Canada welcomed historic 45,000 new immigrants in September

Kareem El-Assal
Published: November 2, 2021

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has confirmed to CIC News that Canada landed a stunning 45,000 new immigrants in September.

This figure is easily the highest in modern Canadian history and is among the highest monthly totals in Canadian history. Unfortunately, the lack of historical records leaves us unable to confirm where the September 2021 figure ranks among all-time records.

According to independent historian Robert Vineberg, it is unlikely that September was the all-time record since in the first century of Canada's existence, the overwhelming majority of newcomers arrived in the warmer spring and summer months. For instance, he estimates as many as 80 per cent of the 401,000 immigrants welcomed by Canada in 1913 arrived between May and September (an estimated average of 64,000 immigrants per month).

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Nevertheless, the new September figure represents a remarkable turn of fortunes for a Canadian immigration system that has been struggling to process applications during the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, Canada welcomed an average of 25,000 to 35,000 new immigrants a month. At the start of the pandemic, monthly permanent resident landings plummeted to just 4,000 in April 2020, which was the lowest in the modern era.

Landing figures slowly began to recover the rest of last year but not at the pace needed to achieve Canada's goal of welcoming 341,000 new immigrants in 2020. Instead, Canada welcomed just 184,000 new immigrants last year.

To compensate, the federal government decided to double down on immigration by seeking the arrival of 401,000 new immigrants this year, which would tie the annual record set in 1913. Canada got off to a strong start to the year before losing momentum. Beginning in June, however, Canada started to pickup the pace with the landing of 35,000 immigrants.

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It is important to note that a landing occurs when a foreign national sees their legal status in Canada converted to permanent residence. This can take place for an individual entering Canada from overseas or for a temporary resident living in Canada transitioning to permanent residence.

This distinction is important since Canada is currently focusing on transitioning its existing residents to permanent residence.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is guided by the rationale that those in Canada are less likely to be impacted by COVID interruptions such as travel restrictions and other delays that may impede Canada's ability to welcome 401,000 immigrants this year if the country otherwise chose to focus most of its attention of landing permanent residents coming from abroad.

The focus on transitioning those within Canada explains why the country's population growth remains historically low, amid a period of historically high immigration. In September, Statistics Canada reported the country's population grew by just 0.5 per cent over the last year, which is the weakest growth since the First World War. Prior to the pandemic, Canada's population grew by over one per cent annually for the better part of two decades with much of the growth being fueled by new permanent residents arriving from overseas.

Canada has now landed 267,000 immigrants this year. It will need to land 134,000 more immigrants between October and December to achieve its 401,000 newcomer target. This works out to about 45,000 new permanent residents per month.

IRCC has set itself up to achieve this target.

On February 13, it held the largest Express Entry draw ever by inviting 27,332 Canadian Experience Class candidates to apply for permanent residents. Given the length of time it takes an invitee to submit their permanent residence application and length of time IRCC needs to process it, we should expect many of these individuals to receive their permanent residence by the end of this year.

In addition, IRCC launched six temporary streams in May that allow up to 90,000 existing residents to apply for permanent residence. The department says it aims to process some 40,000 of the applications in 2021.

In June, Canada lifted its travel restrictions on all confirmed permanent residence holders, thereby allowing them to enter Canada and complete their immigration process. Canada also recently lifted its ban on flights from India, which is Canada's leading source of immigrants.

The combination of these major factors and other IRCC efforts put Canada in strong position to at least come close to achieving the 401,000 immigration target by the end of 2021.

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