Home Country profiles – Canada

Country profile

One of the traditional countries of immigration, Canada has been quite successful in controlling flows of – in turning the the 'tap' on and off.

Arrivals in 2005 262,000 permanent settlers
Foreign-born total 5.8 million (19 % of populatiion)
Sources of legal arrivals (2005) China, 16%; India, 13%; Philippines, 5%

Canada is one of the most popular destinations for migrants, and flows have been rising. Canada has generally managied immigration quite efficiently, and in the past the numbers of immigrants have tended to rise and fall according to the demand for workers. As indicated in the chart below, however, Canada has also had high rates of emigration, particularly to the United States. During the 1990s outflows of foreigners were around 30% of inflows.

Canda, immigration and emigration, thousands, 1880-2005

Immigration to Canada

In addition, Canada has large numbers temporary foreign workers, accepting 113,000 in 2006. Some are farmworkers from the Caribbean and Mexico, who work largely in Ontario for up to eight months. Others include caregivers who can earn an immigrant status via the Live-in Caregivers Programme.

Canada also has around 133,000 foreign students, and some 200,000 to 300,000 unauthorized workers: either failed refugee claimants or visitors with expired visas .

Canada accepts about 250,000 immigrants a year and they account for about two-thirds of the country's population growth. Because of the points-based qualification system they tend to be highly educated. The 2006 Census reported that a third of immigrants are university graduates, compared with 23 percent of working-age Canadians,. Nevertheless on average immigrants have poverty rates three times higher than Canadians: 20% of those arriving between 1992 and 2000 had incomes of less than C$26,800 for a family of four. This is partly because many immigrants with professional credentials cannot get jobs in their preferred fields and may finish up delivering pizzas or pumping gas.

Previously Canada was fairly successful at integrating immigrants but there are signs that more recent arrivals are finding it more difficult. This is particularly true of 'visible-minority' newcomers. Only around 20% of white immigrants report discrimination, compared with 45% of Blacks and one-third of Chinese.

Canada made significant changes to its immigration policy from the 1960s onwards. The most important was the lowering of ethnic barriers: the 1962 and 1967 regulations removed almost all privileges for for European immigrants. Henceforth, people would be considered in three broad groups: family members, refugees, and all others, including those coming to work.

Nowadays around 60% of permant immigrants enter with work-based visas. The points system awards immigrant visas to those who score at least 67 on a 100-point scale. Additional points are awarded for having a Canadian job offer.

However, the process is slow and here is a three- to four-year lag between applying for immigrant status and receiving permission to move to Canada. At any one time, about 800,000 foreigners are in the queue.

Applications from Indians have risen sharply and India is expected soon to overtake China as the major source country. This is partly because nowadays Chinese workers have more opportunities at home but also because of a 2002 policy change that increased the points awarded for knowledge of English, which will benefit Indians.

Canada map