New data from the Canadian government shows the country welcomed 184,370 new permanent residents in 2020, as newcomer flows plummeted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The level of new immigrants admitted is the lowest level since 1998, when Canada welcomed 174,000 new immigrants.
Marco Mendicino - Canada's Immigration Minister, announced in March 2020, that Canada would target 341,000 new immigrants in 2020, which is the same level as in 2019. Days later, however, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada was forced to impose new travel restrictions to contain the spread of COVID -19.
Data released by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) shows that immigration to the country declined around the time that travel restrictions took effect and the flow of newcomers from the country has not. still regained their pre-pandemic level. Nonetheless, Canada maintains an unwavering commitment to welcoming high levels of immigrants to support its economic recovery from COVID.
Canada has continued to accept and process new as well as existing newcomers applications for immigration. It's about completing the processing of as many applications as possible so that those eligible for permanent or temporary status can do so now while travel restrictions and other pandemic disruptions persist. The second reason the governments of Canada are now processing applications is to allow the country's immigration system to recover as quickly as possible after the pandemic.
At the end of October 2020, Mendicino announced the most ambitious immigration goals in Canadian history. As part of the 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan, Canada aims to welcome at least 401,000 new immigrants per year.
Mendicino is convinced that the immigration targets were realistic even during the pandemic in a recent TV interview. This is because IRCC is inviting more immigrant applicants living in Canada currently to apply for permanent residence through the Express Entry system. The provinces and territories use a similar approach under the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) and in Quebec.
Also, the travel restrictions contain several exemptions that allow some people, such as close family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents, to immigrate to Canada during the pandemic.
On average, Canada has welcomed 300,000 new immigrants each leading up to the pandemic hit year. The country's immigration rate is around 0.9%, which is three times as many new immigrants per capita as the United States. Canada's immigration rate fell to 0.5% in 2020, the country welcoming fewer than 200,000 immigrants for only the second time since 1989 (the only other time was in 1998).
Going forward, immigration levels to Canada will likely exceed 200,000 newcomers in 2021 as IRCC has since adjusted to the pandemic. One of the main reasons why immigration failed to cross the 200,000 newcomer mark last year is that arrivals of permanent residents to Canada fell between mid-March and May 2020, Federal government officials who have been affected by lockdowns and other pandemics measures. As Mendicino noted in his recent television interview, IRCC has since expanded its activities to incorporate remote working and more online processing. These measures should help it avoid unexpected disruptions in its ability to support restoring immigration levels.
The pandemic will continue to impact Canada's immigration levels, but we can expect levels to exceed 401,000 per year once COVID-19 is brought under global control. In the meantime, IRCC and the provinces and territories continue to send out new immigration invitations. IRCC held an Express Entry draw yesterday and is expected to hold another this week.
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