Canada had another strong month for immigration in February 2021

Kareem El-Assal
Published: April 13, 2021

Canada is on track to achieve its target of welcoming 401,000 new immigrants in 2021.

This afternoon, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) released new data showing that 23,375 people obtained permanent residence in February. IRCC data previously showed that Canada welcomed nearly 25,000 immigrants in January. All told, Canada has already welcomed 48,000 new permanent residents so far this year. By way of comparison, Canada welcomed 50,600 new immigrants in the first two months of last year.

Next month's IRCC data release is likely to show that Canada has welcomed more new immigrants by the end of March 2021 than during the same period in 2020. The reason is that Canada's immigration system has stabilized whereas immigration declined dramatically last March due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic resulted in Canada falling way short of its goal to welcome 341,000 immigrants in 2020. Instead, it welcomed just 184,370 immigrants last year. To help alleviate this shortfall, Canada's immigration minister Marco Mendicino announced the most ambitious immigration plan in the country's history in October. The country is aiming to welcome 401,000 new permanent residents in 2021, which would tie the record achieved in 1913.

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Immigration to Canada was booming prior to the pandemic with the country welcoming between 25,000 and 35,000 new immigrants per month.

Canada's newcomer flows were disrupted once the country imposed travel restrictions on March 18, 2020 to contain the spread of COVID-19. This resulted in what may have been the weakest month for Canadian immigration since the Second World War when Canada welcomed just 4,000 newcomers in April 2020. Immigration picked up in the following months but was not able to surpass 20,000 arrivals in a month until this January.

The main way Canada is looking to achieve its Immigration Levels Plan goal in 2021 is by transitioning those already here to permanent residence.

Groups such as temporary foreign workers and former international students can obtain more points under many of Canada's over 100 different economic class pathways. Many of these pathways are only available to Candidates with Canadian experience. For instance, the Canadian Experience Class program is the leading way the country transitions such individuals to permanent residence.

In February, IRCC held the largest Express Entry draw ever inviting over 27,000 CEC candidates to apply for permanent residence. Express Entry is the main way Canada welcomes economic class immigrants and accounts for about one-quarter of the country's immigrant arrivals each year.

In addition to transitioning people from within the country, Canada is looking to welcome from abroad those who are exempt from its COVID-19 travel restrictions.

For example, sponsored family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents are among those eligible to travel to Canada right now. The levels plan calls for the arrival of just over 100,000 family class immigrants this year.

It remains to be seen when others already approved for permanent residence will be allowed to move to Canada.

We should expect new permanent residence landings to pick up momentum in the second half of this year. Immigration to Canada is stronger during the warmer spring and summer months. In the context of the pandemic, this means those who are in fact eligible to immigrate to Canada now may be delaying their arrivals until the warmer months. Moreover, many of those in Canada who received permanent residence invitations last year and in the first half of this year will likely officially gain permanent resident status by the end of 2021.

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