The Canadian experience class (CEC) is an immigration program that enables people who have worked in Canada for a minimum of one year to immigrate permanently.
The government of Canada acknowledges the deep pool of talented workers already operating in Canada, and wants them to become permanent residents. These are individuals and families who have set down roots and created plans for the future in Canada.
Prior to 2015, Canadian experience class applications were managed on a first-come, first-served basis. Since 2015, however, Canadian experience class applications are processed under the express Entry immigration selection system.
What is Express Entry?
Express Entry allows Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to invite eligible candidates to make an application for permanent residence.
These candidates have all made a formal ‘Expression of Interest’ in settling in Canada. They create an online Express Entry profile and enter the pool, where they are given a score and ranked under the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) based on the personal information they provided.
In addition to the Canadian Experience Class, the pool contains candidates under the Federal Skilled Worker Class (FSWC) and Federal Skilled Trades Class (FSTC). IRCC then invites candidates to apply during its Express Entry draws from the pool.
CEC Canada advantages
For Canadian Experience Class candidates there are three distinct advantages, and one possible disadvantage, under Express Entry.
- Canadian Experience Class candidates have built up at least one year of Canadian work experience. This is a highly-valued factor under the CRS, and, as such, gives these applicants something of a “head start” against other candidates in the pool.
- Because the required documentation is minimal, Canadian Experience Class applications are processed quickly, often within three to four months.
- Applicants under the Canadian Experience Class are not required to show proof of settlement funds, as FSWC and FSTC candidates are.
- Even if you are eligible to apply under the Canadian Experience Class, there is no guarantee that you will be invited to do so. There are steps you may take to improve your chances of receiving an Invitation to Apply (ITA). More on that below.
But first, let’s look at the eligibility requirements, because it is not merely enough to have accrued a year of work experience in Canada.
Canadian Experience Class eligibility criteria
CEC applicants must:
- Have at least 12 months of full-time (or an equivalent in part-time) skilled work experience in Canada within the last three years. This experience must have been while on a valid work permit and needs to be in an occupation classified as skill type 0, A or B under the National Occupational Classification (NOC);
- Plan on living outside the province of Quebec; and
- Meet the required language levels needed for your job for each language ability (speaking, reading, listening, and writing). These levels are outlined in the table below.
|NOC skill level||Minimum level for all four language abilities|
|NOC 0 or A||CLB 7|
|NOC B||CLB 5|
The Canadian Experience Class process
Let’s look at the process — from getting to Canada as a worker, to getting your Permanent Resident (PR) card.
Step 1. Obtain a Canadian work permit.
Having the right to work in Canada is an important prerequisite under this program. For some people, such as those eligible under the International Experience Canada (IEC) program or the spouse/common-law partner of a foreign worker in Canada, an open work permit may be an option. For others, an employer-specific (‘closed’) work permit may be issued. Examples of closed work permits include those issued with a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) and Intra-Company transfers.
Step 2: Complete a year of work in Canada
Eleven-and-a-half months will not be enough — you need at least a year of work experience (or more, if part-time) in order to be eligible under the Canadian Experience Class.
Step 3: Ensure you meet other eligibility criteria
Get your language test done. For English, candidates may take the IELTS or CELPIP test. For French, the TEF is the only recognized test. Candidates with some ability in English and French can be awarded additional points for ability in their second language.
Step 4: Create an Express Entry profile
This step is completed on the IRCC website. You will be asked to provide some personal information, some of which is self-declared (such as your work history), and some of which must be accompanied with documentation (such as your proof of language ability).
Step 5: Improve your profile and ranking under the CRS
Some Canadian Experience Class candidates never receive an invitation to apply because they haven’t taken the additional step of providing proof of their level of education. Whereas federal skilled worker candidates are required to prove their education under the criteria of those programs, Canadian Experience Class candidates do not have to provide this.
However, by not doing so they may be leaving up to 250 CRS points behind — up to 150 points for the education level itself, plus up to 100 points in combination with Canadian work experience and/or language ability.
Candidates who completed their studies outside Canada may be awarded these points by obtaining an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA). Canadian Experience Class candidates should get an ECA or upload proof of their Canadian education experience in order to maximize their chances of being invited to apply for permanent residence.
There are other potential ways to improve your ranking, such as completing additional work experience or seeing if you are eligible under one of the Express Entry-aligned Provincial Nominee Program streams, particularly those in the province in which you work(ed). Your experience and skills may be in demand in the province, and so there could be a 600-point bonus waiting for you.
Step 6: Receive an invitation to apply
This is arguably the step that brings the most joy, as it allows you and your family, if applicable, to submit an application for permanent residence. From this point, you will have 60 days to submit a complete application. If your work permit is about to expire within the next four months, you may also apply for a Bridging Open Work Permit so that you may continue working throughout the rest of the process. ITAs are issued when IRCC conducts one of its draws from the Express Entry pool.
Step 7: Complete a medical, provide security background checks, and submit an e-application
All applicants are screened for potential medical and criminal inadmissibility. With your application, you will need to show that you have completed a medical with a IRCC-recognized panel physician.
In addition, you have to provide a police background check (also known as a clearance certificate) from each country you have lived in for at least six months since the age of 18. The e-application, which must be submitted within 90 days of receiving an ITA, must also include detailed work reference letters from previous employers.
Given the tight timeframe, it is a good idea to gather the background checks and work reference letters before you receive an ITA.
Step 8: Your e-application is reviewed
A Canadian immigration officer will review the submitted e-application and let you know if anything else is required.
Step 9: Receive confirmation of permanent resident status and complete your landing
Applications under the Canadian Experience Class are typically processed in around four months. When a person is approved, he or she receives a confirmation of permanent residence (COPR) document. An officer at a Canadian port of entry or at a IRCC office signs and dates this document when permanent residence is granted.
Step 10: Get your PR card
Once you have your confirmation of status, you may then apply for your PR card. If you travel outside Canada, you may use this card as proof of your status in Canada.