A step-by-step guide to permanent residence through the Canadian Experience Class.

Since 2008, the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) has offered an immigration pathway for candidates who have worked in Canada and want to transition to permanent residence.

Following a temporary pause that has been in place since September 2021, Express Entry invitation rounds for CEC candidates are set to resume in July. Also, the processing standard for new applicants is expected to return to six months.

As a program managed by the Express Entry system, people who are eligible for the CEC get a score on the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). Roughly every two weeks, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) holds Express Entry draws inviting the highest scoring candidates to apply for Canadian immigration.

The following is a step-by-step guide on how you can apply for permanent residence through the CEC:

Step 1: Meet the CEC’s eligibility criteria

In order to be eligible to apply under the CEC you must meet the following requirements:

  • Have at least one year of skilled, professional or technical work experience in Canada within 36 months of the application date;
  • Meet or surpass a Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) of 5 (“initial intermediate”) for NOC B jobs or CLB 7 (“adequate intermediate proficiency”), for NOC skill level 0 or A jobs; and
  • Plan to live and work outside of the province of Quebec (individuals with work experience in Quebec and who plan to reside in Quebec may apply to the Quebec Experience Class).

One year (or 12 months) of work experience is defined as at least 1,560 hours of skilled work experience in Canada. The 1,560 hours can be obtained through full-time or part-time work. Self-employment and work experience gained while you were a full-time student (for example, on a co-op work term) do not count under the CEC.

Applicants can remain in Canada throughout the application process. The CEC is also open to individuals who are no longer in Canada, as long as they submit their application within three years of leaving their Canadian job.

The CEC requirements are based on a pass or fail model. If the minimum requirements are met, the applicant is eligible to enter the Express Entry pool.

Step 2: Submit your Express Entry profile to the IRCC website

When you go on the government website, create an IRCC secure account and follow the instructions. The online tool will prompt you to create an Express Entry profile, enter your personal reference code if you have one, and enter your personal details.

You have 60 days to complete and submit your Express Entry profile, otherwise, you will have to start again.

Once you’ve filled out your profile, you can submit it and IRCC will figure out which Express Entry program you are eligible for.

If you are eligible for the CEC, IRCC will place you in the Express Entry pool with others who are also eligible. You will get a score based on factors like work experience, education, age, and official language ability.

Step 3: Check for an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence

Completing an online Express Entry profile does not guarantee you will be invited to apply for permanent residence. You need to have a score that is high enough to meet the minimum threshold in a given Express Entry draw.

While you are in the pool, get ready for IRCC to send you an ITA. If you receive one, you’ll have 60 days to submit a complete application. IRCC holds Express Entry draws approximately every two weeks.

Step 4: If you receive an ITA, apply for immigration

If you get an ITA, IRCC will send you a message telling you which program you have been invited for and what to do next. The system automatically invites candidates to apply under one of the Express Entry-managed programs in the following order: Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), CEC, Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), and then Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP).

IRCC will ask for proof of the information you submitted in your Express Entry profile. Immigration officers will assess whether the information you provided in your application is different from your profile. If they find false information, or important details left out, they may refuse your application, find you inadmissible, or bar you from applying for immigration for five years.

IRCC recommends checking the criteria for the program you have been invited to apply for to ensure you are still eligible. If your personal situation changes, you may have to re-calculate your score before applying. If your recalculated score is less than the minimum CRS cut-off for your round of invitations, IRCC recommends declining the invitation.

Declining an invitation means you will be put back into the Express Entry pool of candidates and you may be considered for future rounds of invitations if you are still eligible. It does not affect whether you are invited to apply later. There is no guarantee you will be invited to apply again, however, you may be able to improve your chance by updating your Express Entry profile or getting a higher CRS score.

If you do not respond to your ITA in 60 days, IRCC will take your profile out of the pool. To be considered for future draws, you will have to fill out a new Express Entry profile.

Other ways to immigrate

The PNP is another significant immigration program. Canada aims to admit more than 80,000 PNP candidates as permanent residents every year over the next three years, according to the 2022-2024 Immigration Levels Plan. Also, IRCC is still holding Express Entry draws every two weeks for PNP candidates.

If you are in the Express Entry pool already, you may be invited to apply for a provincial nomination. Then if you get the nomination, it will mean you get 600 points added to your score and you will be able to apply for immigration as a PNP candidate.


CEC has become more prominent since its launch in 2008. Last year it accounted for one-third of the record 405,000 landings.

Starting this summer, IRCC will offer a new open work permit to Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) holders, which will give them more of a chance to become eligible for the CEC.

Studies have shown that CEC immigrants tend to fare well in the labour market thanks to their Canadian experience before completing their permanent residency landing.

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