Canada Immigration Levels Plan 2021-2023

Last updated: 18 November 2020

On October 30, 2020, Canada announced its Immigration Levels Plan 2021-2023.

Canada is maintaining high levels of immigration despite the coronavirus pandemic as it seeks to strengthen its economy.

This comprehensive page outlines everything that you need to know about the plan, why Canada welcomes high levels of immigration, and how COVID-19 is impacting Canadian immigration.

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Table of Contents


Summary of Canada's Immigration Levels Plan

Canada Immigration Levels Plan Infographic

Over the next 3 years, Canada will seek to welcome over 1.2 million new immigrants. 

Each year, the federal department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) releases a new Immigration Levels Plan which it uses to guide its operations.

In 2021, IRCC will target the arrival of 401,000 immigrants. In 2022, this will rise to 411,000 new permanent residents (PRs). In 2023, Canada will aim to welcome an additional 421,000 immigrants. The following table summarizes Canada's immigration targets between 2021-2023 by immigration class:


Immigration Class202120222023
Economic232,500241,500249,500
Family103,500103,500104,500
Refugee59,50060,50061,000
Humanitarian5,5005,5006,000
Total401,000411,000421,000



2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan

Immigrant Category202120222023
TargetLow Range
High Range
Target
Low Range
High Range
Target
Low Range
High Range
Overall Planned Permanent Resident Admissions
401,000
300,000
410,000
411,000
320,000
420,000
421,000
330,000
430,000
Economic
Federal High Skilled108,500
81,000
110,250
110,500
96,250
112,900
113,750
100,000
114,500
Federal Business1,000
400
1,250
1,000
250
1,250
1,000
500
1,250
Economic Pilots: Caregivers8,500
4,900
9,250
10,000
4,500
10,500
10,250
4,500
11,000
Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program6,000
3,300
6,250
6,250
3,000
6,750
6,500
3,500
6,750
Provincial Nominee Program
80,800
64,000
81,500
81,500
63,600
82,500
83,000
65,000
84,000
Quebec Skilled Workers and BusinessSee the Quebec immigration plan
To be determined
To be determined
Total Economic232,500
180,500
237,000
241,500
199,000
247,000
249,500
207,000
253,500
Family
Spouses, Partners and Children
80,000
61,000
81,000
80,000
60,000
81,000
81,000
60,000
82,000
Parents and Grandparents
23,500
15,000
24,000
23,500
14,000
24,000
23,500
14,000
24,000
Total Family
103,500
76,000
105,000
103,500
74,000
105,000
104,500
74,000
106,000
Refugees and Protected Persons
Protected Persons in Canada and Dependents Abroad
23,500
17,000
25,000
24,500
19,000
25,000
25,000
19,500
25,500
Resettled Refugees - Government-Assisted12,500
7,500
13,000
12,500
7,500
13,000
12,500
8,400
13,000
Resettled Refugees - Privately Sponsored
22,500
14,900
23,000
22,500
15,400
23,000
22,500
15,500
23,000
Resettled Refugees - Blended Visa Office-Referred
1,000
100
1,000
1,000
100
1,000
1,000
100
1,000
Total Refugees and Protected Persons
59,500
39,500
62,000
60,500
42,000
62,000
61,000
43,500
62,500
Humanitarian and Other
Total Humanitarian & Compassionate and Other5,500
4,000
6,000
5,500
5,000
6,000
6,000
5,500
8,000
4.4% of total admissions outside Quebec
12,144
16,544

Why Canada Needs Immigrants

Canada welcomes high levels of immigration to keep its economy strong.

Canada has one of the world's oldest populations and also one of the world's lowest birth rates. This creates economic and fiscal pressures. Canada has a low rate of natural population growth which results in low rates of labour force and economic growth. Low economic growth makes it difficult for Canada to raise the taxes it needs to support social spending on services such as education, health care, and other important areas that provide high living standards in the country.

As a result, Canada has been increasing its immigration levels since the late 1980s to increase its rate of population, labour force, and economic growth. Canada now depends on immigration for the majority of its population and labour force growth and a larger share of its economic growth.

