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I’m scoring low on my CRS score, what are my options?

So you don’t think you have the points needed to receive an invitation to apply for Permanent Residence under the Express Entry system. Let’s see about that as we want to make sure that you have not left “Points on the Table” or if there are some “Low Lying Points that can be Picked”. The purpose of this article is to explore some of the different ways that you can pick up points or where you may have missed in your calculations.
As we have discussed in our other Express Entry content (Canada Express Entry Overview & Strategy), if you meet the minimum eligibility criteria and create your online profile, you are allocated points under the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) based on a number of criteria. These include: Age, Education, Work Experience, Job Offer, Language Skills, and Adaptability. You can also get points if you receive a Provincial Nomination. 

Once you are in the pool, the Express Entry System will use the comprehensive ranking system to automatically calculate your CRS score and rank you within the pool of candidates at the time of an invitation. The minimal CRS score at each draw is made public and you can see the drawings and the history of the draws easily online (Express Entry Rounds of Invitations). If you think you don’t have the points to either create a profile or qualify to receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) after you have created your online profile, there are things that you may be able to do to increase your CRS points. 

Of course, there is nothing that you can do about changing your points based on your age as after 29 years of age you will progressively lose points until the age of 45 where no further points are allocated.

But for the other selection criteria, there are usually some options to increase these points. You will get more points the younger you are, the higher your level of education (and whether you have a degree from a Canadian post-secondary institution), the greater the amount of skilled work experience you have both abroad and in Canada, the higher your English or French language scores are, and if you have a close relative already in Canada. This last category is to evaluate your adaptability to life in Canada and to see if you already have a close relative living here. 


Gaining more education can increase your CRS score quite substantially if you are strategic about it. You will increase your core scores for education and increase your skills transferability scores! Although completing another education program in Canada may take a year or two, it is worth having the extra points for post-secondary education in Canada. Depending on your age, the years of school can affect your age points, you are getting older so it is essential to plan properly.

Let’s expand on that example further. If you are 25 years old and go back to school for a two-year program, your points for age will not be affected. But, for example, if you are 34 and go back to school for a two-year program, your points for age will decrease. Although your points for age are slightly decreasing, the points you will get for going back to school outweigh the points lost for age. If you are losing approximately 10 points due to your age but could potentially gain 40 points for 1 year of Canadian work experience and an additionally 15 points for having a 1-2 year Canadian education credential, then you can make that can see how that would be beneficial to you and your scoring.

In another scenario, if you are already a temporary foreign worker in Canada, you may be eligible to return to school and apply for a study permit from within Canada, if improving your education can increase your points. You can increase your score by obtaining a second credential.

For example, you are single and here as a temporary worker and your highest level of education is a High School Diploma. Your CRS score for education is 30 points. If you went back to school to complete a one-year post-secondary certificate or a two-year diploma, you would increase your education points by 60-68 points to a total of 90 or 98 points, respectively. That is a significant increase in points.

Should you decide to pursue a Bachelors’ degree program of three years or longer you would receive a total of 120 points. On top of this, you will also receive another 15 to 30 points for obtaining a post-secondary degree in Canada, depending on the length of your study program. Back to your example. You are single and temporary worker in Canada with a High School diploma. Your current education point total is 30. You decide to go back to school, obtain a Study Permit, and complete a one-year post-secondary program in Canada. By doing this you will increase your points from 30 to 75!

Work Experience

For every year that you work full-time in Canada, you will receive additional points for work experience to a maximum of 80 points. If you came to Canada with three years of foreign work experience, you can further increase your score by 50 points.

If you are outside of Canada looking to increase your CRS scores, you should keep working to ensure you have the three years of foreign work experience. Having three or more years of foreign work experience can increase your points in the skills transferability category, by combining foreign work experience with Canadian work experience and language ability.

Canadian Job Offer

Obtaining a job offer can be an important factor in your CRS score. Obtaining a job offer outside of Canada can be difficult, and not something that you should really spend a lot of time on unless you are specialized and in demand. While it can be challenging it is possible. You should note that a Canadian job offer has several requirements to be considered valid and many different factors that are fluid and can change quite a bit.

If your work permit was based on an approved LMIA, you will also increase your score with points allocated because you had a job offer.

What is important to remember is that a valid job offer, or arranged employment gives you 50 extra points or more depending on the skill level. Depending on the program you are applying under, your offer of employment may have to be within a certain skill level as determined by the government. Generally, these are referred to as skill level NOC 0, A, or B jobs. A NOC 00 job offer, which is mostly senior managerial positions, can land you an extra 200 points.

