Canada breaks all-time immigration record by landing 401,000 immigrants in 2021

Kareem El-Assal, Shelby Thevenot
Published: December 23, 2021

Canada has landed over 400,000 new permanent residents in 2021 for just the second time since it was founded as a country in 1867.

This has just been confirmed in a news release by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

The department also confirmed that the country has broken its all-time record for permanent residence landings in a year.

The only other time Canada surpassed the 400,000 immigrant figure was in 1913, but the onset of the First World War saw immigration to the country drop in the following years.

Prior to the pandemic, Canada set a goal of welcoming 341,000 new immigrants in 2020. It only landed 184,000 last year due to the pandemic. However, it doubled down on immigration to support its post-pandemic economic recovery by announcing it would target the arrival of 401,000 new permanent residents in 2021.

IRCC has been able to meet its Immigration Levels Plan target this year through a technicality. A landing can occur either by a temporary resident of Canada seeing their legal status change to permanent residence, or by them arriving to Canada from abroad and officially gaining permanent resident status. Prior to the pandemic, most new immigrants came from overseas. This year, however, IRCC has focused on transitioning those within the country to achieve its newcomer goal. The rationale has been those within Canada are less likely to be impacted by COVID-related disruptions that may impede their ability to land as a permanent resident.

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Before the pandemic, about 30 per cent of new economic-class immigrants were already in the country when they got permanent residency, while about 70 per cent moved from abroad. In 2021, this has been reversed with some 70 per cent landing from within Canada and about 30 per cent arriving from overseas.  

IRCC has made shifts in operations to transition more temporary residents to permanent residents.

Some of the changes include holding Express Entry draws that target Canadian Experience Class (CEC) candidates, as well as launching six streams in May to offer pathways to permanent residence to as many as 90,000 international students and temporary foreign workers living in Canada. 

In the pre-COVID days, Canada landed between 25,000 and 35,000 immigrants per month, with figures being higher during the warmer spring and summer months. Canada got off to a slow start this year before ramping up landings in June. Since June, Canada has consistently landed over 35,000 new permanent residents each month, and in recent months has exceeded 45,000 landings per month. 

Achieving the 401,000 newcomer target has been one of IRCC's top priorities in 2021. Now that the department has achieved this goal, IRCC will broaden its priorities following the release of a new mandate letter. 

In today's news release, immigration minister Sean Fraser stated “Last year, we set an ambitious goal. Today, we achieved it. This is a historic moment for our country, as we welcome the highest number of newcomers in a century. I want to thank all the employees in my department, especially our Operations Sector, who made this possible. Canada is built on immigration, and we will continue to safely welcome the immigrants that Canada needs to succeed. I can’t wait to see the incredible contributions that our 401,000 new neighbours make in communities across the country.”

Under the Immigration Levels Plan 2021-2023, Canada is looking to welcome 411,000 new immigrants in 2022 and 421,000 immigrants in 2023. Fraser will announce the new Immigration Levels Plan by February 14, 2022. Fraser has suggested the new plan may entail even higher targets for 2022 and 2023.

Discover if You’re Eligible for Canadian Immigration

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