1. RETAKE THE IELTS
Improving your IELTS score is the number one way to increase your points. On their own, good IELTS results can get you up to 160 points.
But if you have good IELTS and post-secondary education can get you an additional 50 points. Good IELTS and at least three years of work experience can get you another 50 points.
You need to score at least Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) 7 to be eligible for Express Entry under the Federal Skilled Worker program, which is at least 6.0 on each language ability on the IELTS. But if you can score CLB 9 in all language abilities, you could be looking at up to 260 Express Entry points for just your language ability.
You can also take the IELTS as many times as you want to. You can even update your Express Entry profile with new IELTS test results after you submit your profile to the pool.
Canadian provides all of our Express Entry clients access to free online IELTS tutorials to help prepare to take the test. There are a lot of free or paid materials available online to help you prepare.
Immigration Tip: Register to take your IELTS early. That way, if you don’t do as well as you hoped, you have time to retake them before you submit your profile. You can always update your profile, but if you wait until after you’re in the pool to improve your score, you could be missing out on draws.
2. WORK EXPERIENCE
Since Express Entry manages applications to economic immigration streams, your work experience is a big part of calculating your Express Entry points.
That said, it’s not very easy to accumulate more years of work experience just to improve your Express Entry points.
Immigration Tip: If you’re not eligible for Express Entry, or if you are eligible but don’t have a competitive score, consider coming to Canada first as a student or temporary worker. Canadian experience can open up a lot more Canadian immigration options.
A lot of candidates don’t leverage the work experience that they do have as much as possible, though. Express Entry uses the National Occupational Classification (NOC) matrix to assign points to all occupations. Choosing the right NOC code is one of the simplest ways to increase your score.
You’ll need to prove that whatever NOC codes you claim in your work experience are accurate if you receive an invitation to apply for permanent residence, so you should absolutely not misrepresent your experience.
That said, it’s worth it to spend some time finding exactly which NOC codes accurately reflect your career history while getting you as many Express Entry points as possible.
The NOC matrix can be confusing to sort through, so consulting an expert to figure out which NOC codes you can claim can be very helpful.
3. SPOUSAL POINTS
It may not apply to some candidates, but if you have a spouse or common-law partner, you may be missing out on some points you can claim.
There are three possibilities here, and it’s worth looking into them all.
First, your spouse or partner may get you more points. By retaking a language test, or getting an educational credential assessment (ECA) for any post-secondary education they have, your spouse or partner could increase your Express Entry points.
Second, you may actually have a higher score as a single applicant. Since your profile is scored differently depending on whether or not you have an accompanying spouse or partner, depending on your spouse or partner’s profile, you may actually increase your score if you list them as non-accompanying. If you are granted permanent residence, you can still sponsor them to join you in Canada, but it does mean a period of separation.
Third, your spouse may actually be a stronger applicant. You should definitely run through the exercise of trying to calculate how many points your spouse would get if they were the principal applicant, with or without you accompanying them.
Immigration Tip: If you and your spouse or partner are both strong candidates, you can each submit a profile to the Express Entry pool and list each other as accompanying. That way you double your chances of success!
If you’ve done as well as possible on language tests, claimed as many points as possible for your work experience, maximized your spousal points, and still don’t have a competitive score, there are some more challenging ways you can improve it.
4. JOB OFFER
An eligible job offer from a Canadian employer can get you between 50 to 200 additional points. Spend time on the Canada Job Bank, as well as private job boards and social networking sites to try to connect with Canadian employers in your field.
5. PROVINCIAL NOMINATION
If you receive a nomination from a province, you get 600 additional points. Many provinces operate a nomination program aligned with Express Entry, but it’s usually up to the candidate to figure out which programs they might be eligible for and how to apply. Keep in mind that applying for a provincial nomination is usually a completely separate application process.
Going back to school is a pretty big investment to increase your score, but it can also have a big impact. A short program like a one-year post-secondary certificate could get you a lot of points. If you already have one post-secondary degree of three years or more, worth 120 points, and take a second one-year program, you can claim an additional 8 points for just education. If you already had CLB 9, and two years of Canadian work experience, you can claim an additional 50 points for skills transferability. That’s 58 total additional Express Entry points.
Canadian educational credentials are highly valued in Express Entry, and being an international student can open a lot of other doors to staying in Canada permanently that you might not otherwise be eligible for.