Canada Immigration Drops In December, Down Nearly Half In 2020 As COVID-19 Limits Newcomers

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Canada Immigration Drops In December, Down Nearly Half In 2020 As COVID-19 Limits Newcomers
Canada immigration free assessment

The second, harsher wave of the COVID-19 pandemic pushed immigration to Canada down to its lowest level since April last year in December, thanks to tough new restrictions on international travel.

The 10,795 newcomers welcomed in the last month of 2020 brought the total for the year to 184,370, down 46 percent on the 341,175 new arrivals in 2019.

December’s total was also down 29 percent compared to the 15,205 new permanent residents the preceding month.

The sudden downturn in immigration puts an end to a four-month trend that started in July last year of increasing numbers of new permanent residents to Canada. 

After hitting a low of 4,115 new permanent residents to Canada in April, during the first wave of the pandemic, immigration to Canada picked up again in May and June. Then, it slumped back down to 11,360 new permanent residents to Canada in August. 

Then, in the ensuing months, immigration levels gradually improved through to November. 


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But strict COVID-19 restrictions on non-essential international travel imposed by Ottawa and other countries seem to be putting a damper on immigration.

Ottawa has put in place some of the strictest COVID-19 travel restrictions in the world, including a restriction on non-U.S. international travel to Canada which has been in place for 11 months. 

Canada has enhanced screening measures and pre-arrival testing for anyone entering the country’s land or air borders and a mandatory 14-day quarantine for non-essential travellers.

Canada To Require PCR Test At Land Borders As Of February 15

Those measures are also soon going to be even stricter.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced earlier this week that anyone coming into Canada through a land border as of Feb. 15 will be required to show a negative COVID-19 test, taken within 72 hours of their arrival, or they will be fined. Canada already requires such a test for arrivals coming to the country by air for non-essential reasons.

“As of Feb. 15, when you return to Canada through a land border, you’ll need to show a 72-hour PCR test, just like for air travel,” said Trudeau.

It’s not that Canada is shying away from welcoming newcomers. Ottawa is bullish on immigration and has raised immigration targets to bring in more than ever. 

The federal government wants to welcome more than 1.2 million newcomers between 2021 and 2023. There are to be 401,000 new permanent residents to Canada this year, 411,000 next year, and 421,000 in 2023.

“Immigration is essential to getting us through the pandemic, but also to our short-term economic recovery and our long-term economic growth,” Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino has said. “Canadians have seen how newcomers are playing an outsized role in our hospitals and care homes and helping us to keep food on the table.

“As we look to recovery, newcomers create jobs not just by giving our businesses the skills they need to thrive, but also by starting businesses themselves,” he said. “Our plan will help to address some of our most acute labour shortages and to grow our population to keep Canada competitive on the world stage.”

Immigration Down by Almost Half

Despite the government’s intentions, the reality of the pandemic is curbing immigration.

Last year, the number of new permanent residents in Canada fell almost 46 percent, to 184,370 from the 341,175 new arrivals in 2019.

The drop in immigration is even starker when comparing last December to the same month in 2019, at a time when the global pandemic was already leading to restrictions on international travel. 

Immigration fell by almost 48.4 percent from the month of December in 2019 to the same month last year.

New permanent resident “arrivals” can be either candidates already in Canada who are transitioning from a temporary status or those from overseas covered by an exemption to travel restrictions.



Canada’s restrictions on non-essential air travel have been extended to Feb. 21 and bar entry to all except citizens and permanent residents, with some exemptions.

Canada currently has exemptions in place for the following people, provided they are travelling for a non-discretionary reason.

  • Seasonal agricultural workers, fish/seafood workers, caregivers and all other temporary foreign workers.
  • International students who held a valid study permit, or had been approved for a study permit, when the travel restrictions took effect on March 18, 2020. More international students will be allowed to travel from October 20 under a new exemption.
  • Permanent resident applicants who had been approved for permanent residence before the travel restrictions were announced on March 18, 2020, but who had not yet travelled to Canada.
  • Immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents are also exempt if entering to be with an immediate family member for at least 15 days.
  • Extended family members of citizens and permanent residents, plus foreign nationals travelling on compassionate grounds.

Canada has been plagued by COVID-19 vaccine delivery issues but the country’s prime minister has reassured Canadians that anyone wanting to be vaccinated will be able to do so by the end of September. 

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