Consider that Canada will have 9 million baby boomers reach the retirement age of 65 by the year 2030. This means that Canada will have fewer workers at a time when its social spending on health care will rise. To alleviate this challenge, Canada has been proactive by gradually raising its immigration targets for over 30 years now.

As shown in the chart below, Canada has regularly welcomed over 200,000 immigrants per year since 1988. In recent years, it has decided to increase its levels to over 300,000 per year. Canada's immigration rate now stands at around 0.9 per cent. In other words, Canada welcomes three times more immigrants on a per capita basis than then the United States of America.

Based on its demographic realities and its immigration trends, it appears likely that Canada will continue to gradually increase its immigration levels over the foreseeable future. Immigration will remain critical to supporting a healthy economy and fiscal situation in the country.

Moreover, a strong argument can be made that immigration's importance has increased due to the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 has weakened the Canadian economy in the short run and increased government spending on social services. In addition, Canada's birth rate fell to its lowest level ever of 1.47 children per woman in 2019. Given the low birth rate prior to the pandemic, and the chance the pandemic will reduce the birth rate even further due to economic uncertainty, Canada will become even more dependent on immigration for its population growth in the coming years. If Canada's birth rate remains low, then immigration will comprise an even larger share of labour force growth in the decades to come. Finally, Canada will need to strengthen its tax base through immigration to support government spending following COVID-19.

Canada Immigration Levels 1860-2019

How COVID-19 is Impacting Canada Immigration

Canada has continued to operate its immigration system throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Since the start of the pandemic, the Canadian government has communicated its desire to minimize disruptions to the immigration system so it can continue to welcome skilled workers, family class immigrants, refugees, temporary foreign workers, international students, and visitors. When Canada initially imposed COVID-19 travel restrictions, it announced that some new permanent residents would be allowed to enter the country.

COVID-19 has reduced the flow of new permanent resident arrivals into Canada. At the same time, the ongoing processing of immigration applications means that those who are not able to enter Canada in 2020 should expect to be able to move to the country once the pandemic situation has improved.

In the meantime, Canada is still issuing new immigration invitations to skilled workers under Express Entry, the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), and through Quebec's immigration programs. Spousal sponsorship applications are also being processed. The following CanadaVisa page contains the latest updates on how COVID-19 is affecting Canadian immigration.

Overview of Canada's Immigration Programs

Economic immigration, which is a major driver of Canada’s economic growth, accounts for more than half of planned admissions through the multi-year levels plan.

Nearly half of projected economic admissions will be through the federal Express Entry system programs:

Canada’s Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) also plays an important role in terms of economic immigration. This program allows participating Canadian provinces and territories to nominate eligible immigration candidates who match local workforce needs for permanent residence.

The following are immigration programs included in Canada's Multi-Year Immigration Levels Plan:

Economic Programs

  • Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) Program:
    This Express Entry-managed program is for immigrants with the requisite education, work experience, proficiency in English and/or French and other skills need to establish themselves economically in Canada.
  • Federal Skilled Trades Class (FSTC):
    The Express Entry-managed Federal Skilled Trades Class is for foreign workers with qualifications in a skilled trade.
  • Canadian Experience Class (CEC):
    The Canadian Experience Class is managed by the Express Entry system and welcomes expressions of interest from foreign workers with Canadian work experience or recent graduates of Canadian educational institutions working in Canada.
  • Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program (AIPP):
    The Atlantic Immigration Pilot allows designated Atlantic employers to recruit and hire foreign skilled workers or international graduates in the Atlantic Canada region (Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick).
  • Caregivers Program:
    Canada allows eligible foreigners caring for children and people with high medical needs the opportunity to apply for Canadian permanent residence.
  • Federal Business (Start-Up Visa Program and Self-Employed Person):
    Federal business class programs allow foreigners who meet eligibility requirements the chance to run new or pre-existing businesses in Canada.
  • Provincial Nominee Program (PNP):
    This program allows participating provinces and territories to nominate eligible economic immigration candidates for Canadian permanent residence.
  • Quebec Skilled Worker Program and Quebec Business:
    The province of Quebec runs its own immigration system outside the federal system. The Government of Quebec's planned levels for 2019 to 2021 have yet to be determined.

Family Class Programs

Refugees and Protected Persons, Humanitarian and other