually a skilled worker. Makes sense, right? This was actually one of the hardest things to put together for the application since you have to account for 10 years of work history. This means you’ll need to reach out to every employer you’ve worked for in the past decade, even if it didn’t end well. Get ready, this part might be sort of uncomfortable!
If you’re applying through the Canadian Experience Class, then you’re in luck because you only have to account for whichever jobs you’ve worked in Canada that qualify you to apply for permanent residency and which you’ve identified in your application. Since you only need a single year of qualifying work experience in Canada, this might be just one or two employers that you’ll need to reach out to. It won’t hurt though, to account for however many years of qualifying experience you have in Canada. If you’re applying through this program, you’ll also need to provide your most recent work permit, T4 tax information slips, and Notice of Assessments.
You’ll need to get an official letter from each employer on company letterhead that includes:
- Your name
- Company’s address, telephone, and email address
- Name, title, and signature of immediate supervisor or HR representative
- Each position you’ve had at the company
- Job status (if current)
- Start and end date
- Number of hours per week
- Annual salary and bonus
- Any benefit information (such as medical coverage or 401k match)
- Corresponding NOC code
I approached this by writing out a draft of what I wanted each company to verify for me, then sent it out to each employer with a request that they review and return it to me, along with any needed changes, on company letterhead. For larger companies, this will probably need to go through the HR department. Since you don’t have much control over how fast this part goes, get started on it soon so you’re not stuck waiting around for it at the end.
One very important thing to keep in mind is to try to align the responsibilities of each of your jobs with the main duties included for the NOC unit group you are claiming as your skilled worker experience. This part of your application will be thoroughly reviewed so make sure you provide plenty of background that shows you are qualified to immigrate as a skilled worker.
If you’re claiming any self-employment periods, you’ll need to provide articles of incorporation or any sort of evidence that proves you own your own business and received income. You’ll also need to reach out to clients and ask them to give you letters that verify the services you provided to them and the payments you received from them. This wasn’t always possible, since companies go out of business. In that case, I did my best to document the work I did for them and find proof that they’re no longer in business. In other cases, I got a letter from former employees.
Proof of relationship status
This part only applies to you if your marital status is married, divorced, widowed, or common law.
- Married: Marriage certificate, even if your spouse will not be immigrating with you
- Divorced: Divorce certificate if you or your spouse has ever been married in the past
- Widowed: Death certificate for your spouse
- Evidence of a common law relationship
Canada will allow you to immigrate with your partner even if you’re not married, but you will need to prove the validity of that relationship.
- A completed Statutory Declaration of Common-Law Union form
- Evidence of cohabitation for at least 12 continuous months
- Statements from joint bank accounts or credit cards
- Lease or mortgage in both of your names
- Utility bills
Proof of Parental Status
If you’re a parent of a dependent child, you will need to provide information about each of your dependent children, even if they will not be immigrating with you.
- Birth certificates for any dependent children
- Adoption certificates for any adopted dependents
You have to pay your fees online to submit your application. It’s currently $550 for each adult and $150 for any children.
Keep your information up to date
If anything in your profile has changed since you created your profile, be sure to update it before submitting your application.
Lying or misrepresenting information on your application is a bad idea. It’s easy to fudge information on a form, but lying about something that impacts your residence in a country is messing with international laws.
If you lied on your application, you and your family can be stripped of your permanent resident status and deported.
Canada doesn’t have draconian prisons, but it’s still not worth the risk.
Make sure you have all the information you need to make the right choice for you before you spend hours gathering Express Entry documents.
In 2015, the CIC met its goal of processing applications in six months for 80% of applications. The other 20% likely required additional background screening, had unclear family situations (pending divorces, adoptions, or child custody issues), or required additional documents.
Some successful immigrants are now reporting that their applications were processed in as little as six weeks. If you’ve been at one company for a long time, have lived in one country, and don’t have any dependents, you can expect your application to process quickly.
Application processing times are never guaranteed. Your application will probably take about three months to process, but it could take significantly longer.
You’ll get messages in your MyCIC mailbox with occasional updates or requests for any additional information. They may even request an interview.
I found that gmail was automatically sorting emails from the CIC to my trash folder, so I set up a filter rule to make sure emails from [email protected] would be marked as important and starred sot that they’d stay in my inbox. You might want to do something like this for your own email account to make sure you don’t miss any updates or requests for additional information from the CIC. Regardless, it’s probably a good idea to login to your CIC account now and then to make sure you haven’t missed anything.
Before your application is is considered complete, you’ll have to pay your Right of Permanent Residence fees and the express entry fee.
Ready for visa
About five months after we submitted our final application and all of the fees, we received an email letting us know that we were “Ready for Visa.” This let us know that our application was almost complete. Though this wasn’t an official “approval” quite yet, we took as it as a sign that we were nearly done with the process. We were asked to mail out:
- 2 photographs for our Permanent Resident (PR) cards
- Copies of our passports
- One self-addressed stamped envelope
About a month after we mailed in the pictures, we received our official travel papers that granted us the right to immigrate to Canada. All told, it was almost exactly 6 months between when we submitted our application to when we received our paperwork.