By gaining more Canadian work experience or receiving an offer of employment, you can increase your CRS score and this can make the difference in a lot of applications, especially if you are older and working at a senior level.

Language Ability

Everyone interested in applying for permanent residence through the Express Entry system must take an English and/or French language proficiency test through a designated testing organization. If you took a designated test in the past, you should know that it is valid for only two years. So, if it has expired at the time that you create your profile, or it will expire during the time that you have a valid profile online, you will have to retake your test. You can also retake the test at any time if you need to improve your scores to meet minimal eligibility requirements. More importantly, if your test scores can be improved, you should redo your language test. 

Minimal language scores differ based on the type of program you wish to apply for permanent residence under. For example, the minimum score for trades workers is lower than that of applying as skilled workers, or those applying through the Canadian Experience Class or some provincial nomination programs. The gist of this is that the higher your language score, the more points you will receive. For example, if you are a skilled tradesperson and you achieved the minimal language test score you would receive a total of 24 CRS points. Retaking your language test and achieving the highest possible test score (through hard work and studying of course!), would increase your score by 112 points!

Higher scores for your language tests can also be used in combination with your education level and work experience to increase your total score even more. You can also decide to improve your language skills and be tested in both of Canada’s official languages and increase your score even more. A single candidate with proficiency in both English and French can obtain up to 260 points toward their CRS score!

Provincial Nomination

Provincial Nominee Programs (or PNPs) are a way for the provinces and territories to identify their labour needs and offer programs to attract immigrants to settle there to address their economic shortfalls. Receiving a nomination from one of the provinces will add an additional 600 points to your overall CRS, effectively securing you an ITA.

Provincial Nominee Programs are like “lotteries.” When you submit your Express Entry profile and are put into the pool of candidates, the province or territory will search through the pool to find a candidate to nominate (generally speaking as there are other avenues directly through the province). It is generally not a good strategy to think that an application to a PNP program is the best way to proceed due to the lower spots that are available and also the number of people who are vying for those coveted spots. Under Express Entry if a province or territory wants to send you a notification of interest, then they will. If they do not, then you should continue with your Express Entry application and wait for an ITA for permanent residency. 

Does my partner improve or hurt my CRS score?

Sometimes, when calculating your CRS score, including your partner on your application can bring down your points slightly. Single applicants typically have higher points than applicants with partners, but, partners can also bring points to the table. There is a spouse/partner category on the CRS calculator, where your partner can account for up to 40 points, depending on education and language ability.

If including your partner on your application seems to be hurting your score, don’t worry, you won’t have to leave them at home! There is always another option. If you find yourself in this situation, perhaps look into applying as a single applicant, and then sponsoring your partner once you are a permanent resident. Although in most cases, applying as single vs. accompanying only changes the points slightly, some situations show it is the difference between meeting that minimum score for an invitation. This involves a lot of strategy and can be looked at purposefully so as to give you an edge up in the points which can make all the difference of you being able to come to Canada as a Permanent Resident or not. 

You should also do calculations for CRS scores for both you and your partner. Many times people have blinders on when the answer could be as simple as saying maybe I will let me spouse be the applicant as they have a stronger chance of coming to Canada. You may be surprised that your partner has a higher CRS score than you! Calculating points for the factors of age, education, language ability, work experience, and adaptability, for you and your partner may increase the chances of a higher CRS score.

For example, you are looking to be the principal applicant for an Express Entry FSW application, and your wife is planning to accompany you. You are 33, have many years of work experience in your home country, CLB 9 for language scores, and a bachelor’s degree. On the other hand, your wife has the same education, work experience, and language scores, but she is 29. So, who should be the principal applicant?

Well, as discussed earlier, the younger the applicant, the better. This couple should consider the wife as the principal applicant, as she gets full points for age, while her husband does not. Although they will get the same points for all other categories, age is an important one and could be the deciding factor on whether the couple gets an ITA or not. So, while looking into your CRS scores, it is important to consider all options, including the various options with your spouse/partner. 


As you can see there are many factors that impact upon the points and it takes a great deal of planning and strategy for some to be able to work their way through the system with higher point allocations. Empowering and educating yourself on these scenarios and having some expertise is not a bad thing as it may be entirely possible that you are not fully aware of a strategy that could make all the difference of you and your family finding a safe a secure home here in Canada.

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