How Canada landed 405,000 new immigrants in 2021

  • March 5, 2022
  • 6 min read

In December 2021, the Canadian authorities achieved ‘the 2021 immigration target’ of granting permanent residence to around 401,000 newcomers. But the latest data of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) suggests that Canada actually exceeded its 2021 immigration mark as, during the year, some 405,303 immigrants were settled permanently in the country.

Settling above 400,000 immigrants a year is an admirable benchmark for the incumbent government. In addition to the previous year, Canada has only once witnessed 400,000 newcomers in a year — in 1913. Since the 1990s, on average 235,000 new immigrants arrive in the country per year.

After coming into power, Justin Trudeau’s government has focused on increasing yearly immigration targets as the country is in dire need of newcomers. The aging population and low birth rate are the reasons behind the higher immigration bars set by the government for the succeeding years. Also, the Corona pandemic has hit the Canadian economy hard as the country’s low-performing economy now relies on expensive labor. The expensive labor renders the Canadian industries uncompetitive in international markets.    

So, now the country needs new immigrants more than ever to reignite population growth and to revive the ailing economy. With these goals in mind, the incumbent government set the high bar of allowing around 401,000 newcomers in 2021 in its Immigration Levels Plan 2021-2023.

And after setting that high bar, the country not only achieved its immigration target but also exceeded the mark by 4000 immigrants. In 2021, the pandemic was still around but the government was able to achieve the target. How did Canada grant permanent residency to 405,303 despite Corona pandemic travel and related restrictions?

Meeting the Immigration Targets

As there were still some Corona restrictions around so the IRCC preferred temporary residents over newcomers for granting permanent residency.  This strategy helped IRCC to achieve its immigration target. For granting permanent residency to more temporary Canadians, IRCC held Express Entry draws for Canadian Experience Class candidates from January until September. In addition, IRCC also introduced six additional Temporary Residence to Permanent Residence streams for international students and temporary foreign workers.

With such conducive environment, most of the temporary residents belonging to the Canadian Experience Class acquired permanent residency. In the last four months of 2021, more than 1, 60,000 temporary residents were granted permanent residence! In 2019 and before, only 30 percent of new economic class immigrants were from within Canada while 70 percent arrived from abroad. On the other hand, in 2021, 70 percent of economic class immigrants from within Canada and only 30 percent arrived from abroad.

Composition of New Permanent Residents

In 2021, almost 62 percent of the new immigrants that is around 252,975 permanent residents belonged to the economic class. Canada granted permanent residency to over 20,000 more economic class immigrants in 2021 than it had targeted in the Immigration Levels Plan.

Similarly, 20 percent of the new immigrants that is around 80,990 belonged to family class while Canada had targeted to allow around 103,500 family class immigrants under the 2021 levels plan.

Finally, around 60,115 refugees arrived in Canada in 2021 which is also short of the levels plan target of 65,000 refugees. Economic class, family class, and refugees made up of 97 percent new permanent residents in 2021 while the remaining 3 percent were classed as ‘All Other Immigration’ by IRCC.

Canadian Economic Class – the Trick

Canadian Economic Class forms the major group of the 2021 new permanent residents. Of the total 252,975 economic class permanent residents, around 130,555 Canadian working-class people were granted permanent residence.

In 2021, IRCC specially targeted Canadian Economic Class. For instance, in February 2021, IRCC invited all 27,332 Canadian Economic Class candidates in the Express Entry pool for permanent residence. The draw was historical in the sense that the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score requirements were the lowest since Express Entry was launched in 2015.

Where did Canada’s new immigrants land?

With this record of new permanent residents in a year, every province and region of Canada witnessed an influx of newcomers. Overall, most of the new residents settled in Ontario. In Ontario, around 49 percent of all new immigrants settled in 2021. Comparatively, this is a higher share from pre-pandemic times. For instance, in 2019, around 45 percent of the new immigrants settled in Ontario. The reason for this high share is the Canadian Economic Class as most of the Canadian working class resides in Ontario.

After Ontario, most Canadian working-class reside in BC, and therefore, in BC 17 percent of all new immigrants settled in 2021. In 2019, the share of BC was 15 percent.

With a share of slightly over 12 percent, Quebec clinched the third slot.  In pre-pandemic times, the share of Quebec was also around 12 percent. With a 10 percent share, Alberta followed Quebec. Share of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan fall as compared to the pre-pandemic era. Here again, the reason is the Canadian working class which is mostly concentrated in Ontario and BC. Unlike these provinces, the share of Nova Scotia increased manifold as the province witnessed more than 9,000 immigrants in 2021.

Finally, the Atlantic region received fewer new permanent residents as they depend on the PNP and the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program.

Where did Canada’s immigrants come from?

Generally, the source countries of Canada’s new immigrants remain unchanged in 2021. Likewise pre-pandemic era, India is still on top of the list as around one-third of new permanent residents belonged to India. In fact, in 2019, its share was 25 percent which increased to 32 percent in 2021. Here again, the reason is the Canadian working class. Most of the temporary Canadian residents and foreign students belong to India. And in 2021, many of these temporary residents and students gained permanent residence through the Canadian working class stream.

Besides India, the following countries are the major contributors to new immigrants in 2021.

  • India (32%)
  • China (8%)
  • Philippines (4.3%)
  • Nigeria (3.8%)
  • France (3.2%)
  • United States (3%)
  • Brazil (2.9%)
  • Iran (2.8%)
  • South Korea (2.1%)
  • Pakistan (2%)

Immigration is the key factor that guides Canadian foreign policy. Canada is in dire need of more skilled workers that will fuel the economic growth in the country. In addition, the country must fulfill its international obligations vis-à-vis settling 40,000 Afghan refugees. For meeting these ends, the country has set a higher target of granting permanent residence to 432,000 newcomers under its immigration levels plan 2022-2024 – higher than 2021.

In December 2021, Canadian Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced in a joyous mood that the government has achieved the target of 401,000 new permanent residents for the year. The Canadian Economic Class was the magic trick that realized the historic immigration goals last year. But now, only the time will tell whether the minister can announce another immigration achievement in next December or not.