Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)

The role of Canada's immigration department called IRCC

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is the name of the Canadian federal department that facilitates the arrival of immigrants to Canada, provides protection to refugees, and offers programming to help newcomers settle in Canada. 

IRCC also grants citizenship, issues travel documents (such as passports) to Canadians, and promotes multiculturalism. 

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IRCC used to be known as Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). Usage of the new name for this federal government department began soon after a new Canadian government took office in November, 2015. The department is led by the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. 

While the acronym ‘CIC’ continues to be used in some cases, it has become increasingly apparent over the first few months of the present government’s mandate that ‘IRCC’ is preferred in official publications and communications. 

The addition of the word ‘refugees’ in the official name of the government department reflects the government’s increased focus on humanitarian and refugee immigration to Canada. That being said, the government has made it clear that Canada will maintain an open and welcoming immigration policy for skilled immigrants and family class programs. There is no evidence to suggest that economic immigration or family reunification is less important to this government than its predecessors; indeed, the government has pledged to increase funding allocated to IRCC to improve program delivery and processing times.

To avoid any confusion, individuals and stakeholders should note that CIC and IRCC are not two separate departments. If documents or publications refer to CIC in one instance and IRCC in another, they are actually referring to the same department. IRCC is not so much a new department, but the successor to one that has existed for many years; CIC has had its mandate slightly modified and been renamed as IRCC. However, the name CIC may continue to be used for some time by some stakeholders, such as Canadian provincial and territorial governments. 


The ‘Immigration’ portion of the department title refers to Canada’s efforts to build and maintain a policy of welcoming newcomers in a way that is beneficial to Canadians and newcomers alike. Canada has traditionally been a country with a progressive, open immigration policy, with most Canadians being able to trace foreign ancestry within just a few generations. As Canada faces a demographic challenge and wishes to have strong economic growth and security, immigration is likely to continue to play an important role in Canada’s future.

To learn more about immigration to Canada, click here


The ‘Refugees’ portion of IRCC is a reflection of two principal factors. First, instability and conflict over recent years in some regions of the world has led to an increase in the number of refugees globally. These individuals and families have been forced from their homes and are often in extremely vulnerable situations. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that as of June, 2015, there are 60 million refugees in the world.

The second factor to consider is that the current government has approached this issue rapidly and with a certain degree of compassion. Over the course of the Canadian federal election campaign in 2015, Trudeau and other prominent Liberal Party members maintained that the best course of action for Canada and international refugees would be for Canada to increase the number of refugees settled in the country and provide additional resources to ensure security and opportunities for refugees over the long term.

To learn more about refugees and Canada, click here


One of the defining characteristics of Canada’s immigration policy is that it provides a pathway to Canadian citizenship for individuals who make the major life decision to immigrate to Canada. Becoming a Canadian citizen and joining the Canadian family is very often a humbling and emotional benchmark in an immigrant’s life.

Citizenship remains an important component of IRCC, as it was before the department was renamed.

To learn more about eligibility requirements for Canadian citizenship, as well as the rights and responsibilities that citizenship confers on an individual, click here

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