Despite the economic uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada continues to welcome newcomers who bring the skills our economy needs to help recover and keep growing as we move forward.
The 2021‒2023 Immigration Levels Plan sets out a path for responsible increases to immigration targets to help the Canadian economy recover from COVID-19, with about 60% of admissions to come from the economic category.
Until border and travel restrictions are lifted, Canada will leverage the pools of potential in-Canada candidates for immigration across all categories, such as temporary foreign workers, recent international graduates, and protected persons – those likely to transition to permanent residence.
Economic immigrants are a central pillar of Canada’s economic recovery and future growth: they are educated, fill targeted labour market and skills shortages, they contribute to innovation, workplace diversity, and are able to quickly integrate into the Canadian labour market.
Targeted programs and pilots support regions by bringing the economic benefits of immigration outside urban centres, while supporting settlement and integration to help ensure newcomer success.
The 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan sets an ambitious target at 401K in 2021, including close to 60% of its projected admissions in the economic category. This recognizes immigration as a key driver of economic recovery and future growth.
The plan increases admissions to offset the impacts of COVID-19, including a projected shortfall in 2020 of about 150,000 (actual shortfall was approximately 156,600). Unlike in previous years, this year’s plan features significantly lowered ranges in each year to provide flexibility for potential ongoing pandemic-related impacts —including travel restrictions and the possibility of interruptions to business resumption.
Pandemic-related border and travel restrictions on discretionary and optional travel, including permanent resident visa holders, continue to pose a challenge to meeting the 2021 immigration levels targets (401,000).
Canada’s suite of economic programs, including regional and sectoral pilots, allows for the selection of immigrants, across a range of occupations and skill levels, at the national and provincial/territorial levels.
Applications for permanent residence in all lines of business are continuing to be processed and we have employed various measures to stay on track to meet this year’s admissions levels.
Maximizing admissions from individuals overseas for 2021 will only be possible when the border reopens, with arrivals less likely in 2021 as border restrictions remain in place and individuals require preparation time to travel to Canada.
Immigration contributes to growth
As of early 2020, approximately 82% of Canada’s population growth was attributed to immigration (permanent and temporary), compared to 44.3% of the population growth in the early 1990s: this is anticipated to increase to 100% by the 2040s.
In 2019, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ranked Canada as the number one most attractive country for entrepreneurs. Immigrant-owned firms had a higher level of net job creation per firm, and were more likely to be high-growth firms than those with Canadian-born owners.
Permanent resident processing
While my department continues to accept and process permanent resident applications, migration offices overseas and processing centres and offices in Canada have been impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.
Due to ongoing travel restrictions in place in Canada, and in many countries around the world, my department is shifting its focus on inviting, processing and landing in-Canada applicants.
Although many overseas clients cannot travel internationally to be landed in Canada, my department continues to process overseas files in preparation for the lifting of border and travel restrictions.
TR to PR Pathways
On May 6, 2021, my department launched an extraordinary and innovative measure for foreign nationals who are already physically present in Canada. This Temporary Pathway to Permanent Residence will help retain the talent of those already here in support of economic recovery and will support the achievement of overall admission targets by quickly increasing the inventory of potential permanent residents. We also introduced a supplementary measure to help expedite processing under this pathway by exempting clients who are assessed as low risk to public health from the requirement to have a medical examination. [see note 25 on TR to PR Pathways]
Supporting facts and figures
The Canadian population was 30.7 million people in 2000, and is projected to grow up to 38.7 million as of July 1, 2022 (this includes temporary residents). Roughly 22% of the Canadian population is foreign born, the highest in the G7 (2016 census data).
Birth rates are decreasing, currently at 1.47 (2019) down from 1.61 (2011). The share of the population 65 and older is increasing and the share of the working age is falling. The worker to retiree ratio is currently 4:1; this will be 2:1 in less than 20 years.
Outcomes of economic immigrants
Economic principal applicants reach – and often surpass – the Canadian average employment earnings in less than five years in the majority of classes. Over time, immigrants overall catch up to Canadian average earnings outcomes, although refugee and family class immigrants require more time.
Canada’s model of selecting immigrants with higher levels of human capital, including education, official language ability and Canadian work experience leads to better employment and higher earnings.
The employment gap between immigrants and Canadian-born workers is narrowing. In 2018, 79.4% of newcomers aged 25 to 54 were in the workforce, compared to 84% of people who are Canadian-born.
