Last Updated on December 31, 2020

The Asian countries of India, China and the Philippines are sure to once again be the top three most important sources of new permanent residents to Canada in the coming year as Covid-19 vaccines are rolled out and travel restrictions fall away.

Before the pandemic hit and caused immigration to Canada to slow to a trickle in 2020, those three countries and Nigeria, Pakistan and the United States accounted for more than half of the 341,175 new permanent residents to Canada in 2019.

Since then, Ottawa has announced ambitious new immigration targets for the coming three years. 

In late October, Canada announced it would be welcoming 401,000 new permanent residents in 2021, 411,000 in 2022 and 421,000 in 2023. Prior to the pandemic, the previous plan set targets of 351,000 in 2021 and 361,000 in 2022.

A return to normal immigration patterns with these higher targets would mean that in 2021 Canada could expect:

  • 100,568 new permanent residents from India;
  • another 35,538 immigrants from China;
  • 32,688 from the Philippines;
  • 14,805 from Nigeria;
  • 12,684 from Pakistan;
  • 12,667 from the United States;
  • 11,891 from Syria;
  • 8,260 from Eritrea;
  • 7,173 from South Korea, and;
  • 7,115 from Iran in the same year.

In the five years that ended in 2019, immigration from India, the greatest source of new permanent residents to Canada, skyrocketed, growing by almost 117.6 per cent from 39,340 in 2015 to 85,590. 

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In that last year, more than 77.8 per cent of immigrants to Canada from India made the move under economic programs. A majority, 55.6 per cent, or 47,600 of them, made the move under worker programs, including the Atlantic Immigration Pilot, Canadian Experience, Caregiver, Skilled Trade and Skilled Worker programs. 

Business programs, including the Entrepreneur, Investor, Self-Employed and Start-up Business programs, accounted for another 175 new permanent residents to Canada from India that year. Provincial Nominee Programs attracted 19,720 newcomers from India. 

Sponsored family programs accounted for the vast majority of the remaining immigrants to Canada in 2019 with only 225 Indians coming to the country as refugees or protected persons.

But 2021, especially the first half of the coming year during which the global pandemic will continue to rage, will almost certainly not be a normal year for Canadian immigration.

Although Canada was quick off the mark to start vaccinating its population against the coronavirus in December, it still has at least six months to go before attaining herd immunity. That level of protection is attained when such a large percentage of the population is immune to a disease as to make it impossible for it to continue to spread

“If all goes according to plan, we should be able to have the majority of Canadians vaccinated by next September,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said. “That puts us in very good stead.”

Experts peg the threshold of vaccination or having recovered from Covid-19 needed to reach herd immunity at anywhere from 50 to 90 per cent.

“The more infectious a disease is, the higher the proportion of the population that has to be protected before we get to herd immunity,” Gypsyamber D’Souza, a professor of epidemiology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at John Hopkins University, has said.

“So, for coronavirus, we think that it’s probably around 70 per cent of people that would need to have immunity before the rest of the group would be protected,” she said.

As countries throughout the world roll out their vaccination programs, they are re-opening their economies at different times – and some of those countries compete with Canada for international students, highly-skilled immigrants and immigrant entrepreneurs. 

South of the border, the United States is one such country that often competes with Canada for immigrants. As 2020 was drawing to a close, there was no country-wide requirement for testing to enter the United States and some states had started re-opening only to be hit with a new surge in Covid-19 cases. 

Many states responded by banning indoor dining, requiring the wearing of face masks and forcing incoming travelers to either quarantine for 14 days or produce a negative Covid-19 test.

Marco Mendicino, Canada’s minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, had not yet responded at the end of December to a request for information submitted two weeks earlier on that very issue. 

The immigration minister has not yet stated whether immigrants to Canada in 2021 will also be required to be vaccinated prior to their arrival in Canada and need to show proof of that fact. 

If immigrants to Canada are required to show proof of having been vaccinated prior to their arrival into the country, then this could affect the normal flow of immigration in the coming year. It could boost immigration from countries with the vaccines and dampen immigration from countries that have not yet secured a ready supply of Covid-19 vaccines.

 In the United States, almost 2.6 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine had been administered and more than 12.4 million doses distributed throughout the country, ready to administer, as of Dec. 30, reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  That number of doses of the vaccine represents one dose per person for 3.7 per cent of the American population, estimated at 331 million.

Another unknown for immigration to Canada in the coming year is the impact of a new president in White House. 

The administration of U.S President Donald Trump has been considered by many experts to have a dampening effect on immigration to that country – to have been a boon for Canadian immigration as foreign nationals choose to come to Canada instead.

“The Trump Administration has embarked on one of the most significant tightenings in immigration policy in U.S. history and used the Covid-19 pandemic to opportunistically accelerate this anti-immigration agenda,” states the United States Studies Centre, a research centre at the University of Sydney in Australia. 

That’s allowed Canada to compete very favourably in the past few years with its neighbour to the south for highly-skilled immigrants and students.

Sean Randolph, senior director of the Economic Institute of the Bay Area Council, said last year that changes to American immigration policies being proposed at the time would make it harder for Silicon Valley to attract highly-skilled workers using H-1B visas.

And he warned that America’s loss in immigration would be Canada’s gain. 

“If Silicon Valley or other companies can’t find the skills they need when they need them, the odds increase that more high-skilled jobs and functions will leave the U.S. for other countries such as Canada which welcomes immigrants and where educated workers with advanced skills are readily available.”

Although President Trump’s team is still contesting the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, it seems likely President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, will take over the White House in January. That will very likely change American immigration policy and may impact Canada’s own ability to attract immigrants in 2021. 

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