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Canada is a major immigration destination for many families from the Philippines.

More than half a million first-generation Filipino immigrants are currently living in Canada, with that number increasing each year. But, Canadian immigration options for Filipinos have changed dramatically over the past few years, following Canada’s introduction of the Express Entry immigration system in 2015.

Express Entry is a competitive points-based immigration system that ranks hopeful newcomers against one another, only inviting the most competitive to apply for Canadian permanent resident status. Some Filipinos have been struggling to succeed through Express Entry, with the number of Express Entry invitations issued to Filipino candidates declining annually from 3,500 in 2015 to only 900 in 2018.

In this article, we’re going to break down Express Entry immigration to Canada from the Philippines. You’ll learn why it has been challenging for Filipinos to succeed in Express Entry, and how to find out if you have a good chance of being one of the Filipinos who can make the cut for Express Entry, or if it might be smarter to consider another Canadian immigration pathway.

Express Entry: Why are Filipinos receiving fewer invitations?

In the first year of Express Entry, citizens of the Philippines received 3,500 invitations to apply. This number has decreased every year since, declining to only 909 in 2018 (this is the most recent year for which data is available).

Why is this happening?

Unfortunately, there is one significant disadvantage Filipinos face in the Express Entry system, and it has to do with education.

In order to succeed in Express Entry, candidates must have a competitive score in the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). The CRS score is a 1,200-point score made up of several different elements. In the history of Express Entry, the CRS score cut-off for all-program draws has never fallen below 413 points. Throughout 2019 and 2020, the cut-off has mostly hovered in the 460s and 470s. If you want to succeed in Express Entry, those are the scores you need to aim for.

A big factor in the CRS score is your level of education. There are 150 points up for grabs based on your level of education alone. Plus, under another component of the CRS score, called Skilled Transferability Factors, there are an additional 50 points available based on your education combined with your language abilities. Add that up and that’s 200 points that depend on your education.

So, why are Filipinos at a disadvantage when it comes to education?

Until 2012, the Philippines’ basic education system was 10 years in length. After completing the 10 years, a student received their high school diploma, which granted them access to college and university programs if they wished to pursue them. Unfortunately, this 10-year system has negative consequences in Express Entry.

To claim CRS points for your education in Express Entry, you must obtain an Educational Credential Assessment, or ECA (unless you completed your studies in Canada). An ECA evaluates the value of your education compared to Canadian education. Due to the fact that the Filipino basic education system was only 10 years in length and the Canadian education system is 12 years in length, it is very common for Filipino education to be valued as two years fewer than what the completed credential states.

For example, if you completed a four-year bachelor’s degree in the Philippines, but you obtained your high school diploma after only 10 years, your ECA report might subtract two years from your degree, stating that your education is equal to a Canadian “two-year college diploma”. This is because you will have completed 14 years of education total, whereas a Canadian bachelor’s degree would require 16 years of total education.

This discrepancy has a big impact on the CRS scores of many Express Entry candidates from the Philippines. It means you may be at a disadvantage compared to candidates from countries with 12-year basic education systems.

That being said, this is not the case for all Filipino candidates. Even if you went through the 10-year education system, your ECA report may still state that your Filipino education is exactly equal to Canadian education. The only way to know for sure is to apply for your ECA report.

Our advice: if you are from the Philippines and interested in Express Entry, one of the first things you should do is obtain your ECA report, as this will be vital in helping you understand your chances.

What changed in Filipino education in 2012 and how will that affect Filipinos who are interested in Express Entry?

In 2012, the Government of the Philippines started to introduce a 12-year education system across the country. This is a length equal to the Canadian system, so it should close the gap between educational equivalency between the Philippines and Canada. This should serve to make Filipinos more competitive in the Express Entry pool, as they will no longer be at a disadvantage due to their education.

