How the Express Entry Invitation System Works

So, you’ve taken your language test and received the results of your Educational Credential Assessment (ECA). You eagerly register your Expression of Interest in the Express Entry system hoping to get an invitation to apply for permanent residency, and are given your Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score. What happens next? Well, this depends on your score and a few other things.


First comes eligibility. In order to successfully register a valid Express Entry profile, you must be eligible for at least one of the programs under Express Entry, namely:

  • Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) Program,
  • Canadian Experience Class (CEC) Program, and/or
  • Federal Skilled Trades (FST) Program.

The Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) also has several pathways that work together with the Express Entry system, but note that you must already be eligible for one of the three primary programs mentioned above to be invited in Express Entry.

If you try to register a profile and you are not eligible, your profile will come back showing “0” CRS points. If you are certain you are eligible, this could be quite surprising and frustrating to see! But, consider some common issues that can cause your profile to be rejected as ineligible:

  • Using expired documents. Remember – language test results are valid for two years, and ECAs are valid for five.
  • Not having at least 67 out of 100 points in the FSW eligibility points grid.
    • Not having at least one full-time year of skilled, continuous work experience to be eligible under FSW.
    • Not having at least one full-time year of skilled work experience in Canada within the last three years to be eligible under CEC.

    As mentioned, one must be eligible for “at least” one program to be invited under Express Entry. This is because it is possible to be eligible for – and invited under, more than one program at the same time. In theory, one could be eligible for all four pathways (FSW, FST, CEC, and PNP) at the same time. But it’s important to note that you cannot directly choose which program you want to apply for. This became an issue for some candidates who were invited under the surprising FSW-only draw earlier this year on February 2, 2023. As this was the first time in Express Entry’s history that an FSW-only draw occurred, candidates understandably did not expect this draw. As such, for those who were eligible under both FSW and CEC, candidates had expected that they would apply for CEC when a “no program specified” draw occurred, where they would not have to show proof of settlement funds as CEC applicants. However, the FSW-only draw necessarily required all applicants to show proof of funds as required (unless exempt), and those who could not do so needed to reject the invitation. This is one reason why it is very important to keep your Express Entry profile up to date and accurate – even if you have the required settlement funds at the time you register your profile, if you no longer have the funds, then you are no longer eligible under FSW (unless you meet one of the specific exemptions to showing the funds).

    I won’t go into further details here of the eligibility requirements for each program under Express Entry, but let’s move onto a detailed explanation of how the invitation system works.

    Understanding Your Score

    After you register your profile, you are given a CRS score which is automatically calculated in the Express Entry system. The score is based entirely on the information you provided when registering your profile, so in a sense you create your own score. Therefore, it is important to make sure all the information you entered is correct so your score will be accurate. If you were invited to apply but couldn’t support the score you were given with documentary evidence, your application may be refused.

    IRCC provides the CRS points calculator as well as a webpage with a detailed breakdown of how CRS points are allocated for your reference.

    How the Invitation Score is Determined

    Now we get to the bread and butter of the article – how the invitation score is determined. First and foremost, I have to say one thing about the invitation scores:

    The invitation scores are not random, and invitations are not based on a lottery system.

    This bears saying because it seems to be a common misconception among candidates. Certainly when looking at the history of invitation draws, the invitation scores seem random. But, there is actually a calculated reason for this. Before each draw, IRCC determines two things:

    1. The program they want to invite candidates under, and
    2. The total number of candidates they want to invite in that draw

    Then, based on these criteria, the invitation score – including the tie-breaking rule cut-off score, is generated. If a candidate under the program invited has a score that or exceeds the invitation score, they will be invited to apply.

    Let’s look at a concrete example. In the previously-mentioned FSW-only draw from February 2, 2023 (draw #240), 3,300 invitations were issued. This means that IRCC determined that they wanted to invite 3,300 candidates, and that those candidates must have been eligible under the Federal Skilled Worker program. Based on that, the top 3,300 FSW-eligible candidates with the highest CRS scores were automatically invited to apply, and the 3,300th candidate had 489 points. The tie-breaking rule was March 29, 2022 at 16:09 UTC, meaning anyone with a score of 489 points who registered their profile before that date was invited.

    To summarize how invitation draw scores are determined and to put it simply in other words, the number of candidates IRCC wishes to invite each draw determines the invitation score and not the other way around.

    How the Number of Invitees is Determined

    So, we know how the invitation scores are determined, but how are the number of invitees determined by IRCC? For this, we can look to IRCC’s published targets for immigration each year and compare those against the number of candidates who have already been invited to estimate how many more may be invited throughout the year. This won’t allow us to determine the specific invitation score or the program that will be invited, but it can at least give us an idea of how many total invitations may be issued by year-end. IRCC makes the annual targets public, and we can see here that the target number of permanent resident admissions through “Federal High Skilled” which includes FSW, CEC, and FST is 82,880 for 2023. Using this, combined with the knowledge that 21,309 candidates have been invited in Express Entry since January 1, 2023, we could generally estimate that IRCC may invite approximately 61,491 more candidates through Express Entry by December 31, 2023. Incidentally, if we divide the target into quarters, we can see that with an estimated quarterly invitation average of 20,700, IRCC has actually already surpassed the anticipated number for quarter 1 of this year (until March 31, 2023) by 609.

    It may be noteworthy to mention also that the number of candidates in the Express Entry pool are always in fluctuation; candidate profiles expire, and new candidates register profiles. So, it’s virtually impossible to determine the specific invitation score, even if one could determine approximately how many candidates IRCC should be “on pace” to invite in a coming draw. As such, it pays to take the advice of immigration professionals or Express Entry candidates alike with a grain of salt if they purport to “know” what the next invitation score will be. All anyone can do is speculate and create an educated guess based on past invitations and future immigration targets.

    In addition to this, the anticipated implementation of Bill C-19 to allow the Minister to invite targeted “groups” of Express Entry candidates any day now will likely affect the invitation scores in future draws. However, all one can do is “adapt to survive”, and try to safeguard themselves by increasing their CRS score as high as they can to give themselves a better chance to be invited in the future. If you need consultation on how best to prepare yourself for future draws, feel free to reach out for a consultation.