Published on: Dec 18, 2020
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a major impact on immigration to Canada. Nonetheless, the government remains committed to its immigration plan targets, aiming to welcome hundreds of thousands of new arrivals in each of the next three years.
With Canada now approving a coronavirus vaccine, the nation may be heading toward a future of lessened travel restrictions, but the vaccination process will still be a gradual one; restrictions could affect the nation's immigration strategies for months to come.
Newly-released immigration figures for October 2020 show that Canada welcomed over 15,000 new immigrants during the month. This makes October 2020 the month with the second-highest number of new arrivals since Covid-19 travel restrictions came into effect. However, this number is a significant decrease relative to the number of immigrants who arrived in October 2019.
Because of reduced travel during the pandemic, Canada is on track to fall significantly short of its immigration goals for 2020. The country's original goal was to accept 341,000 new immigrants in 2020, but the first ten months of the year saw only 158,600, making it highly unlikely that the nation will reach its target by year's end. Nonetheless, Canada remains committed to the ambitious immigration targets outlined in its 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan, which will see the target number increased to over 400,000.
Canada's Express Entry program continues to invite qualified candidates to apply for permanent residence. The draw held on December 10, 2020 invited 5,000 candidates to apply, bringing the total for 2020 to over 102,000. This marks the largest number of invitations issued in any year since the creation of the Express Entry system.
Many areas of Canada's economy have been hurt by the pandemic and by the restrictions associated with it, but some sectors of the population are rebounding in terms of unemployment. Labour Force Survey date indicates that the employment rate among very recent immigrants to Canada -- those who arrived within the last five years -- is almost at its pre-pandemic level, with around 65.6 percent of these immigrants in employment.
However, part of the reason for this robust employment rate may be the very fact that immigration numbers have decreased during the Covid-19 pandemic. Travel restrictions have greatly reduced the number of new arrivals to Canada, meaning that a higher percentage of the group are those who have been in the country for longer. Since new arrivals tend to have a lower employment rate than those who have been in Canada longer, the relatively low number of new arrivals has driven the employment rate up.
Immigrants who have been in Canada longer than five years are currently showing an employment rate of 58.1 percent, down 1.2 percent from pre-pandemic levels. This means that although employment among immigrants who have been in Canada more than five years is lower than employment among native-born Canadians, which stands at 59.7 percent, it has experienced less of a decline; the employment rate for native Canadians is 1.7 percent lower than its level in February.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has announced that asylum-seekers working in certain specified healthcare options will be able to apply for permanent residence from December 14, 2020 to August 31, 2021. This new program is intended to reward the contribution of asylum-seekers who have been working in the healthcare industry, often caring directly for those suffering from Covid-19. Applications under the program will be open to asylum-seekers working in six specified occupations, including nurses and home support workers.
A parallel program will open permanent residence applications to asylum-seekers working in Quebec, but these applications will go through the provincial government.
The approval of a Covid-19 vaccine may signal the beginning of a transition back toward a pre-pandemic immigration landscape. However, the time required to administer the vaccine, as well as the issue of vaccination levels in the rest of the world, may mean that truly open international travel, and thus pre-pandemic immigration levels, are still some time away. It remains to be seen how the Canadian government will respond to the changing international landscape and how it will attempt to compensate for the decreased levels of immigration in 2020 resulting from the effects of the pandemic.