Canada Immigration and Visas

canada immigration flag and passportPeople from around the world may apply to come to Canada as either a permanent resident or a temporary resident, whether to visit, study or work.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) handles all the applications for permanent and temporary immigration across CIC’s extensive global processing network.

Permanent Residence:

Permanent residents are persons who have not become Canadian citizens, but have been authorized to live and work in Canada, provided that they continue to meet residency requirements and do not lose their status by reason of serious criminality, security, human rights violations, organized crime or misrepresentation. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) defines three basic classes of permanent residents: economic, family and protected persons. The Government of Canada, in consultation with the provinces and territories, plans admissions of permanent residents each year in order to uphold the objectives for immigration as set out in IRPA, achieve specific priorities, and balance the benefits and costs of the immigration program so as to maintain public confidence.

Admissions of permanent residents in 2012

Canada admitted 257,887 new permanent residents in 2012, which constitutes a slight increase over 2011 (248,748). Admissions in 2012 were also greater than the five-year average from 2008 to 2012 of 257,000. The proportions among the economic, family and protected persons classes in 2012 are comparable to previous years: 62.4 percent of admissions were economic immigrants (along with their spouse/partner and dependents), 25.2 percent were in the family reunification category, and 12.4 percent were protected persons and other immigrants.

Table 2: New Permanent Residents Admitted in 2012
Immigrant Category2012 Plan
Admission Ranges
Number Admitted in 2012
Federal Skilled Workers55,00057,00057,213
Federal Business5,5006,0005,446
Canadian Experience Class6,0007,0009,359
Live-in Caregivers8,0009,3009,012
Quebec-selected Skilled Workers31,00034,00034,256
Quebec-selected Business2,5002,7004,634
Provincial and Territorial Nominees42,00045,00040,899
Subtotal Economic Class: Principal Applicants68,266
Subtotal Economic Class: Spouses and Dependants92,553
Total Economic Class 150,000161,000160,819
Spouses, Partners and Children38,00044,00043,193
Parents and Grandparents21,80025,00021,815
Total Family Class 59,80069,00065,008
Government-assisted Refugees7,5008,0005,430
Privately Sponsored Refugees4,0006,0004,220
Protected Persons in Canada (PPiC)7,0008,5008,586
Dependants Abroad4,0004,5004,858
Total Protected Persons 22,50027,00023,094
Humanitarian and Compassionate Grounds/Public Policy7,6007,8008,894
Permit Holders10020067
Total Other7,7008,0008,961
Category Not Stated5

Source: Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Facts and Figures 2012. Additional CIC data are also available through the Quarterly Administrative Data Release.

Provincial Nominee Program:

The Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) provides provinces and territories with a mechanism to respond to their particular economic needs by allowing them to nominate individuals who will meet specific local labour market demands. In addition, the PNP was designed to spread the benefits of immigration across Canada by promoting immigration to areas that are not traditional immigrant destinations. It is currently the second-largest economic immigration program after the FSW Program, and the number of provincial nominees continues to increase. In 2012, Canada admitted a record number of nominees under the PNP with 40,899 persons settling across Canada. Eighty percent of applications were processed in 16 months or less.

Business Immigration

CIC’s Federal Business Immigrants Program comprises four separate streams: entrepreneurs, immigrant investors, self-employed persons and the newly launched Start-Up Visa Program pilot. Business immigration programs are intended to attract experienced business people who will contribute to national and regional economic development. The immigrant investor stream requires candidates to make a one-time investment in the Canadian economy in the form of a five-year, zero-interest loan to the Government of Canada, which is allocated to participating provinces and territories to fund economic development and job creation initiatives in their region.


Family Sponsorship

Family reunification is a key objective of IRPA. To facilitate the reunification of families, Canadian citizens and permanent residents may sponsor spouses or partners, dependent children, parents, grandparents and other close relatives to become permanent residents as Family Class immigrants. Sponsors must undertake to provide for the basic requirements of the sponsored person and his or her family members for a specified period. Sponsors of parents and grandparents and some other relatives must also meet a minimum income test.

Canada has one of the most generous family reunification programs in the world. For example, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States do not allow grandparent sponsorships at all or in only very limited circumstances. These countries also have very restrictive criteria for sponsoring parents.

In 2012, CIC admitted 65,008 permanent residents to Canada in the Family Class, which is within the planned admission range of 59,800 to 69,000, representing a 15-percent increase compared with 2011.


