It’s quite a process to gather all the required documents for Express Entry, but if you make your list and work through it methodically, it’s really not too bad. Things that are likely to take the longest are your documents from Home Affairs, as the wait times for these can sometimes stretch into months. Waiting times for IELTS tests and ECA reports can also drag on for weeks.
To give you an idea of how long this can all take –> From the point that we decided to emigrate to Canada and started to gather our documents (including waiting for documents from Home Affairs, writing IELTS, getting ECAs etc.) to submitting our application after receiving an ITA took six months.
While each application is unique and may have different requirements, below is a general list of information and documents you’ll need to start gathering for an Express Entry application.*
[*Please note that the below is based on my own experiences of our Express Entry application (Federal Skilled Worker, straight EE, no provincial nomination, family sponsorship or job offer) and your first point of call for information and the documents required for Express Entry or any other visas for Canada should always be the IRCC website. Procedures and requirements for Express Entry and immigration to Canada can change frequently, and may have changed since this post was written, so it’s best to always consult the official website for the latest information.*]
If you have minor children accompanying you then you’ll need their birth certificates to prove the relationship.
It’s also a good idea to get hold of your own unabridged birth certificates as you never know when you may need these further down the line and it’s always good to have these on file. It will certainly be easier to get them while you’re still in your home country than trying to sort out on the other side of the globe.
[Our unabridged birth certificates took about two and a half weeks to arrive – so really not too bad.]
If you’re married, you’ll need to provide your marriage certificate to prove the relationship – there is much debate about whether this should be the original hand written one or the unabridged certificate. I reckon if you have both, then submit both. The marriage certificate can also be used to prove the wife’s legal change of name if she took her husband’s surname.
There are other requirements if applying as part of a common law partnership. You’ll need to provide a Statutory Declaration of Common-Law Union form. And there may also be other requirements to prove the relationship.
[Getting our unabridged marriage certificate was probably one of the most frustrating aspects of the document gathering phase – after numerous calls and emails to Home Affairs, we finally received it after six months of waiting.]
Copies of passports
You need to provide copies of the biographic pages of your passport as well as all pages that have a visa or stamps. This is for each person in the application.
Travel history for the last ten years or since you were 18 (whichever is sooner)
This can be quite a mission to figure out all your and your partner’s international travel dates from the last ten years, especially if you have an extensive international travel history. You’ll need to sit with your calendar and passports and work through them carefully to note the dates you left and arrived and the purpose of the trip.
Residential addresses for the last ten years or since you were 18 (whichever is sooner)
You’ll need to list all your residential addresses for the last ten years or since you were 18 – whichever is sooner. There is no need to have proof of these, but try to be as accurate as possible and don’t leave any gaps.
You’ll need to provide a list of your personal history/primary activities over the last ten years – so this would be a list of what you were doing such as working full time, studying, unemployed, on a maternity break etc. Don’t leave any gaps and try to explain as accurately as possible what you have been doing.
Educational Credential Assessment (ECA)
This is a very important document and it’s not possible to create your EE profile without it if you’re wanting to claim points for your and your partner’s education. You will need to get your academic transcripts and copies of your certificates directly from your university and these need to be in a sealed and stamped envelope.
You’ll earn EE points for your highest qualification, but if you have a few degrees, send them all to be assessed as it doesn’t cost any extra to have a few qualifications assessed in one report and you never know when it may make a difference for the points you’re claiming e.g. if someone has a Bachelor’s degree and an Honours degree, they may be able to claim for two or more qualifications, depending on what they studied and what their ECA says, and this may earn more points.
There are a number of organisations that are able to do the ECA and you can find a list here.
[We used World Education Services (WES) and received our ECAs within about six weeks.]
The IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is a means of proving your English language proficiency and is another crucial and required document needed to create your EE profile. IELTS consists of four components: writing, reading, speaking and listening and in order to gain the maximum points for immigration to Canada you need to score a CLB of 10 or more. This is not always easy and IELTS requires a lot of preparation, especially to become familiar with the format and what is expected. Don’t just assume that if you can speak and understand English that you’re going to ace the test. You need to be prepared.
