Today I Become a ‘Zero’: How Age Affects Express Entry Scores

April 2016

Today is my birthday.

I have turned 45, not a particularly noteworthy age. No one will adorn my lawn with pink flamingos. There are no Hallmark cards celebrating this event.

But for those wanting to come to Canada through the Express Entry system, 45 is the age at which you are no longer awarded any ‘points’ for your age.

You become a zero.

The Express Entry immigration program awards up to 600 points based on your ‘human capital’.Age is one factor, along with language abilities, education and work experience. The most points for age are given to those between the ages of 20-29. These youngsters get 100 points. After that, the number of points goes down by 5 every year. By the time you hit 35, you’re already down to 70 points (if you are married, 77 points if you are single). 

Once you decide you are ready to apply, you can set up your Express Entry profile and be awarded a certain number of points. But if you have a birthday before getting your Invitation to Apply (ITA), your points will be automatically decreased. Thankfully, the government has a policy not to penalize you for having a birthday after you get your Invitation to Apply. 

Age can make a huge difference for someone who has points that are close to the minimum number expected to be drawn from the Express Entry pool. As outlined in the Canadian government’s recently published Express Entry Year-End Report, in 2015 over 13,500 applicants scored between 400-449 points. This range is just below the lowest score drawn to date from the Express Entry pool. There is a huge number of people in this score range compared to the mere 1,613 who scored above it in the 450-499 range, and the 2,486 who scored below it in the 440-449 range.

The effect of this is that there is major competition between individuals whose points are closest to the qualifying range. Because there are so many people who could have the same score as you, even a drop of a few points can mean the difference between getting an ITA, or getting passed over.

But why is age so important to Canada?

It is very difficult to find reported sources that explain why the Canadian government chose to put such an emphasis on age, and how it determined how to structure the points given. This Globe and Mail article describes the age-related points under the Federal Skilled Worker Program points system (one of the programs which feed into Express Entry). It explains how the Canadian government grounded its decision to award points for age based on research indicating that older immigrants have a much harder time finding jobs and succeeding at them in Canada. As well, they cite our aging population as a reason to look for younger workers to supplement our economy. Indeed, as this article outlines, as of September 2015, Canada has more seniors than children for the first time ever.

Critics argue that this type of points-for-age system may not necessarily attract the best immigrants, as it is too generalized. Surely not all youngsters will find jobs easily and not all older immigrants will have a hard time. Moreover, as Canada’s median age is currently 40, the oldest it’s ever been, should we still be using the same standards of what we consider old vs. young?

Surely success in the workforce can, and often does, occur later in life. Julia Child, for example, did not publish her first cookbook until age 39. Ray Croc, founder of McDonald’s, did not open his first restaurant until he was 52. This pales in comparison to Colonel Sander’s age of 65 at the time of his first Kentucky Friend Chicken restaurant! I will take a bold guess and assume that this trend extends beyond the food industry.

In the meanwhile, I will enjoy my birthday quietly, hoping that Hallmark doesn’t catch on to this newest benchmark to ‘celebrate’: becoming a zero!