#Immigration Matters

Canada’s immigration system

How we select, screen and set up immigrants for success in Canada.


How are immigrants selected?

We follow a plan for immigration that helps distribute the benefits of immigration across the country. We select immigrants for their economic contribution, for their humanitarian needs and to reunite families.

Every year, we set targets for the number of immigrants we allow into the country for each immigration category. We give the public, provinces and territories, businesses and organizations that help immigrants settle in Canada an opportunity to let us know what they think about the targets before they are finalized.

Provinces and territories select a growing number of immigrants in the economic category, as well. Under the Canada-Québec Accord, Quebec is responsible for selecting economic immigrants and some of the refugees that come to the province.

In 2018, our target is 310,000 immigrants. Of these, 57% will fall under the economic category, 28% will be joining their family in Canada and 14% will be people in need of Canada’s protection (for example, refugees).

Looking ahead, Canada plans to welcome 330,800 immigrants in 2019, 341,000 immigrants in 2020, and 350,000 immigrants in 2021. That works out to almost 1% of our population.

In recent years, Canada has changed the ratio of different kinds of immigrants to focus more on the economic category.

Immigrants admitted to Canada between 2011 and 2016

According to the 2016 Census, among recent immigrants admitted to Canada between 2011 and 2016, approximately 6 in 10 were admitted under the economic category, nearly 3 in 10 were admitted under the family class, and approximately 1 in 10 were admitted to Canada as refugees.

Immigrants admitted to Canada in the 1980s

The situation is different for immigrants who were admitted during the 1980s and were still living in Canada in 2016. A smaller proportion were economic immigrants: 4 in 10 immigrants were admitted under this category, while over 3 in 10 immigrants were sponsored by family, and approximately 2 in 10 immigrants were refugees.


How are immigrants screened?

To protect the health, safety and security of Canadians, all potential immigrants are carefully screened before they can come to Canada.

Anyone applying to live permanently in Canada must provide

  • a police certificate or criminal record check
  • their photo and fingerprints (biometrics)

Screening makes sure anyone who immigrates to Canada

  • hasn’t committed a serious crime
  • doesn’t pose a risk to Canada’s security
  • hasn’t violated human or international rights
  • is in good health (determined by a medical exam)
  • has a valid passport or travel document

How are immigrants set up for success?

Success in Canada starts with the selection process.

Through our economic immigration category, we choose skilled immigrants who are able to settle in Canada and contribute to our economy.

Our Express Entry system helps us manage how skilled immigrants come to Canada. Our sophisticated points system predicts how immigrants will do in Canada.

All the following details are considered in the points system:

  • language skills
  • education
  • work experience
  • a valid job offer
  • a nomination from a province or territory

Only candidates with the highest scores are sent invitations to apply to immigrate.

Success is sustained through settlement services.

We want newcomers to succeed and add value to our culture and society. That’s why we fund services to help immigrants settle in their communities.

There are more than 500 settlement service organizations across Canada. They help all newcomers

  • learn about life in Canada and their community
  • get language training
  • find work
  • make connections with established immigrants and Canadians

Settlement services help newcomers adapt to life in Canada and put them on the path to eventually becoming Canadian citizens. Under the Canada-Québec Accord, Quebec is responsible for providing settlement services to its immigrants.


Stories across Canada

See inspiring stories of immigrants making a difference in our communities.

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Canada’s immigration track record

What does immigration do for our country?

Learn more