Cost of Express Entry
In addition to having $12,164 to $32,191 in your bank account to provide proof of funds, you’ll also end up paying for just about every piece of documentation you’ll need to gather as part of your application. While your own experience might be a bit different, here’s an overview of what we ended up paying along the way in 2015:
|Language Test (IELTS)||$225||$550|
|Education Credential Assessment (WES)||$205||$410|
|– Transcripts (2 per person)||$50||$100|
|– Diplomas (2 for just one person)||$50||$50|
|– Passport Photos||$20||$40|
|Express Entry Fee||$395||$790|
|Right of Permanent Resident Fee||$350||$700|
|Photographs for PR card||$20||$40|
There are other fees that we didn’t need to worry about, but you might run into depending on your situation:
- Document translation (required for any document that is not in English or French)
- Immigration representative fees
- Copies of marriage, divorce, or death certificates
- Proof of common law partnership
- Copies of birth or adoption certificates
Everyone’s experience will be different, but here’s how the timing worked out for us:
|Submitted Express Entry profile||March 18, 2015|
|Confirmation from CIC that profile was received||March 19, 2015|
|Registered with job bank||March 19, 2015|
|Accepted into Express Entry||March 19, 2015|
|Invited to apply for Permanent Residency||March 27, 2015|
|Appointment with panel physician||April 2, 2015|
|Submitted application for Permanent Residency||April 13, 2015|
|Received confirmation that application was received||April 13, 2015|
|CIC requested additional information||May 29, 2015|
|Provided additional information||May 29, 2015|
|Received confirmation that information was received||May 30, 2015|
|Received “Ready for Visa” email||September 15, 2015|
|Mailed out pictures and copies of passports||September 29, 2015|
|Received travel documents (invitation to immigrate)||October 26, 2015|
|Immigrated to Canada and declared residency||December 10, 2016|
|Moved belongings to Ontario||January 15, 2016|
|Expiration date for invitation to immigrate||April 2, 2016|
Moving to Canada
You get your visa to move to Canada.
What comes next?
- Declaring yourself a landed immigrant
- Getting pets across the border
- Moving your things through customs without owing duties
- Getting new IDs, enrolling in health insurance, and getting your SIN
Canada is just like home.
Except for when it’s not. We share what we’ve learned to save you some trouble.
- Healthcare in Canada
- Finding a job in Canada
- Canadian salaries
- Cross-border banking
- Filing taxes in Canada as a newcomer
- Filing taxes as a US citizen living abroad
- Understanding currency conversion
- Planning for retirement as an expat
Living in Canada
Living in Toronto
Welcome to Toronto
Toronto is Canada’s largest city, it’s financial capital, and a place where over 50% of residents were born abroad.
- Toronto neighborhood guide for new residents from a New York perspective
- How to rent an apartment in Toronto without a credit history and without getting scammed
- Buying a condo in Toronto as a newcomer without standard documentation
- Setting up your first home in Canada Hydro, metered internet, and how to furnish your apartment.
- How to survive your first Canadian winter It’s really not that bad.
There’s more to being Canadian than watching hockey and saying ‘eh.’
Canada isn’t just a colder US, it’s got a culture and history of it’s own. They’re just too modest to brag about it.
- Becoming a Canadian citizen How long it takes, whether or not you have to give up your US citizenship, and other things you should know before making a decision.
- Kingdom of Canada How exactly did Canada wind up with a queen and what is a dominion?
- Canadian Federal Government A 101 guide to Canadian politics
We moved to Canada without an immigration attorney or consultant and you can, too.
Now that we’ve successfully immigrated to Canada from the US using the Express Entry program, we’ve writing the guides we wish we’d had.
Get the full story
What other prospective immigrants have said about our book,
Moving to Canada: A detailed immigration guide from two Americans who’ve done it.
If you want the step by step process on how to immigrate to Canada, here it is. I found the book easy to read, inspiring, and very informative.
Useful for getting a general overview of the process all in one place, rather than searching around the internet.
This book is clearly exhaustively-researched. Each section gives detailed information on how to begin the process of moving to Canada, with super informative with real-world examples and step-by-step instructions. I found the section on health care and taxes especially informative!
We are an American couple planning our immigration to Canada through the Express Entry program. This book has been very helpful to aid us in planning and organizing all the steps and timelines for the immigration process. It also has lots of other great information about the actual moving, landing, and transitioning process. If you are a professional looking to navigate through the Canadian immigration program this book is well worth the read. We actually are using it as a reference as well, keeping pages bookmarked and using the spreadsheets and timelines, costs, etc as a model for our own documents.
A lot of the other books about moving to Canada talk about what it’s like to live in Canada, whereas this book talks about how to actually get there. A must have for anybody thinking about immigrating.
Get the latest information on building your life in Canada
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