Reaching immigration target of 401,000 in 2021 is entirely feasible

Inviting almost half a million newcomers into Canada before the end of 2021 seems daunting at first glance. Maybe even too ambitious and overly aggressive. But IRCC’s stunning Express Entry Draw from February 13 demonstrates that when it comes to immigration, nothing is impossible for Canada

When Minister Mendicino unveiled Canada’s 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan last fall, it was immediately clear the plan was a very ambitious one.

Among the many key points outlined in the plan, the one item that stood out is Canada’s goal to invite over 1.2 million newcomers into the country by 2023!

Given the challenges faced by the pandemic, there were doubts whether it would be possible to come anywhere close to the first target of welcoming 401,000 new immigrants in 2021.

However, given the historic and incredibly surprising Express Entry draw of Saturday February 13 2021 where a total of 27,332 immigration candidates received invitations to apply for their permanent residence, the 2021 target may not be that difficult to reach after all.

What makes the draw stand out from IRCC’s usual rounds (aside from the size of the draw of course) is that it was held on a weekend and had the lowest Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score ever.

Candidates were required to have a score of 75 or higher.

Core federal government business hours are Monday to Friday from 7:00am to 6:00pm. Draws are typically held during these business hours, therefore, the Saturday draw was not only unexpected but entirely unusual.

The selected candidates now have 90 days (roughly 3 months) to submit their applications for permanent residence.

All 27,332 candidates will likely become permanent residents by the end of the year. IRCC has the next ten months to process their applications and ensure candidates complete their landings. 

Once confirmed, these numbers will go towards meeting the immigration target for 2021. 

Why did IRCC do this?

For obvious reasons, the draw left many confused and wondering why.

IRCC provided clarification surrounding their decision to hold this draw by explaining that approximately 90% of the candidates in the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) were already living in Canada during the pandemic, as such the chances of them facing COVID-related immigration challenges and disruptions are much lower compared to an applicant who is overseas.

It will be a lot easier and more efficient for IRCC to invite candidates who are already living, working and more or less settled into Canada then starting the process from scratch with a foreign national.

Minister Mendicino further elaborated on the thought process behind the draw by stating, “These aspiring Canadians are already established here, possess valuable skills and are giving back to their communities. They are hard at work in some of the most essential parts of our economy and are ready to build their future in Canada.”

Canada’s target of 401,000 immigrants is completely achievable

Of course, no matter how historic or enormous, one draw is not enough.

So what else is Canada doing to ensure its immigration targets are met? And are they achievable?


In Canada’s Immigration Levels Plan, about 60% of the new immigrants were to be invited through the economic class.

Approximately 25% of the candidates would come through the family class and the remaining 15% would be welcomed under the refugee and humanitarian class.

The easiest and simplest way of meeting the 60% target for economic class is to invite candidates who are already living in Canada and grant them their permanent residency.

The next thing IRCC can do is invite skilled workers who are not facing any pandemic related travel restrictions as they can easily come into the country.

Because family class immigrants are already exempt from any travel restrictions, it will be easy to reach the 25% target, especially as many applicants in that class are already in Canada waiting for their applications to be processed and finalized.

Every year about half of Canada’s refugee intake is made up of asylum seekers in the country. If this holds true for 2021, around 40,000 resettled refugees will be looking to come into Canada.

This may pose a challenge given border closures due to the pandemic. In that case, IRCC may choose to redistribute that number and choose to increase the number of invites issued to individuals from the economic and family class.

How to achieve Canada’s economic class admissions goals in 2021

The Levels Plan also outlined Canada’s intent to welcome 108,500 new immigrants through IRCC’s Express Entry stream.

To date, a total of 37,986 ITAs have already been issued. A number which is significantly higher than last year at this time when only 10,300 ITAs had been issued.

If IRCC repeats the pattern of the last two months, within the next four months they will have met their target and if all applications are processed in a timely manner, all these candidates will get their permanent residency by the end of the year.

According to the Levels Plan, an additional 80,000 immigrants are expected to be welcome through the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) while another 15,500 will come in through programs like the Atlantic Immigration Pilot (AIP).

Quebec as always has its own set of numbers and is targeting approximately 30,000 economic class immigrants for 2021. The province held one draw so far in late January and issued 95 invitations. 

Even if over 400,000 invitations are sent out, in order to meet the target by year end, IRCC will need to expedite the processing of applications.

IRCC will likely focus on issuing all the invitations early in the year so the second half of the year can be focused on processing applications. The processing time for most applications is about six months or longer.

It is also within the realm of possibility that IRCC will tweak certain requirements, for instance asking for 6 months of work experience as opposed to 12 months so that a larger group of people can meet the eligibility criteria.

How will IRCC achieve the family and refugee class targets?

Canada’s goal of welcoming 103,500 immigrants from the family class should be easy to meet as immediate family are exempt from travel restrictions. Most of the applications in the family class are spousal applications which will likely be expedited.

Towards the end of 2020, IRCC was processing up to 6,000 spousal applications every month. If they were to do the same now, it wouldn’t take long to process a large portion of these applications.

The only real question mark that can’t be predicted is the 66,000 candidates for refugee and humanitarian purposes due to COVID.

CICWeekly has said this before and we’re saying it again, if you’re debating submitting an application for Canadian immigration, now is the best time to do so!

If the Saturday Express Entry draw has taught us anything is that this may be a year full of surprises when it comes to immigration, especially as Canada is working double time to reach its immigration targets.

Related posts

Budget 2022 Outlines

EditorialExpress Entry

Express Entry Q1 2022 report: Canada sees one of the lowest number of invitations issued


Immigration Level Plan 2022-2024


A look back at Canada’s 2021 immigration system

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