Super Visa

CIC launched the super visa to allow parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to visit Canada for up to two years at a time, with the visa being valid for 10 years. During the first half of 2013, over 20,000 super visas had been issued since the program was launched in December 2011, representing an acceptance rate of 85 percent.

Currently, new sponsorship applications for parents and grandparents are not being accepted by CIC for processing. Rather, Under Ministerial Instructions issued in June 2013, CIC will begin accepting a maximum of 5,000 new applications per year in 2014.

Spouse Sponsorship

In 2012, CIC admitted 43,193 spouses, partners and children as permanent residents under the Family Class, which is at the high end of the planned admission range of 38,000 to 44,000. Applications for permanent residence in this stream are demand-driven and volumes may vary from year to year, which can affect processing times. CIC processed 80 percent of spouses, partners and children applications in 19 months or less, which fell short of achieving the service standard of processing at least 80 percent of these applications in 12 months.

Refugee programs

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there were about 10.4 million refugees in the world at the beginning of 2012, many of whom have been living in exile for decades. By offering protection to refugees and persons in need of protection, and through active participation in international forums on refugee protection, CIC plays a significant role in upholding Canada’s international obligations and humanitarian tradition.

There are three main categories of protected persons: government-assisted refugees, privately sponsored refugees and persons who received protected person status in Canada as a result of a positive asylum claim. A total of 8,586 people were admitted as protected persons in Canada in 2012, which was slightly higher than the planned range of 7,000 to 8,500 people.

Bhutanese refugees of ethnic Nepalese descent have been living in seven camps in eastern Nepal since the early 1990s. In 2007, the Canadian government committed to resettle up to 5,000 Bhutanese refugees over a three- to five-year timeframe. In June 2012, the government announced that it would resettle up to 500 more refugees with family connections in Canada and, in March 2013, plans to resettle an additional 1,000 Bhutanese refugees were announced, for a total target of 6,500.

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The uprisings in the Middle East that began in December 2010 have had a significant impact on the Department’s operations both in Canada and internationally over the past few years. Visa operations in Tripoli, Tunis and Cairo were temporarily suspended, and several officers were evacuated at the height of the turmoil as the security situation deteriorated. The most significant impact on the Department has been the forced closure of Canada’s embassy in Damascus, Syria, on January 31, 2012, due to security concerns. Following the closure in Damascus, the regional headquarters in the Middle East was transferred to Ankara, Turkey. Instability, conflict and other program challenges in the Horn of Africa have meant that the visa office in Nairobi has been unable to receive sufficient referrals for government-assisted refugees.

Humanitarian and Compassionate

IRPA authorizes the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to consider the circumstances of and grant permanent resident status to individuals and their families who would not otherwise qualify in an immigration program. These discretionary provisions for humanitarian and compassionate consideration or for reasons of public policy provide the flexibility to approve deserving cases that come forward.

In 2012, a total of 8,894 people were admitted into Canada based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds or for public policy reasons, which is above the planned admission range of 7,600 to 7,800.

Using his authority to grant permanent residence for reasons of public policy, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has adopted special measures since 2009 to facilitate immigration to Canada for certain Afghan nationals who provided direct support to the Canadian mission in Kandahar province, Afghanistan. Under these measures, 533 persons were resettled to Canada in 2012, over and above those resettled under the government-assisted refugee and privately sponsored refugee programs. These individuals received resettlement services similar to what is currently offered to government-assisted refugees.


Admissions of permanent residents by top 10 source countries in 2012

Canada’s immigration program is based on non-discriminatory principles, where foreign nationals are assessed without regard to race, nationality, ethnic origin, colour, religion or gender. Canada receives its immigrant population from over 200 countries of origin.

As Table 4 indicates, 56.6 percent of new permanent residents admitted in 2012 came from the top 10 source countries, which is comparable to 2011, where 54 percent of new permanent residents came from the top 10 source countries. The top 10 countries in 2012 are similar to 2011, with the People’s Republic of China, the Philippines and India remaining as the top three source countries in both years.

Table 4: Permanent Residents Admitted in 2012, by Top 10 Source Countries
1People’s Republic of China33,01812.8%
5United States of America9,4143.7%
8United Kingdom and Colonies6,3652.5%
10Republic of Korea5,3082.1%
Total Top 10145,92656.6%
All Other Source Countries111,96143.4%

Source: Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Facts and Figures 2012.

