When I tell people what I do the conversation usually jumps to refugees, which is what many people think our immigration system is all about. That’s understandable if you have only a cursory interest in immigration, as refugees are in the news often.
But, of course, there is much more to immigration than the refugee stream.
If you ask people what percentage of Canadians are immigrants, some will get it pretty close. The answer, according to the 2021 census, is 23 per cent.
I prefer the figure 95 per cent. Subtract the indigenous population of roughly five per cent and that leaves the rest of us. We are all immigrants. Canada was built as a nation of immigrants. It’s just that some of our families came here earlier than others.
Yes, refugees are part of the mix, but only a part. In recent years refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine have been in the news. But their total recent numbers in the overall immigration program are low.
There are four classes of immigration: economic, family, refugees, and other, including the humanitarian and compassionate category.
In 2021 56 per cent of immigrants were in the many economic categories and 27 per cent were family reunification, with the remainder being refugees and other categories.
Economic streams are driving Canadian immigration, and include many programs. Express Entry categories such as Canadian Experience Class, Federal Skilled Worker, Federal Skilled Trades and provincial nominee programs form much of the total. Then there are relatively new programs such as the Atlantic Provinces one and our own, Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot.
Family class immigrants are sponsored as spouses, children, parents or grandparents.
Refugees can be government-sponsored or privately sponsored, with private sponsors responsible for living expenses for the first year in Canada.
Once a permanent resident has three years of Canadian residence in the past five years, he or she is eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship.
Then, there are the temporary resident streams. People can come to Canada as visitors, students, or temporary workers, and there are hundreds of thousands who do each year.
Some people were shocked at the 406,000 people who became permanent residents in 2021. What was left out of most of the news stories was the fact that almost half of them, 191,000, were already here.
I see that in my practice every day. Students come to Canadore College or Nipissing University as temporary residents, graduate and receive a post-graduation work permit, and then become permanent residents through the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot, the short-lived Temporary Resident to Permanent Resident program, the Ontario Provincial Nominee Program, or the federal Canadian Experience Class.
RNIP is by far the most popular pathway.
I work with visitors, students, and workers, and when they come to see me their end goal is permanent residence. They have the advantage of already living in Canada, making the transition to permanent residence much easier.
And you can see by the numbers that they comprise almost half the total. So, keep that in mind when you read that Canada will accept 465,000 permanent residents in 2023, 485,000 in 2024, and 500,000 in 2025.
Almost half are already here, studying or working.
Editor’s Note: Don Curry is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant living in North Bay, and a member of Bay Today’s community advisory committee.