Following the widespread lifting of pandemic entry restrictions, Canada will be able to welcome large numbers of immigrants, international students, and temporary foreign workers in the coming months.
With the imposition of COVID entry restrictions in March 2020, Canada prevented many newcomers from entering the country.
There were some exceptions, such as for those who had obtained permanent residence and study permits before the restrictions took effect and for those admitted under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Canada gradually lifted these restrictions, and by June 2021, all major restrictions on permanent and temporary residents had been lifted. Despite the restrictions, Canada still experienced high levels of immigration in 2021. Indications are that this will continue in 2022, with the next few months likely to be particularly strong. This summer will be the first since the pandemic began that there are no major travel restrictions preventing newcomers from entering Canada.
Permanent residents: about 130,000 could enter in the third quarter of 2022
Based on its 2022-2024 immigration plan, the Canadian government’s current goal is to settle about 432,000 new permanent residents this year. Last year, Canada met its goal by giving priority to applicants living in the country.
However, recent data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) show that the agency is now processing more applications from abroad. For example, this year it has prioritized applications under the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), most of which are submitted by applicants living abroad. This is due to the fact that the entry restrictions that were in place between March 2020 and June 2021 no longer limit the ability to move to Canada.
In the principal quarter of 2022, Canada landed almost 114,000 new permanent residents. A landing is either a person living in Canada converting their temporary status to permanent resident status or a person outside Canada moving to Canada with permanent resident status.
The figure for the first quarter of 2022 represents an increase of more than 60 percent compared to the 74,000 permanent residents who arrived in the first quarter of 2021.
In the third quarter of last year, the number of permanent residents in Canada increased significantly to 123,000 between July and September. This can be explained by three factors. First, the IRCC was able to increase its processing capacity and has maintained it since then. Second, the lifting of travel restrictions for all Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) holders at the end of June 2021 allowed many who were otherwise not allowed to enter Canada to do so in the third quarter of 2021 and beyond. Third, there is an occasional part to Canadian migration. New immigrants prefer to enter during the warmer spring and summer months rather than coming to Canada during the colder months of the year. For example, prior to the pandemic, Canada saw a 40 percent increase in permanent resident arrivals in the second and third quarters of each year before arrivals declined in the fourth and first quarters.
All three factors will have an impact on new permanent resident landings this summer. A conservative estimate is that we can expect another 100,000 landings in the third quarter of 2022. More likely, we will see over 120,000 landings during this period, as we did last year. It is unlikely that we will see an increase of 40 percent or more due to seasonality as IRCC processes applications according to its Immigration Levels Plan. That is, processing many more applications that would result in a 40 percent or more increase in landings this summer would result in Canada far exceeding its target for immigration numbers this year.
Nonetheless, some seasonality is likely to come into play. Assuming a 20% increase in landings due to warmer weather, at least 130,000 new permanent resident permits would be issued between July and September.
A big question mark is what proportion of those landings will come from overseas. These numbers are not published on the Canadian government’s data website. In any case, a larger share of arrivals from overseas can be expected this summer, now that there are fewer COVID-related barriers.
International Students: If Q1 2022 development rate proceeds, up to 270,000 could show up this mid-year
Between July and September 2021, Canada admitted 207,000 international students. This is an astounding number, and all the more impressive considering the pandemic travel restrictions imposed on Canada during this time, such as the ban on direct flights from India last summer. India is by far the top source country for foreign students in Canada, accounting for 35%. Typically, Canada records the highest number of international students in the third quarter of each year, as most foreign students begin their studies at the start of the Canadian academic calendar in late August and early September.
In the principal quarter of 2022, Canada invited almost 90,000 global students. This represents a 30 percent increase from the first quarter of 2021 and more than a 50 percent increase from the first quarter of 2019 (data for the first quarter of 2020 are not suitable for comparison because the number of international students in Canada was negatively impacted by the pandemic outbreak).
Assuming that the 30 percent increase Canada experienced in the first quarter of 2022 continues in subsequent quarters, as many as 270,000 international students could arrive in Canada between July and September of this year.
Temporary foreign workers: over 100,000 work permits expected in Q3
There are two categories of temporary foreign workers in Canada. Those admitted to filling a labor shortage do so under what is known as the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). The TFWP accounts for the minority of Canadian work permit holders. The majority are admitted under the International Mobility Program (IMP), under which work permits are issued for a variety of economic, social, and cultural purposes.
In the first quarter of 2022, Canada admitted approximately 28,000 individuals under the TFWP. While this is less than the 33,000 admitted in the first quarter of 2021, it is still more than 20 percent higher than in the first quarter of 2019. TFWP numbers typically increase in the second quarter when agricultural workers arrive at the start of the Canadian harvest season. Third-quarter numbers are generally similar to the first quarter, which means we can expect about 28,000 more TFWP work permit holders between July and September.
Unlike the TFWP, where most new work permit holders are from abroad, the IMP is characterized by a mix of work permit holders from abroad and those who obtain their work permits after having been in Canada for some time. Most IMP work permit holders are international students who have completed their studies in Canada and then obtain what is called a Post-Graduation Work Permit. The Canadian government offers international graduates the opportunity to gain work experience, which increases their chances of becoming permanent residents.
In the first quarter of this year, approximately 73,000 work permits were issued in Canada under the IMP. Again, this is down from the 91,000 issued in the first quarter of 2021. Nevertheless, IMP numbers are usually highest in the third quarter, as many international graduates, for example, receive a PGWP after completing their studies (usually in the second quarter). Therefore, between 80,000 and 100,000 IMP work permits are likely to be issued this summer (assuming that there is also pent-up demand for IMPs, which will result in a higher than a usual number of work permits this summer).
Combining the TFWP and IMP forecasts, between 110,000 and 120,000 new work permits could be issued between July and September.
Overall: More than 500,000 people are likely to land and see their study and work permits come into effect
In total, 520,000 or more people could receive permanent residency and see their study and work permits go into effect over the course of this summer. This would be a significant number in just three months and would mark a remarkable turnaround after two difficult years for Canadian immigration.
By comparison, about 445,000 people received permanent residence, study or work permits in the third quarter of 2021.
It should be noted that forecasting numbers for newcomers to Canada is difficult for several reasons. There are double and even triple counts, as it is routine for newcomers to change their visa status. For example, an international student may start with a study permit, then change to a PGWP, and then obtain permanent residency. If this all happens in the same year, he or she would be counted three times in IRCC’s statistics. It is more common for a person to change visa status twice in one year (e.g., from a study permit to a PGWP or from a work permit to permanent residence). Another issue is the processing capacity of the IRCC. The IRCC has demonstrated over the past year that it is capable of processing very large volumes of applications, but it also regularly encounters obstacles that can slow processing.
Despite these variables, it is very likely that the above categories of new arrivals will exceed 500,000 individuals over the summer as pandemic-related travel restrictions are largely lifted and the IRCC processes a record number of applications to alleviate the pandemic-related backlog.
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