Temporary Residents

In addition to selecting permanent residents, CIC also processes applications for the temporary entry of: foreign workers, important to Canada’s economic growth; international students, attracted by the quality and diversity of Canada’s educational system; and visitors, who come to Canada for personal or business travel.

These temporary residents contribute to Canada’s economic development by filling gaps in the labour market, enhancing trade, purchasing goods and services, and increasing cultural links.

CIC’s global processing network handles both permanent and temporary resident applications. While CIC plans admission ranges for permanent residents, temporary resident applications are processed according to demand.

Temporary Foreign Workers

CIC facilitates the temporary entry of foreign workers needed to address labour market shortages and to provide other economic opportunities for Canadians, such as job creation and the transfer of new skills and knowledge. Temporary foreign workers (TFWs) are intended to help meet acute and short-term needs in the labour market that could not be filled by the domestic labour force; they are to complement, rather than substitute, the Canadian labour force. In response to short-term labour market demand, Canada welcomed 213,573 TFWs in 2012. This is a sizable increase of 11.9 percent from 2011 (190,842), consistent with the improvements in the economy after the recent global economic downturn. This program is currently under review.

In 2012, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration issued Ministerial Instructions with the aim of protecting vulnerable TFWs from the risk of abuse and exploitation in sex trade-related businesses. Under the terms of these Instructions, which were issued under the authority of section 87.3 of IRPA, CIC no longer processes new work permit applications from TFWs intending to work for sex trade-related businesses, such as strip clubs and escort services.

Live-in Caregiver Program

The Live-in Caregiver Program allows Canadian families to hire temporary workers from abroad to provide live-in home care to a child, an elderly person or an adult with disabilities when there is a demonstrated shortage of workers already in Canada who are able to fill available positions. In 2012, 6,242 TFWs were admitted under this program.

Caregivers first come to Canada on a temporary basis; they become eligible to apply for permanent residence in Canada after working for two years as a live-in caregiver. Last year, CIC admitted 9,012 live-in caregivers for permanent residence and processed 80 percent of work permit applications for live-in caregivers within 175 days.

International students

International students bring with them new ideas and cultures that enrich the learning environment within Canadian educational institutions. International students are well prepared for the Canadian labour market and integrate more quickly into Canadian society since they have Canadian educational credentials and have spent several years interacting with Canadian students in their post-secondary institutions. The number of foreign students entering Canada in 2012 was 104,810, a modest rise of 6.5 percent from the previous year’s total of 98,383.

In collaboration with its partners, CIC continued to successfully deliver key initiatives to help Canada maintain its competitive edge in attracting and retaining international students. Important vehicles for accomplishing this include the off-campus work permit, which allows certain international students to seek employment off campus, and the post-graduation work permit, which allows graduates from participating post-secondary institutions to gain valuable Canadian experience for up to three years. In 2012, CIC issued 33,714 off-campus permits and extensions, and 27,341 post-graduation work permits, which are increases from 2011, demonstrating the success of these permits for international students.

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With respect to processing times, CIC processed 100 percent of applications for off-campus work permits in four months, which exceeded the service standard of 80 percent of applications within 120 days. For new study permits from overseas, CIC processed 90 percent of applications within 60 days, which exceeded the service standard of 80 percent of applications within 60 days. For extensions to study permits submitted from within Canada, CIC processed 97 percent of applications within 120 days, which exceeded the service standard of 80 percent of applications within 120 days.

Tourists and business visitors

Tourists contribute to the economy by creating a demand for services in the hospitality sector, and business visitors allow Canadian businesses to benefit from their specialized expertise and international links. Under IRPA, all foreign nationals wishing to visit Canada must have a temporary resident visa (TRV) before arriving in Canada unless they are from countries specifically exempted, or they benefit from certain other limited exceptions, for example, by being accredited diplomats in Canada.

As of December 1, 2012, citizens from 148 countries and territories require TRVs to visit Canada. In 2012, CIC processed applications (new and extensions) from over one million persons seeking TRVs to come to Canada. Moreover, CIC was successful in promoting the use of multiple-entry visas, which are valid for up to 10 years and thus allow applicants from visa-required countries to travel to Canada more frequently and on their own schedules. Multiple-entry visas represented nearly half (46 percent) of all visas issued in 2012, up from only 34 percent in 2010. This proportion is expected to continue to increase in the coming years as CIC continues to be successful in promoting multiple-entry visas to travellers from priority trade and tourism markets such as China, India, Mexico and Brazil. The service standard for TRVs outside Canada is 14 days in 80 percent of cases, and in 2012, CIC processed 76 percent of applications within this standard.

