Most immigrants admitted to Canada through the Express Entry system settle in Ontario, a new report reveals.

Out of nearly 64,000 people admitted through Express Entry in 2020, a total of 37,524  — nearly 60 percent — settled in Ontario.

Ontario is home to Canada’s largest urban area, the Greater Toronto Area, as well as the capital city of Ottawa. There are also a bunch of other growing cities popular with newcomers, most of which are in southwest Ontario. These include Hamilton, Kitchener–Waterloo, London, Oshawa, Windsor, St. Catharines–Niagara Falls, Barrie, and Guelph.

The second most popular destination province was British Columbia (13,589), followed by Alberta (7,003). No other province or territory registered more than 2,000 admissions.

Admissions (total persons) through Express Entry

Province/Territory of destination2018 #2019 #2020 #
Newfoundland and Labrador244245159
Prince Edward Island470546445
Nova Scotia325533461556
New Brunswick18761691820
Ontario596676998637524
Manitoba96125211514
Saskatchewan274431081247
Alberta690680197003
British Columbia160282005013589
Yukon404030
Northwest Territories353930
Nunavut--106
Total9222910960163923

Note that Quebec is not listed above. This is because Quebec operates a distinct economic immigration system separate from Express Entry.

Intention does not match admission

When someone applies for permanent residence through Express Entry, they designate which province or territory they intend to settle in. Interestingly, there is some variance between where people state they will settle, and where they actually settle.

For example, in both 2019 and 2020 more than 1,500 applicants designated Northwest Territories as their intended destination. But, the number of Express Entry immigrants actually settling in this enormous and sparsely populated territory, which experiences long and brutally cold winters, is typically less than 40 annually. This suggests that some applicants have either not quite decided where they want to settle, or, more likely, that some applicants don’t quite know where the various provinces and territories are, and what they offer.

About admissions: The CEC pandemic curveball

A sizeable chunk of those admitted to Canada through Express Entry in 2020 were transitioning from temporary status to permanent residence. Therefore, in many cases these “admissions” do not represent someone physically on the move, but rather a transition in status.

With more than 30,000 Canadian Experience Class (CEC) candidates invited to apply in 2019, plus nearly 60,000 more CEC invitations in 2020, Express Entry is a useful immigration system for those transitioning status.

Moreover, with most invitations in 2020 and 2021 having been issued to CEC candidates, combined with an average CEC processing time of eight months recently, it follows that many, and perhaps most, of those “admitted” through Express Entry in 2021 and 2022 are likely to be already in Canada.

Canada’s immigration authorities have concentrated Express Entry invitations on CEC candidates and provincial nominees since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, preferring to invite candidates it believes are already in Canada. This is despite the fact that some CEC candidates are actually outside Canada (because Canadian work experience does not need to be ongoing, only completed within the past three years) and some Federal Skilled Worker candidates are inside Canada (because they don’t yet have a full year of skilled Canadian work experience).

The information in this article is from the year-end 2020 Express Entry report, which was published by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in December, 2021.

See our other summaries from the 2020 Express Entry Year-End Report:

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