Step 1: Creating an Express Entry profile

So you’ve decided to give Express Entry your best shot. Congratulations! Now lets get to work. As you may have guessed from the title, the first step is to set up your online Express Entry profile.

Before continuing, I encourage you to read the instructions provided by CIC on their website carefully. The link is below. My intent for this post is not to regurgitate information already widely available, but to provide insight into the requirements and process specific to candidates applying from the US.

http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/skilled/profile.asp

Welcome back! As you now know, there are certain things you will need to have before you can get started with your profile. Let’s get started.

Obtaining the Required Documents

1. Language Test

Everyone needs to take the language test, there are no exceptions… none. Unfortunately, this is one of the most time consuming and annoying requirements to fulfill, but hey, at least English is your native tongue! You will still have to study a little bit, though.

The CIC website lists two test options, but in the US you can only take the IELTS – General Training.  The test will cot you about $230, and if you are applying with your spouse both will need to sit for the test. The test is only offered in major cities and the appointments go fast, so take a detour and schedule the exam now.

Wait! Before you do, let me warn you that you will need a printer, a camera and lots of patience! Getting a picture to be exactly 10KB yet still 130×130 pixels takes more effort that one would expect.

Register for language test here: https://www.ielts.org/book-a-test/how-do-i-register

My guess is not everyone is as picture-challenged as me, but if you are still struggling with that picture I suggest the following: http://www.picresize.com/

Great, you are now registered—honestly, I think that was the hardest part of the whole test ordeal—so congratulations. But lets not get too giddy yet, you still have a test to take. Although hitting the grammar books is unnecessary in my opinion, I would suggest you familiarize yourself with the test format. I found that the exam was similar to the SAT’s, so prepare accordingly. A quick Google search will yield a lot of resources, and although most are geared towards non-native speakers they are still useful. Although both my husband and I scored very well we did find the exam to be much trickier than we were expecting.

Once you take the exam, it will take about a month to get your scores, so be patient. To keep this post concise I won’t go into all the details of the exam, but look for a post on the exam experience in the blog section if you want to read more.

2. Getting an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA)

In order to get points for your education outside of Canada you will need to submit your transcripts to be evaluated by an approved third party. The good news is that American degrees get a full equivalency almost all the time.

CIC gives a list of seven organizations who are authorized to provide this service, I recommend you review the list to determine which will work best for you.  We used WES, since they were recommended by our attorneys based on their “fast” processing times (it took about 2 months to get our ECA reports) and hassle-free experience.

The cost was $200 CAD per packet per person. So I paid $200 to get my bachelor degree assessed, and my husband paid another $200 to get both his bachelor’s degree and his master’s degree assessed. As far as the process goes, all we had to do was to get our universities to send WES a copy of our transcripts.

If you want to learn more about WES, here is their link: http://www.wes.org/ca/eca/

Unfortunately I can’t speak for the other organizations, but if cost is an issue I know that some of the others did offer lower prices. If you have experience with other providers I would love to hear about your experience, so leave us comment.

3. FBI Report (strongly recommended)

You don’t need an FBI report to submit a profile, but you will need it once you go to apply for permanent residence with your ITA (invitation to apply). If you are a strong candidate (your score is higher than the lowest CRS score last invited) then you should request it now, because once you are selected you will only have 90 days to submit your application, and an FBI report can take up to 14 weeks.

We didn’t know this, of course, so we submitted our profile before requesting our rap sheets from the FBI. We received our ITA the following day after submitting our profile, so we had to really scramble to get our request out to the FBI that same day. At this point we need to submit our application by the end of May and we don’t know if we will get our rap sheets in time. In the case that we do not get the reports in time, our attorneys will submit a letter explaining our situation, along with proof that the request was sent to the FBI in a timely manner. CIC is aware that the FBI is very slow, so they will usually give some leniency. Still, I would suggest you play it safe and request it beforehand. I will report further on this issue if we do end up finding ourselves in that situation.

If you are a US citizen you might be able to expedite this process by using a “channeler”. However, if you are not a US citizen then you will have to mail your request directly to the FBI yourself and be subject to normal processing times.

For more information on obtaining an FBI report visit their website here: https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/identity-history-summary-checks

4. Valid passport

If you don’t have a passport, get one. If you already have a passport, take a minute to make sure it’s not expiring any time soon. If it is, make plans to get it renewed.

5. An updated Resume

You will need a resume in order to register for the job bank and activate your profile. Also, know that you will have to prove everything that’s on your resume at a later point of the process, so keep it conservative.

Submitting your Profile

Congratulations on getting all your documents together!  You are now ready to set up your profile. Thankfully, this part is pretty straight forward (and free), just follow the instructions and prompts.  Once you submit your profile you will receive a communication from CIC instructing you to register with the job bank within 30 days. This is extremely important because your profile will not be entered into the Express Entry Pool until you complete this step.

Once your Express Entry profile becomes active it will be valid for one full year. If you are fortunate enough to have a 430+ score you will most likely be selected on the next round. If your score is not quite there, then it may take a little longer. You will be happy to know that since the beginning of 2017, scores have been dropping almost every round. On the last round (April 19th, 2017) the lowest score accepted was 415–the lowest ever since the program began.

Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favor! Once you get your ITA, you are ready for Step 2.

UPDATE: It is now optional to create a job match account. But hey, why not just do it? It can’t hurt. 9/17/2017

UPDATE: There is now a quicker way to get the FBI report online, so no need to rush this step anymore. 5/7/2019