Temporary resident permits

Subsection 24(1) of IRPA authorizes designated officers of CIC and the CBSA to issue temporary resident permits (TRPs) to foreign nationals who they believe are inadmissible or who do not meet the requirements of the Act under other programs. Foreign nationals can be considered inadmissible—that is, barred from entering or remaining in Canada—on grounds such as national security, violation of human rights, criminality, organized crime, health, financial reasons, and misrepresentation. These permits are issued when there are justified reasons to admit an otherwise inadmissible individual into Canada. In exercising their discretion, designated officers must act in accordance with subsection 24(3) of the Act, which stipulates that officers shall take into consideration any instructions from the Minister and weigh the risk to Canada against the reasons for permitting temporary residence. TRPs are issued for a limited period of time and are subject to cancellation at any time. They provide flexibility to address exceptional circumstances and can be used to further Canada’s national and international objectives.

CIC continues to make an important contribution to the Government of Canada’s multi-faceted efforts to combat trafficking in persons. Since May 2006, immigration officers have been authorized to issue TRPs to foreign nationals who may be victims of this crime, so that they have a period of time to remain in Canada and consider their options. In 2012, 53 TRPs were issued to 48 victims of human trafficking. This figure includes subsequent permits issued to the same victim to maintain legal status in Canada.

In 2012, a total of 53 visas were issued under the public policy authority provided in section 25.2(1) of IRPA that exempts certain foreign nationals from the inadmissibility provisions to facilitate their temporary entry. This public policy has been in place since September 2010 to advance Canada’s national interests while continuing to ensure the safety of Canadians.

On March 1, 2012, two new public policies were implemented to facilitate the temporary entry of certain foreign nationals by allowing for a fee-exempt TRP under certain conditions.

The first policy is for foreign nationals from select countries with valid U.S. visas transiting Canada on select air carriers and arriving in Canada at select Canadian airports as part of the Transit Without Visa Program or China Transit Program. Under certain unforeseen circumstances, such as a delay in their departing flight, these travellers may seek temporary entry to Canada. This policy also includes emergency landings. From March 1 to December 31, 2012, 1,013 fee-exempt TRPs were issued under this public policy.

The second policy applies to foreign nationals who are inadmissible due to a single criminal offence as described under subsection 36(2) of IRPA. Those eligible for consideration are travellers who were convicted of a criminal offence, excluding child pornography or any sexual offence, who received no term of imprisonment as part of the sentence imposed, and are not inadmissible for any other reason. From March 1 to December 31, 2012, officials issued 2,256 fee-exempt TRPs under this public policy.

Table 5 indicates the number of TRPs issued in 2012, categorized according to grounds of inadmissibility under IRPA. In 2012, 13,564 permits were issued, with 844 representing permits issued to foreign nationals who continued to maintain their status as permit holders from within Canada. Of the total, 159 TRPs were issued under instruction of the Minister. The authority to issue TRPs is shared between designated CIC officials and CBSA officers working at ports of entry.

Table 5: Temporary Resident Permits Issued from January 1 to December 31, 2012
Description of InadmissibilityProvision under the Immigration and Refugee Protection ActNumber of Permits in 2012
Security (espionage, subversion, terrorism)34(1)(a), (b), (c), (d), (e) and (f) 20
Human or International Rights Violations35(1)(a), (b) and (c) 15
Serious Criminality (convicted of an offence punishable by a term of imprisonment of at least 10 years)36(1)(a), (b) and (c) 888
Criminality (convicted of a criminal act or of an offence prosecuted either summarily or by way of indictment)36(2)(a), (b), (c) and (d) 7,014
Organized Criminality37(1)(a) or (b) 8
Health Grounds (danger to public health or public safety, excessive burden)38(1)(a), (b) and (c) 91
Financial Reasons (unwilling or unable to support themselves or their dependants)3911
Misrepresentation40(1)(a), (b), (c) and (d) 18
Non-compliance with Act or Regulations (e.g., no passport, no visa, work/study without permit, medical/criminal check to be completed in Canada, not examined on entry)41(a) and (b) 5,206
Inadmissible Family Member42(a) and (b) 186
No Return Without Prescribed Authorization52(1)107
TOTAL 13,564

Source: Global Case Management System as of May 13, 2013, and Field Operations Support System as of April 9, 2013.


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