The Express Entry system is Canada’s main pathway for skilled immigrants looking to gain permanent residence. Candidates are scored under the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) based on factors like age, education, work experience, and language ability. However, many candidates struggle to achieve a high enough score to be invited to apply. If you’ve scored under 450 points in the Express Entry pool, here are some alternative options you can consider:
Provincial Nominee Programs
The Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) allow provinces and territories to nominate immigrants based on local labor market needs. Each province has its own unique streams and criteria. PNPs are an excellent Express Entry alternative because they award candidates 600 additional CRS points if nominated. This essentially guarantees an invitation to apply for permanent residence. Do your research to see which PNP stream you’re eligible for.
PNP Streams to Consider
- Ontario Human Capital Priorities Stream – Does not require a job offer
- Saskatchewan International Skilled Worker Program – Points-based, no job offer needed
- Manitoba Skilled Workers Overseas Stream – Points-based, no job offer required
- Nova Scotia Experience Express Entry Stream – For candidates with at least 1 year of Nova Scotia work experience
- New Brunswick Express Entry Labor Market Stream – Requires a job offer in New Brunswick
Atlantic Immigration Program
This program is designed to fill labor shortages in the four Atlantic provinces. It requires a job offer from a designated employer. While it does not award 600 bonus CRS points, having a valid job offer can help improve your overall Express Entry score.
Tips for Atlantic Immigration Program
- Research designated employers and contact them about job vacancies
- Have your skills and experience assessed against targeted occupations
- Obtain a job offer and submit an application with your designated employer
If you have experience as a caregiver for children, seniors, or those with medical needs, you may be eligible for permanent residence through a caregiver program. These include the following:
- Home Child Care Provider Pilot
- Home Support Worker Pilot
- Canada Caregiver Program
Caregiver work can count towards your Canadian work experience requirement for Express Entry. Some tips:
- Apply for the appropriate work permit as a caregiver
- Work full-time in a caregiver role for the required duration
- Apply for permanent residence once you meet eligibility requirements
Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot
This pilot aims to spread immigration to rural communities and northern regions. It requires a job offer in an eligible community. While it does not give 600 CRS points, having a job offer in a rural area can help improve your overall Express Entry points.
How to Use the RNIP
- Find job vacancies in rural communities and get a valid job offer
- Submit an application under the RNIP with your job offer and other documents
- Receive priority processing for permanent residence if approved
Become a Temporary Foreign Worker
Getting a work permit and coming to Canada as a temporary foreign worker can open up pathways to permanent residence down the road. Options include:
- Canadian Experience Class – Requires 1 year of skilled work in Canada
- Provincial Nominee Programs – Some have streams for temporary workers
- Atlantic Immigration Pilot – Allows nominations for temporary workers
Some tips for going the temporary worker route:
- Research which jobs are eligible for programs like CEC and PNPs
- Obtain a job offer from a Canadian employer willing to support your work permit
- Work for the required duration to transition to permanent residence
Gaining Canadian work experience can significantly improve your CRS score for Express Entry.
Improve Your Language Ability
Since language ability factors heavily into the CRS, improving your English and/or French skills can help increase your points. Consider taking language classes or practicing daily conversation before attempting the language tests again. Even small improvements in speaking, listening, reading and writing can add points.
Tips for Improving Language Scores
- Use free online resources and apps to practice every day
- Consider taking an English or French course at a local language school
- Join conversation groups to practice speaking and listening
- Read, watch shows, listen to music/podcasts, and write in your second language
Other potential alternatives for those with low CRS scores in Express Entry:
- Study in Canada – Study full-time at a designated post-secondary institution and gain Canadian education credentials. After graduating, you may be eligible for post-graduation work permits and immigration pathways.
- Startup Visa Program – For innovative entrepreneurs who want to launch startups in Canada. Requires a qualifying business proposal and support from a designated organization.
- Self-Employed Persons Program – For skilled workers who want to come to Canada and be self-employed, such as opening a restaurant or shop. Need to meet investment and job creation requirements.
- Quebec Skilled Worker Program – This is Quebec’s own skilled worker program with different criteria than Express Entry. You don’t need a job offer and can gain points for finances, family in Quebec, etc.
The Express Entry system is competitive, but alternatives exist for those who don’t have a high enough CRS score. With the right strategy across these programs and options, you can find another path to permanent residence in Canada.
It’s highly recommended that you consult with a licensed Canadian immigration consultant before making decisions on any immigration or visa application. They can assess your specific situation, identify suitable programs you qualify for, and walk you through the application process. Making the wrong application can negatively impact your immigration goals, so always rely on the expertise of authorized consultants.