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

Express Entry-managed programs are among the most popular options for skilled newcomers who want to immigrate to Canada.

This is because Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has a published service standard of six months for Express Entry applications making it, as the name implies, one of the fastest ways to become a permanent resident of Canada.

Receiving an invitation to apply (ITA) for permanent resident status through Express Entry is heavily dependent on a candidate’s Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score. The higher a candidate scores, the more likely it is that they will receive an ITA.

A CRS score is based on a combination of human capital factors such as age, work experience, occupation, language ability and education.

Recent Express Entry draws, especially general draws, have seen minimum CRS scores above 500. However in the current make-up of candidates in the Express Entry pool (as of February 28), there are 18,106 candidates with scores above 500.

For context, the same data shows there 211, 487 Express Entry candidates in the pool. Put another way, less than one-tenth of Express Entry candidates have high enough CRS scores to be considered for a general Express Entry draw so far in 2024.

This may lead those who have a CRS score less than 500 to wonder if it’s still worth entering the Express Entry application pool or if they are better off pursuing a different pathway to Canadian immigration.

Recent Express Entry draws

The minimum CRS score required to receive an ITA changes in each Express Entry draw and can be influenced by the type of draw (general, program-specific, or category-based).

CRS scores have shown some wide variation throughout Express Entry draws in 2024. As of March 12, there have been ten Express Entry draws.

Six of the draws were general, meaning candidates were considered from all Express Entry programs and categories. Scores for the general draws ranged from 525 to 541.

The remaining four draws this year were for candidates who were eligible through category-based selection.

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.

Candidates in this category saw the lowest score of the year so far (336) in a February 29 draw for 2,500 candidates. Another draw in the same category on February 1 was comparable at 7,000 ITAs issued to those with a CRS of 365.

What this means is that candidates with a CRS score that is too low for a general draw may still have a chance at getting an Express Entry ITA if they are eligible for category-based selection. Last year IRCC invited more than 16,000 Express Entry candidates in category-based draws.

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