Only 184,370 newcomers were welcomed into Canada in 2020. The lowest level since 1998 and almost half of what the government had originally planned for.
Data released by the Federal Government on Thursday February 11 2021 shows just how deeply the pandemic has affected Canadian immigration levels.
2020 saw the lowest level of immigration in more than two decades and was almost halved in comparison to other years. According to Statistics Canada, the last time immigration levels were this low was in 1998 when 174,000 new immigrants were welcomed into the country.
Trudeau had initially planned on welcoming 341,000 newcomers in 2020. As COVID hit and borders shut down to control the spread of the coronavirus, immigration almost flatlined.
Instead of the 341,000 only 184,370 permanent residents were welcomed into Canada in 2020, a stark contrast to the 341,180 new residents who came the county in 2019.
None of this comes as a surprise given that borders have essentially been closed since March 2020, but it is worrisome nonetheless as Canada relies heavily on immigration for economic and population growth. It is too soon to forecast the implications of the low immigration rates but it is highly probable there will be long term ramifications.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada released data and numbers that confirm the sharp decline in immigration rates coincide with the travel restrictions that were put in place.
While it will likely take some time to recover and see pre-pandemic levels of immigration, the Canadian government is working hard to close the gap and has made it clear that immigration is a top priority in the country’s post-pandemic economic growth and recovery.
In the fall of 2020, Minister Marco Mendicino unveiled Canada’s immigration priorities for the next three years. The 2021-2024 Immigration Levels Plan is hoping to welcome 401,000 new immigrants this year. That number will increase to 411,000 in 2022 and increase yet again in 2023 to 421,000.
So in total 1,233,000 newcomers in a span of three years!
It is an aggressive and ambitious plan no doubt, but Minister Mendicino stated in an interview last month on The Agenda that he was fully confident the targets are realistic and achievable.
One of the ways in which Canada is reaching its target is by using the Express Entry pool. IRCC has been relying heavily on the Express Entry program and inviting large numbers of immigration candidates to apply for permanent residence through the pool.
The surprise Express Entry draw held on Saturday February 13 2021 is a prime example.
The provinces and territories have also been holding weekly Provincial Nominee Program draws and issuing invitations to qualified candidates. To date, several hundred invitations have already been issued. If all goes well, these applicants will likely become residents by the end of the year.
In the years leading up to the pandemic, Canada has welcomed an average of 300,000 new immigrants every year and enjoyed a healthy immigration rate of about 0.9%.
That rate was nearly halved to 0.5% in 2020 as permanent residence landings came to a near standstill from.
The good news is IRCC is coming up with ways to work with and around the challenges posed by the pandemic. In his interview Minister Mendicino stated IRCC has expanded its operations to include remote working and processing of applications online.
These and other measures should help keep the processing of immigration applications smooth and steady. While the ongoing pandemic may cause some more bumps along the way, we are confidant that Canada will reach its immigration target for 2021 and may even surprise us by surpassing it if Express Entry and PNP draws continue to be held at this pace.