Comparing Canada’s immigration targets with other top destinations for newcomers

Vimal Sivakumar
Published: December 28, 2023

As revealed by Canada’s latest Immigration Levels Plan, released by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) on November 1 this year, Canada intends to welcome a significant number of immigrants over the next several years.

Canada’s Immigration Levels Plan is an annual release from IRCC that outlines the number of new permanent residents Canada aims to welcome in each of the next three years. The numbers provided each year break down targets by immigration class (Economic, Family Class, and Refugee/Humanitarian).

Note: The numbers for the last two years of any plan may change with the following year’s release

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The Plan shows Canada’s strategy to increase the number of newcomers while balancing their needs with those of the existing population. For example, 60% of new permanent residents are economic class, meaning they are skilled workers who will contribute to the national economy.

Canada’s strategy is unique and contrasts the plans set forth by several other popular newcomer destinations such as the United Kingdom (UK), Australia, the United States (US) and New Zealand (NZ).

Canada’s Immigration Strategy

According to Canada’s latest Immigration Levels Plan for 2024-2026, IRCC intends to welcome 485,000 new immigrants in 2024. This will be followed by a target of 500,000 additional immigrants in both 2025 and 2026.

As explained in a notice accompanying the new Immigration Levels Plan, IRCC says the decision to maintain high immigration targets is because “this plan prioritizes economic growth, and supports family reunification, while responding to humanitarian crises.” IRCC also added that “immigrants [play] an important role … in the labour market and growing our economy … helping to ensure Canada has the skills needed to meet key goals … and [ensuring] that labour force gaps in critical sectors … are not a barrier to the success and expansion of Canadian businesses.”

How Other Top Immigrant Destinations Compare to Canada

Australia’s Approach

In Australia, as detailed by a recent article from BBC News Sydney, the government is planning on cutting its immigration intake in half by June 2025. In a move that would align immigration intake “roughly … with pre-pandemic levels”, the BBC story says that this decision – which will reduce annual immigration levels to 250,000 – is aimed at fixing the country’s “broken” immigration system and will also see Australia tighten visa rules and requirements for international students and low-skilled workers.

As an example of the measures set to be implemented in the country, Australia is expected to enforce “tougher minimum English-language requirements for international students, and more scrutiny of those applying for a second visa.”

More: Click here for more information about Australia’s immigration reforms

The UK’s Policy Shift

According to a recent BBC News article, the United Kingdom’s government is now “making it harder for people to get work and family visas.” In an effort to reduce net migration to the region, which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently said were "far too high", the UK government is changing visa rules and raising income thresholds for family visas.

An example of the strategies that will be used to control immigration to the UK is the raising of the minimum salary requirement for immigrants wanting to work there. Previously, prospective immigrants to the UK needed to apply for a work visa while holding a job offer with a minimum salary of £26,200. As of Spring 2024, this minimum will rise to £38,700 – a nearly 50% increase.

Additional information on the UK’s new immigration policies, including its reformed points-based system, can be found here.

New Zealand's Immigration Stance

Worried that the country’s recent immigration levels do not “feel sustainable for New Zealand at all”, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has indicated that the government expects international migration “to be slowing month on month” in the near future.

After The Reserve Bank in New Zealand expressed “concern that the flood of new arrivals is pushing up rents and house prices and may fan inflation” according to a recent Bloomberg story, Luxon says that the country will now be focused on “[finding a] balance … in the next few months” after the country took their immigration policy from “way too restrictive to … way too loose.”

The NZ government has not thus far provided specific policy details on how they intend to manage immigration, but more about Luxon’s recent comments can be found here.

USA’s Current Immigration Landscape

A report released in September by the Washington-headquartered Cato institute is emphasizing that the country’s “outdated” immigration system is working against the growth of its national labour force.

In fact, Cato says that the nation that once “accounted for 63 percent of the growth in the worldwide immigrant population” now accounts for -0.3% change in the same metric.* Furthering the report’s point about the impact of immigrants on the US workforce and productivity, Cato goes on to say that “skilled immigrant workers increase innovation, accounting for as much as 40 percent of total factor productivity growth.” This means that restrictive immigration policies are in some ways disadvantageous for the economic growth of the country.

The Cato Institute’s report also notes that the US “has not expanded its low green card caps since 1990” and that the country “now … ranks in the bottom third of wealthy countries for its foreign‐​born share of the population.”

Read the Cato Institute’s full report here.

What this means for prospective immigrants around the world

Of the five countries analyzed in this article, Canada is the only immigrant destination not preparing to make significant cuts to its immigration targets over the coming years. For different reasons, some of the world’s most popular hotspots for immigrants and temporary residents – including foreign workers and international students – are aiming to reduce international migration in the short term.

While every country’s strategy and immigration policies can change, newcomers to any of these popular destinations should consider federal immigration policy as a significant determining factor with respect to options for pursuing work, education or life in another country.

Of course, the choice to immigrate to a particular destination will largely still depend on an individual’s particular ambitions. For this reason, while considering their options, all prospective immigrants might find it useful to take time to conduct thorough research on what destination best serves their short and long-term personal and professional goals.

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