Published on: Nov 11, 2021
The disruptions to global travel needed to combat the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic had a serious effect on Canada's immigration system. Travel from other countries was restricted, in-person appointments became unavailable, and for over a year that immigration landscape looked completely different. However, some recent news stories in the world of Canadian immigration suggest that immigration levels and immigration policy may be returning, if not to normal, then to a more accessible new normal.
The release of immigration statistics for September 2021 demonstrates that the numbers of new arrivals this year are keeping up with the government's ambitious immigration targets. According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), 45,000 new immigrants arrived in Canada in September. This is a significant increase on the 38,000 who arrived in August. If the rest of the year continues at this rate, then Canada should be on track to meet its target of welcoming 401,000 new arrivals in 2021.
This encouraging news for immigration is particularly relevant given the heavy decline in immigration figures in 2020. The Liberal government's plan to welcome a million new Canadians over a three-year period was threatened when travel restrictions resulting from Covid-19 safety precautions resulted in a drastic drop in the number of immigrants. Only 184,000 new immigrants arrived in Canada in 2020, the lowest level in over 20 years. To compensate, the government deployed new strategies, such as focusing on quickly processing applications from Canadian Experience Class (CEC) applicants. Because most CEC applicants are already in Canada, this focus helped avoid the worst impact of travel restrictions. The proposed total number of new immigrants for 2021 was also increased to counterbalance 2020's shortfall. As vaccinations made travel safer and more and more immigration services returned to normal availability, it became clear that this target, once thought challenging, could now be met.
In addition to being good news for prospective new Canadians, this is also good news for the success of the government's immigration policy. Historically high immigration targets are a way of maintaining a skilled workforce and funding public services against the backdrop of an ageing native-born population. Immigration will be especially important as the government attempts to restart economic growth in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Since international travel restrictions came into place, many Canadian airports have been closed to international flights. On 2 November, Transport Canada announced that eight new airports will be able to accept international flights, bringing the total to 18. Flights will resume on 30 November. In a statement, Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra said that airport reopenings were possible because of the high levels of vaccination among Canada's population.
The eight airports scheduled to reopen on 30 November are:
The reopening of so many of Canada's international airports is another sign that the government anticipates international travel returning to pre-pandemic levels. This could mean some changes for Canadian immigration as travel to Canada becomes easier for permanent residence candidates in all classes.
In May, IRCC announced a pilot program intended to help temporary residents of Canada make an accelerated transition to permanent residence. The program was available to international students, French speakers, and essential workers in a range of fields including health care. 5 November was the closing date for the program, and although there was early speculation that it would be renewed, it currently appears that it will not. This may suggest that IRCC feels able to rely on its existing system for the near future.
The closure of a special program, the reopening of international travel, and evidence that immigration levels are in line with projections all indicate that some of the worst effects of the pandemic on Canada's travel and immigration systems are fading. However, it's too early to claim this as a new normal for Canadian immigration: many of the changes initiated in response to Covid-19 remain in effect. As always, Canada's response to Covid-19 is continually evolving.