Canadians benefit from the contributions of second-generation immigrants. Forty-one per cent of second-generation Canadians had university degrees versus 24% of people with two Canadian-born parents. In 2017, second-generation Canadians earned higher than average employment incomes of $55,500, versus $51,600 for children of Canadian-born parents.
Effects of a recession on immigrants
Immigrants arriving during recessionary times could face depressed earnings growth rate as the first few years in Canada are determinative with respect to future earnings growth.
Immigrants’ earnings tend to increase with more time spent in Canada, though the number of years it takes for average immigrants earnings to converge with the Canadian average varies between the different immigrant groups. The number of years for immigrants’ earnings to catch up to the Canadian average increased during past economic downturns.
While Canadians remain concerned about public health and job security, overall public support for immigration in Canada has remained stable and relatively strong.
As recently as polling in August and September 2020, support for immigration – including at the current levels – is holding, including views that immigration’s effect on Canada is positive. However, some Canadians, in particular in Toronto and Vancouver, have expressed concerns about Canada’s ability to absorb immigration at this time.
With an aging population and declining fertility rates, as well as labour and economic challenges, the Canadian labour force and population growth will depend even more on immigration in the long term.
In 2020, the Department confirmed permanent resident status for almost 184,400 newcomers, representing about 54% of the overall target.
Of all permanent resident admissions so far in 2020, 58% were in the Economic Class.
Immigration helps maintain the vitality of official language minority communities in Canada; the Government of Canada has a 4.4% target for Francophone immigration outside of Quebec by 2023.
Generally, Canada’s integration outcomes are strong for first generation immigrants, and get even stronger in second and further generations. However, in previous periods of economic downturn, immigrants have taken longer than usual to converge with average Canadian earnings.
A big and relatively open immigration program demonstrates international leadership and can further international interests, trade connections, and Canada’s comparative advantage in terms of working-age populations and labour force supply.
Mandate commitment: Delivering the 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan is a part of Minister Mendicino’s December 2019 mandate commitment to “ensure the effective implementation of Canada’s increased annual Immigration Levels Plan for 2020-2022, attracting more than a million new permanent residents to Canada over that time”. This commitment was reinforced in a supplementary mandate letter released on January 15, 2021, stating that the Department should “continue to bring newcomers to Canada safely to drive economic growth and recovery, as recently set out in the 2021-2023 Levels Plan”. This aligns with the September 2020 Speech from the Throne, which focuses on capitalizing on our pandemic recovery efforts in order to become the world’s top destination for talent, capital, and jobs.
Levels planning: The Immigration Levels Plan is a statutory requirement. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act requires that a projection of permanent resident admissions for the coming year be tabled in Parliament by November 1 of the preceding year, or if the House is not in session, within 30 sitting days once the House resumes. By setting targets and planning ranges for each of the immigration categories, the Government establishes priorities among economic, social, and humanitarian objectives. Levels planning then enables the Department and its partners to allocate processing, security, and settlement resources accordingly.
Quebec: Under the Canada-Quebec Accord, Quebec has full responsibility for the selection of immigrants destined to the province (except Family Class and in-Canada refugee claimants). The accord commits the federal government to take into consideration Quebec’s desired levels in all categories. Quebec’s immigration levels plan is established annually and incorporated in the federal levels plan.
Multi-year planning: In fall 2017, Canada introduced its first Multi-Year Immigration Levels Plan in over a decade. The current plan adds an additional year (2023), maintaining the three-year planning horizon set out in last year’s plan. Prior to the 2018-2020 levels plan, the most recent multi-year plan was in 2001-2002. Three- and five-year plans were introduced in the 1980s and 1990s.
A multi-year approach provides the means to set out a longer-term vision and make the decisions and investments needed to achieve it. It supports better planning by securing approvals and investments earlier, providing time for the Department and partners to adjust their capacity to manage projected levels.
Canada is recognized internationally (e.g. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) for its approach to managed migration, including specifically its use of immigration levels plans for setting transparent priorities and targets. Canada is among very few countries, like Australia and New Zealand, which have also adopted this approach.
Processing times: Processing times for applications for permanent residence can be affected by a number of factors including available levels space as well as processing capacity within Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and its partners.