Of course, this educational reform has taken effect gradually, and so it is likely that the Filipinos who will benefit from the reform will not yet be ready for Express Entry. However, in the coming years, as those Filipinos begin graduating from university programs and gaining the skilled work that is required for Express Entry, there is a strong possibility that we will see citizens of the Philippines make a comeback in their share of Express Entry invitations received.

Express Entry and the Philippines: Are Filipinos eligible for the Federal Skilled Worker program?

Express Entry manages applicants through three different immigration programs: the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program, the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), and the Federal Skilled Trades (FST) program.

The most common Express Entry option for people living in the Philippines is the Federal Skilled Worker program. This is because unless you have Canadian work experience or you have Canadian tradesperson qualifications, you cannot qualify for either of the other two programs.

FSW does not require any Canadian experience, nor a Canadian job offer, though either or both does help a candidate’s cause.FSW has some basic eligibility criteria you have to meet in order to be eligible. But! Please be aware that when it comes to Express Entry you should try to do better than the basic requirements. As we mentioned above, Express Entry is competitive, so the better your qualifications, the higher your chances of success.

These are the basic requirements for FSW:

  • At least one year of continuous full-time skilled work experience (or an equivalent amount in part-time experience);
  • Completion of high school education or above;
  • English or French language test scores at or above Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) of Level 7 (described as an intermediate language ability); and
  • Score 67 points or higher on the FSW points grid, outlined here:

Language abilities: Up to 24 points

Work experience: Up to 15 points

Age: Up to 12 points

Arranged employment: Up to 10 points

Adaptability factors: Up to 10 points

If you meet the minimum requirements for FSW, the next step is to find out how competitive you are. You can do this by estimating your Comprehensive Ranking System score (CRS score).

Filipino man with two children on a grassy lawn
Express Entry allows you to include your spouse or common-law partner and dependent children on your application.

Express Entry and the Philippines: CRS scores

So, you’re eligible for Express Entry, great! Now you have to determine an estimate of your CRS score. This will help you know your chances of success in Express Entry.

The 1,200-point CRS score is used to rank candidates against one another in the Express Entry pool. Approximately every two weeks, the Canadian government conducts an Express Entry draw, where invitations to apply (ITAs) are issued to the candidates in the pool with CRS scores above a certain cut-off number.

To find out your chances of success, start off by using the Government of Canada’s CRS calculator. This tool will give you an approximation of your CRS score, although your actual CRS score will be based on the documents and information you submit in your Express Entry profile.

Important note: As discussed in an earlier section of this guide, a huge component of your CRS score depends on your Educational Credential Assessment (ECA). If you completed your education in the Philippines under the 10-year basic education system, your ECA may value your education as two years fewer than what you’ve received. Be sure to take this into account when estimating your CRS score, and remember, the only way to know the value of your education in Express Entry is to get an ECA report.

Once you have your CRS score projection, you’ll have an idea of how competitive you are. Based on Express Entry statistics in late 2019 and early 2020, we recommend the following actions:

  • Score of 470 or higher: This is a high CRS score with a good chance of receiving an ITA.
  • Score of 450-469: This is a good CRS score. There is a possibility you may receive an ITA, but you should consider ways of improving your CRS score.
  • Score below 450 & CLB 9 achieved: Based on 2020 trends, this score is likely too low to receive an ITA. Consult our guide on how to improve your CRS score or consider an alternative immigration option.
  • Score below 450 & CLB 9 not achieved: Based on 2020 trends, this score is likely too low to receive an ITA, but you may be able to unlock more CRS points by scoring higher on your language test. Consult our guide on how to improve your CRS score to understand how retaking your language test could boost your CRS score.

If you’ve determined that Express Entry may be an option for you, it’s time to consider the documents you need to collect.


Express Entry and the Philippines: What score do you need on your English or French test?

Language tests are a mandatory part of the Express Entry process. Though you can prove proficiency in either English or French (or both, for bonus points!), most Filipinos choose to show proficiency in English, as it is one of the national languages of the Philippines.

