The recently published Express Entry Year-End Report for 2020 revealed that Express Entry processing times increased in 2020 to nine months, on average. 

The report, which was published in late 2021, only covers the year 2020. It remains unknown how Express Entry processing times have changed in 2021, although Canada’s pandemic-related backlog of 1.8 million immigration applications indicates that processing times may have slowed even further in 2021. 

How long does it take to process an Express Entry application?

This table displays the amount of time it takes Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to process 80 percent of applications submitted per program.

Immigration Category201820192020
Canadian Experience Class 578
Federal Skilled Worker6912
Provincial Nominees6911
Federal Skilled Trades71216
All Programs (average)589

Canada has a target for Express Entry processing times, to process 80 percent of applications in six months or less. This target was missed in both 2019 and 2020, with the ongoing impacts of the pandemic likely resulting in this target being missed once again in 2021.

With ongoing impacts of the pandemic still felt at Canada’s borders and in Canadian immigration policy, it remains unclear when or how Canada will be able to reduce Express Entry processing times to their six month target. 

Despite the delays in Express Entry processing times, the Express Entry system remains the permanent residence pathway with the fastest average processing time. For example, provincial nominees applying through Express Entry have their applications processed in an average of 11 months, while those applying outside Express Entry have average processing times between 15 and 19 months. Spouses applying for permanent residence through family sponsorship have an average processing time of 12 months.

How does the timeline for Express Entry work?

The time it takes for IRCC to process an Express Entry application is only one part of the Express Entry process. Those hoping to apply through Express Entry should consider the entire process when calculating a timeline. 

The Express Entry application process can be broken down into four major steps:

Step 1 – Create an Express Entry profile

The first step for Express Entry is creating an Express Entry profile. This takes time, as there are certain required documents, like language test results and Educational Credential Assessments (for candidates who completed education outside Canada).

Step 2 – Receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA)

Once a candidate submits their Express Entry profile, they will receive their Comprehensive Ranking System Score (CRS score). The CRS score determines where a candidate ranks in relation to all the other candidates in the Express Entry pool. 

Every few weeks, Canada conducts an Express Entry draw where the system issues Invitations to Apply (ITA) to candidates in the pool with competitive profiles. Candidates with highly competitive profiles may only have to wait a few weeks to receive an invitation, while candidates with lower CRS scores may never receive an ITA.

Notably, throughout 2021, Express Entry draws have been restricted exclusively to candidates with provincial nominations and those in the Canadian Experience Class (CEC). It’s unclear when candidates from the Federal Skilled Worker and Federal Skilled Trades programs will be considered once again. 

Step 3 – Submit an electronic Application for Permanent Residence (eAPR)

After receiving an ITA, a candidate is given 60 days to submit a completed electronic application for permanent residence (eAPR). This is a lengthy and complex application including extensive personal information and supporting documentation, including work reference letters, educational transcripts, police certificates, medical examination results, and more. 

Once the eAPR has been submitted, then the application is submitted to IRCC for processing. This is when IRCC starts counting its Express Entry processing times.

Step 4 – Receive a Confirmation of Permanent Residence (CoPR)

Once an application has been processed and approved, an applicant receives a Confirmation of Permanent Residence (CoPR). This document enables the applicant to activate their permanent resident status in Canada. According to the 2020 Express Entry Year-End Report, this is the step that took an average of nine months for applications submitted in 2020. 

Be sure to account for all four steps when planning your Express Entry process. 

For assistance with your Express Entry PR application, we suggest booking a consultation with one of our recommended Canadian immigration consultants.