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Canada uses category-based Express Entry draws to invite candidates whose profiles match with the country's economic goals.

In category-based Express Entry draws, Canada invites candidates who are eligible for a specific category, which may relate to any of the following factors:

  • official language ability
  • work experience
  • education

Category-based Express Entry rounds are held in addition to general and program-specific draws.

To be eligible for an invitation through a category-based Express Entry draw, you must meet all of the requirements in the instructions for that round.

When Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) holds a category-based round of invitations, it will rank candidates in the pool who meet the category requirements and invite the top candidates to apply for permanent residence.

IRCC will provide full eligibility details in the instructions for each round.

Keep in mind, you must first be eligible for an Express Entry-managed program in order to be invited in a category-based Express Entry draw. That means you must meet all eligibility criteria for the Canadian Experience Class, Federal Skilled Worker Program, or Federal Skilled Trades Program.

How many Express Entry categories are there?

Canada may change the Express Entry categories as the labour market needs fluctuate. In 2024, there are six categories, one for language and five for occupation.

These are the Express Entry categories for this year. Click to learn more about the eligibility criteria for each:

French-language proficiency

Healthcare occupations

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) occupations

Trade occupations

Transport occupations

Agriculture and agri-food occupations

How Canada chooses categories

IRCC chooses categories for targeted Express Entry draws based on the following factors:

  • labour market information and projections
  • input we received from our partners, including provinces and territories, and stakeholders across the country

Each year, IRCC reports to Parliament on the categories chosen for the previous year, including why and how they were chosen, the instructions to establish a category, and the number of invitations issued for each.

Canada will also include information about category-based Express Entry draws in the annual Express Entry Year-End Report.

In order to remain flexible to the labour market, IRCC will also monitor and assess categories on a regular basis.

If you’re interested in moving to Canada but not sure which program you may be eligible for, check your eligibility for more than 20 different Canadian immigration programs by taking Moving2Canada’s free Canada Immigration Quiz.

Category-based Express Entry Draw History

The following tables show the draw histories of category-based Express Entry draws.






Agriculture and Agrifood

Who is eligible to receive an ITA through a category- based draw?

Any applicant who has at least  6 months of work experience in the last 3 years in a targeted occupation or those who are able to demonstrate CLB level 7 in French can be selected though a category- based draw.

Is the CRS score still important in category- based draws?

Yes, the CRS score is still important, however it is not the only factor that is taken into consideration. The CRS cut off score is generally lower than that in all-program draws however the CRS score needed to be successful in category-based draws is still high. For this reason, applicants should try and improve their CRS score wherever possible.

What should applicants do if their occupation is not targeted?

Applicants with work experience in an occupation which is not currently being targeted should still enter the Express Entry pool if they are eligible. Provincial nominee programs are still using the Express Entry pool to source applicants and IRCC as still conducting all- program draws from the pool.

Will there still be all-program/ general draws?

Yes, IRCC have confirmed that they will still hold all-program/ general draws. In fact, since the introduction of category- based draws IRCC have almost held an equal number of all-program and category-based draws.

From an internal IRCC memo, it can be concluded that 21.5% of ITA’s issued in 2024 will be issued as part of all-program/ general draws.

How can you increase your chances of being selected in a category- based draw?

If an applicant has a targeted work experience of the required level of French,  in order to increase their chances of receiving an ITA, they should focus on increasing their CRS score. The CRS cut off for category-based draws is generally lower than all-program draws however is still very competitive.

Will the occupations targeted change?

Yes. It is likely that these categories will be reassessed in 2024 and may be update to reflect the country’s new labour needs.

How often will IRCC conduct category- based draws?

IRCC have not committed to a frequency of category-based draws. Historically, IRCC have conducted Express Entry draws every 2 weeks however since the introduction of category-based draws, Express Entry draws have been more sporadic and much less predictable.

Irrespective of their frequency, according to an internal IRCC memo, in 2024, priority will be given to the French proficiency category applicants who will receive 30% of ITAS, 25% will go to STEM occupations and 15% will go to Healthcare occupations. The remaining 30% will be divided between Trade occupations (5%), Transportation occupations (3%), Agricutural and Agri-food occupations (0.5%) and General draws (IRCC has not committed to a target for general draws the remaining 21.5% will likely go towards general draws).



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Rebecca Major

Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant
Rebecca Major is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (R511564) with nearly 15 years of licenced Canadian Immigration experience, gained after graduating with a Bachelor of Laws in the UK. She specializes in Canadian immigration at Moving2Canada.
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Citation "What Are Category-Based Express Entry Draws?." Moving2Canada. . Copy for Citation