If you’re already in Canada, another option for proving English language proficiency is the CELPIP (Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program) test – unfortunately this is not offered in South Africa, so IELTS is the only option at this point in time.
[The wait for an available spot to write the test can be long, with some test venues having about a three-month wait time. Once you write the test, it takes about two weeks to receive your results. The computer-based tests that have recently been introduced offer a much shorter wait time.]
Reference letters from your employer
You’ll need to provide reference letters from your current and past employers to prove your work experience. This needs to be written by your immediate manager or HR manager. The reference letter is one of the most important documents of your application as it will prove that you have the relevant work experience related to the NOC code that you’re claiming experience under. In order to score the maximum points for Express Entry you need to prove that you have at least three years of relevant work experience under your NOC, and this has to have been within the last ten years.
The letter needs to be on a company letterhead and signed by the applicant’s immediate supervisor or HR manager. The information that needs to be on this document includes: the date, company address and telephone number, your title, date started and finished at the company, salary, hours, and, most importantly, a list of your duties performed in line with your NOC.
The accompanying spouse only needs to provide these if they are claiming Canadian work experience.
Proof of funds
As part of the EE application you need to prove that you have enough settlement funds as per the funds requirements. This is basically to prove that you have enough money to support your family for the first few months after arriving in Canada without being a burden on the state. In order to prove this, you need to show bank statements for the past six months and need to provide a letter from your bank to confirm all your accounts.
If you’ve had any recent large deposits into your account, you’ll need to provide supporting documents to show where the money came from e.g. salary slips to show a bonus, proceeds of the sale of a house or car, investment pay-outs etc. The IRCC basically wants to see that the money is in fact yours and you haven’t borrowed it. It’s possible for a couple applying together to show the funds in a joint account – in our case I was the main applicant but our funds were all held in my husband’s account, so we got letters from the bank to explain that I had full access and signing power over his accounts. Some people have used their pensions as proof of funds, so if this is a route you are wanting to take, it’s best to read more on the IRCC website.
You’ll need to maintain the sufficient funds until the time you enter Canada as you may be requested to show your proof of funds upon arrival in the country.
[It can be a frustrating exercise to deal with the bureaucracy of the bank. After a few days of back and forth emails and phone calls, I eventually went into the bank branch personally and managed to sort it all out.]
You’ll need a police clearance certificate from your current country of residence and every country you’ve lived in for longer than six months in the last ten years, or since you were 18. If you’ve lived in many places this can be quite a mission, so try to get this sorted as soon as possible, but bear in mind that the police certificate for your current country of residence is only valid for six months, so it needs to be valid within this time period when you officially submit your application. Find more info on the requirements for the police clearance here.
[Our police certificates took about two weeks to arrive, but with the new system introduced in South Africa where you can no longer use your own courier to deliver the application to Pretoria, many people are now waiting for about six weeks or longer.]
When submitting your EE application, you’ll need to provide a medical report for every member of the family in the application, including the minor children. The medicals can only be done by a panel physician registered with the IRCC. You can find a list of panel physicians in your area here.
The medical is really not too bad – it involves a general check-up, blood tests and x-ray for the adults, and for the children it’s a general check-up, no blood tests or x-rays. Bear in mind that the medicals are only valid for a year, so try to get them done as late in the process and as close to submitting your application post-ITA as possible.
[We managed to get an appointment relatively easily and quickly, but wait times can also be long for the panel physicians, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to organise an appointment before you need to hand in your application.]
As part of your application, you’ll need to provide digital photos of each person in the application. The IRCC is very strict about the dimensions for this, so make sure you adhere to these.
Proof of representative form
If you’re working through a registered Canadian immigration consultant you need to fill in and submit a Use of Representative form.
If you’re just starting out this process, check out my list of useful links for Canadian immigration.