In October 2020, the Government tabled the 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan, targeting of over 1 million new permanent residents over 3 years (401,000 in 2021; 411,000 in 2022; and 421,000 in 2023). By 2023, immigration levels will account for 1.08% of Canada’s population.
The COVID-19 pandemic is currently impacting levels achievement: in 2020, the projected immigration target saw a shortfall, reaching only 54% of the projected admissions (184,372 permanent resident admissions out of the projected 341,000).
Economic immigration programs: Canada’s federal economic immigration programs, the Canadian Experience Class, Federal Skilled Worker Program, and Federal Skilled Trades Program are managed by the Express Entry system and traditionally represent the largest economic immigration category, with a target of 108,500 admissions for 2021. Through these core programs, candidates are selected on the basis of their ability to succeed in the Canadian economy and society over the long-term (based on factors such as work experience, education, and official language proficiency).This selection approach allows Canada to benefit from a regular and predictable flow of skilled immigrants that employers can hire to meet their labour needs, and to grow and scale up their businesses.
Canada’s federal business immigration programs, the Start-Up Visa program and Self-employed program, help spur economic growth by attracting foreign entrepreneurs to become permanent residents.
Complementary to the federal economic immigration programs, the Provincial Nominee Program enables provinces and territories to create immigration streams to nominate immigrants at all skill levels who meet local labour market and economic needs, and who are likely to reside and economically establish in their region. Currently, 11 jurisdictions have provincial nominee agreements in place with over 70 different immigration streams targeting workers, graduates, and entrepreneurs. In recent years, the Provincial Nominee Program continues to be the second largest economic immigration program, with a target of 80,800 admissions for 2021.
The Atlantic Immigration Pilot is a collaborative partnership between IRCC and the Atlantic provinces to address acute labour shortages and increase newcomer retention across the Atlantic region. Since its 2017 launch, the pilot has been well received, with significant brand recognition across the region and internationally. As a result, the Government committed to transitioning the pilot to a permanent program, based on lessons learned and the evaluation findings.
Through a community-based economic development approach, the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot partners IRCC with 11 community organizations in northern Ontario and western Canada, who will recommend immigrants based on local economic development and labour needs, while also supporting their settlement needs.
This community based approach provides flexibility for partners to adjust to evolving economic realities, including those resulting from COVID-19, to ensure that immigration complements the workforce across the country.
The Economic Mobility Pathways Project was launched as a research project in Spring 2018 to explore whether refugees could access Canada’s existing economic immigration pathways, and to document the barriers/challenges they faced in doing so.
In June 2020, that the Government of Canada announced that it would admit 500 principal applicants plus their families to meet in-demand labour needs. Building on lessons learned in Phase I, the Department is working with interested provinces/territories to identify labour market needs and employers interested in hiring skilled refugees. IRCC and the UN Refugee Agency will work with non-government organization partners to recruit skilled refugee candidates abroad for identified job opportunities, offering processing facilitation and settlement supports to help with newcomer arrival and integration.
The Municipal Nominee Program (MNP) is a 2019 ministerial mandate letter commitment to introduce a program that “…will allow local communities, chambers of commerce and local labour councils to directly sponsor permanent immigrants (at least 5,000 new spaces).”
The MNP will leverage lessons learned from the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot, the Yukon Community Pilot, and the Atlantic Immigration Pilot by aligning immigrant selection with community economic development priorities, offering meaningful job opportunities with career development potential, and connecting newcomers with settlement services to support their integration into the community.
The Agri-Food Pilot tests an industry-specific approach to help address labour shortages in the Canadian agri-food sector, particularly in the meat processing, mushroom and greenhouse crop production, and livestock raising industries. It provides a new pathway to permanent residence for experienced, non-seasonal workers in specific occupations and industries.
The five-year Home Child Care Provider and Home Support Worker pilots opened for applications in June 2019. These Caregiver pilots test a new two-step selection approach to provide a clear, assured pathway to permanent residence to caregivers from abroad and their families, while continuing to provide Canadian families with a range of caregiving options.
Francophone immigration outside Quebec
In 2019, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship announced a Francophone Immigration Strategy with a goal of achieving a target of 4.4% of French-speaking immigrants outside Quebec by 2023. In 2020, French-speaking admissions represented 3.61% of all immigrants admitted to Canada outside Quebec, an increase from previous years. From February 2020 to January 31, 2021 French-speaking admissions represented 3.47% of all immigrants admitted to Canada outside Quebec.