Above, we mentioned that the minimum required English-language test scores for the Federal Skilled Worker program are the Canadian Language Benchmark of Level 7 (CLB 7). But! In the vast majority of cases, this is not enough to receive an ITA. To succeed in Express Entry you need a high CRS score. For most FSW candidates, the only way to achieve the CRS score required is to hit at least Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) of Level 9.

There are two approved language tests for testing English: the IELTS General Training and the CELPIP General Training. Both of these are available in the Philippines, although the CELPIP is currently only available in Manila, with the IELTS offered in more locations. To achieve CLB 9, you need the following scores:

Canadian Language Benchmark of Level 9 (CLB 9)
AbilityIELTS GeneralCELPIP GeneralPTE Core

It’s important to prepare for your language test, even if English is your first language or if you consider yourself fluent. If you don’t get the required score on your first attempt, you are allowed to reattempt the exam as many times as you’d like. Note, however, that you will need to achieve the results outlined above or better in a single sitting of the test. For example, it’s not possible to submit results for listening and speaking from a test taken on one date and results for reading and writing from a test taken on another date.

Express Entry and the Philippines: Age and work experience

There are a few other components of Express Entry to consider which will influence your CRS score.

Age: You get maximum points for age if you are between 20 and 29 years old. After you turn 30, you begin losing points for age. Sometimes those lost points can be enough to move you out of the competitive range.

Work experience: You maximize your CRS points for non-Canadian work experience at three years of full-time skilled work experience.

Express Entry and the Philippines: How much money do you need to show?

In order to be eligible for Express Entry, you need to show that you have enough money to support yourself and your family when you arrive in Canada. Refer to the following table to determine the amount required for you:

Number of family membersRequired funds (in CAD)
1 (single applicant)$13,757
For each additional family member, add$3,706

You must show these funds are in an account in your name (or the name of your spouse/partner) and that they are liquid and easily accessible.

Our #1 tip for Filipinos applying to Express Entry

Our biggest tip for Filipinos applying to Express Entry is to check your chances before you invest your time and money. To do this, we suggest you follow a four-step process at the beginning of your Express Entry journey.

  • Step One: Check your eligibility for an Express Entry-aligned program, like the Federal Skilled Worker program. You may not know your language test scores or the results of your ECA report, but you can read through the requirements and make a general assessment of your eligibility.
  • Step Two: Calculate an estimate of your CRS score. Using the Government of Canada’s CRS calculator, you can estimate your score. You’ll need to guess the results of your language test and the results of your ECA report, but this will give you an idea of the CRS score you might be able to achieve. If your score is below the CRS score cut-off for the most recent Express Entry draws, look into ways of improving your CRS score. You want to ensure that you have options before you pay for language tests, ECA reports, and put the time into building a profile.
  • Step Three: Get your Educational Credential Assessment (ECA), especially if you graduated high school under the 10-year education system. The results of your ECA report have a major impact on your CRS score, so this is a smart place to begin.
  • Step Four: Sit your language test. After you have your ECA report and you’ve determined that your results could give you a high CRS score, at this time you need to get your language test results in order to build your Express Entry profile. You can actually do this at the same time as your ECA, but if it turns out that your ECA results are lower than expected, then you may have wasted money on sitting your language test.

Once you’ve completed these four steps, you’ll be ready to submit your profile to the Express Entry pool. Hopefully, these steps will ensure that you have adequately prepared for the pool and that, if you choose to enter, you have a decent chance of receiving an Invitation to Apply (ITA).

For even more information about Express Entry, sign up for our Express Entry Roadmap. This is a free email-education service we designed to teach you about Express Entry. You’ll receive seven lessons by email over the course of one week, covering the most important topics in Express Entry.

Citation "Express Entry immigration to Canada from the Philippines." Moving2Canada. . Copy for Citation

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Rebecca Major

Operations Manager
Rebecca Major is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (R511564) with nearly 15 years of experience and a strong legal background. She specializes in Canadian immigration at Moving2Canada.
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