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Canada is planning to welcome 1,233,000 new permanent residents over the next three years in an effort to use immigration to fuel an economic recovery from the impacts of COVID-19 and balance the potentially negative fiscal impacts shaped by Canada’s aging population and low birth rate.

These figures were released on October 30, 2020, by Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino in the Canada Immigration Levels Plans for 2021-2023.

Canada is going big on immigration — more than 400,000 new permanent residents per year — despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

These big targets for new immigrants may seem ambitious and even a little bit counterintuitive for a country struggling with a high rate of unemployment amidst a pandemic, but big immigration aligns with a long-standing future-oriented approach to economic growth in Canada.

For years, now, Canada has been welcoming hundreds of thousands of new permanent residents each year — the majority coming through economic pathways for workers. Canada’s aiming high for immigration in an effort to combat its aging population. As the population ages, a larger, younger tax-paying workforce is needed to offset the economic cost of playing host to a growing community of senior citizens. Policy-makers decided years ago that immigration is an important part of the solution to this problem.

As such, it is not surprising that Canada continues to commit to ambitious immigration targets, even during a global pandemic, as those setting the policy aren’t just looking at where we’ll be next year, or even five years from now, but, rather, decades in the future.

4 key takeaways from the new Canada Immigration Levels Plan

There are a few important takeaways from the new Canada Immigration Levels Plan (full figures below).

1 — The plan is the most ambitious in Canadian history.

Not since 1913, when Canada welcomed 401,000 new immigrants, has the country crossed the 400,000 threshold. Now, Canada sets out to cross that threshold every year.

Immigrant advocates and hopeful newcomers have been waiting to see if the impact of COVID-19 would result in the reduction of Canada’s immigration levels, but this is not the case. Instead, Canada is poised to welcome 1,233,000 new permanent residents in the next three years. Plus, these numbers only account for new permanent residents; hundreds of thousands of temporary residents — students, workers, visitors — will also come to Canada each year.

2 — The majority of new permanent residents will come through economic pathways.

Nearly 60 percent of new permanent residents will come through economic immigration pathways that prioritise skilled workers and their families. This is in line with Canada’s immigration levels plans for the past several years. More than 100,000 of these immigrants will come each year through Canada’s popular Express Entry system annually (a record high target), with a further  80,000 or so coming through Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) that enable provinces and territories to nominate newcomers who match their specific economic and demographic needs.

3 — Targets for family sponsorship immigration have increased.

Canadian citizens and permanent residents are often able to sponsor their spouse, common-law partner, and dependent children for Canadian immigration. Family reunification has always been a pillar of Canadian immigration policy, so it’s no surprise to see the targets remain high at around 80,000 new annual admissions.

Notably, however, is an increase in the target for parent and grandparent sponsorship. The government recently announced its aim to welcome more 30,000 new applications through the Parent and Grandparent Program (PGP) in 2021, another record-high figure, which will feed into admissions of around 24,000 annually over three years.

4 — Higher targets for refugees and asylum seekers

Bucking a global trend among peer developed countries, Canada is doubling down on its reputation for welcoming refugees and asylum seekers in relatively large numbers. The 2021-2023 Canada Immigration Levels Plan calls for around 60,000 such persons to be granted permanent resident status annually, a record high target for modern times. More than one-third of refugees admitted will be privately sponsored, with a similar number of protected persons in Canada plus their family members to be granted permanent residence. Most of the remainder will be government-assisted.

Overall, Canada’s 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan is an ambitious project.

“We believe strongly in building Canada through immigration. Immigration is helping us get through the pandemic, and will be the key to both our short-term economic recovery and long-term prosperity,” said Canada’s Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, in the lead up to releasing the 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan.

“That’s exactly why we need to continue with measured, responsible growth to drive Canada’s success into the future.”

Source: IRCC

Canada’s Immigration Levels Plan: 2021-2023

The table below describes Canada’s Immigration Levels Plan for the next three years, broken down by immigration category and program.

Immigration categoryCategory2021 Range2021 Target2022 Range2022 Target2023 Range2023 Target
Economic ProgramsFSW, FST, CEC (Express Entry)81,000-110,250108,50096,250-112,900110,500100,000-114,500113,750
Economic pilots: Caregivers; Agri-Food; Rural and Northern4,900-9,2508,5004,500-10,50010,0004,500-11,00010,250
Atlantic Pilot3,300-6,2506,0003,000-6,7506,2503,500-6,7506,500
Quebec (Skilled Worker & Business)21,300-25,300See the Quebec immigration planSee the Quebec immigration planTBDTBDTBD
Total Economic180,500-237,000232,500199,000-247,000241,500207,000-253,500249,500
Family ClassSpouses, Partners, and Dependent Children61,000-81,00080,00060,000-81,00080,00060,000-82,00081,000
Parents and Grandparents15,000-24,00023,50014,000-24,00023,50014,000-24,00023,500
All Family Class Programs76,000-105,000103,50074,000-105,000103,50074,000-106,000104,500
Refugees and Protected PersonsProtected Persons in Canada & Dependents Abroad17,000-25,00023,50019,000-25,00024,50019,500-25,50025,000
Government Assisted7,500-13,00012,5007,500-13,00012,5008,400-13,00012,500
Blended Visa Office Referred100-1,0001,000100-1,0001,000100-1,0001,000
Privately Sponsored14,900-23,00022,50015,400-23,00022,50015,500-23,00022,500
Total Refugees and Protected Persons39,500-62,00059,50042,000-62,00060,50043,500-62,50061,000
Humanitarian and OtherTotal Humanitarian & Other4,000-6,0005,5005,000-6,0005,5005,500-8,0006,000
Overall Planned Permanent Admissions300,000-410,000401,000320,000-420,000411,000330,000-430,000421,000

About the author

Dane Stewart

Dane Stewart

Canadian Immigration Writer
Dane is an award-winning digital storyteller with experience in writing, audio, and video. He has more than 7 years’ experience covering Canadian immigration news.
Read more about Dane Stewart
Citation "Canada’s Immigration Levels Plan: 2021-2023." Moving2Canada. . Copy for Citation


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