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Even during the COVID-19 global pandemic, Syria remains one of the most important sources of new Canadian permanent residents.

In the first half of this year, the Middle Eastern country dropped from the seventh to the ninth spot in the rankings of the most important sources of new Canadian permanent residents by country of citizenship. 

The uptick in Syrians becoming permanent residents in recent years is related to Canada’s response to the refugee crisis that affected the country, beginning in 2015. More than 40,000 Syrians were welcomed to Canada.

Now, those refugees and their family members are becoming permanent residents, effectively creating a new stream of immigration to Canada.

The number of Syrians who became Canada permanent residents in the first half of 2020 fell below the number of French and Brazilians as COVID-19 travel restrictions hampered immigration. 

Last year, only 4,960 French citizens and 5,290 Brazilians became new Canadian permanent residents compared to 10,120 Syrians. That made Syria more important as a source of new permanent residents than both France and Brazil put together last year. 

As COVID-19 travel restrictions began to make immigration to Canada more difficult for Syrians in November last year, though, the flow of immigrants from there slowed to a trickle. In April this year, only 25 Syrians made Canada their permanent residence. 


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For the first half of the year, Syria accounted for 2,145 new permanent residents, less than France’s 2,240 or Brazil’s 2,255. The number of Syrians choosing to become new Canadian permanent residents fell by 46.8 per cent in the first six months of 2020 from the 4,600 during the comparable period last year.

During that time period, those wanting to become Canadian permanent residents from France and Brazil fared markedly better than those from Syria.

The number of new Canadian permanent residents from France actually increased slightly during the pandemic, up more than 11.4 per cent from 2,010 and the number of those from Brazil only nudged down about 2.17 per cent from 2,305.

Syria, though, is still in the top 10 most important countries for new permanent residents to Canada.

The number of new permanent residents in Canada from that country was back on the upswing in the second quarter of this year. In the three months that ended June 30, the number of Syrians who became permanent Canadian residents shot up more than tenfold to 260 in June. 

There are many options for Syrians looking to immigrate to Canada. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is slowly subsiding in Canada and the country is re-opening its economy after the lockdowns. With that uptick in the Canadian economy, immigration is likely to become more important than ever. 

Even during the pandemic, Canada continued to bring in permanent residents who had qualified before the international travel restrictions were put in place and welcomed temporary foreign workers that were vital to securing the country’s food supply.

Although the pandemic did cause a major slowdown in Canada’s immigration processes, the opportunities to immigrate remain and the country is still committed to its immigration levels plan that was released shortly before COVID-19 made itself felt in Canada. In that plan, Ottawa announced its intention to welcome more than 1.1 million new permanent residents through to the end of 2022.

The message from Canada’s federal government is clear: Canada wants and will continue to welcome immigrants to Canada.

Syria is no exception. 

The country, ravaged by civil war in 2016, left many Syrians searching for new countries of residence in the wake of that conflict. 

In 2015, Syrian citizens accounted for only 9,850 new Canadian permanent residents. When the war broke out, Canada pledged to bring many Syrians to the safety of its borders and the number of new permanent residents to Canada from Syria jumped to 35,000 that year under the leadership of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 

In each of the two years afterwards, the number of permanent Canadian residents from Syria seemed to stabilize at the roughly 12,000 mark. 

Then, last year, the COVID-19 pandemic started to slow down that rate of immigration to Canada from Syria and only 10,120 Syrians were able to make Canada their permanent residence in 2019.


Syrian Immigration to Canada, 2020


Despite the massive surge in 2016, the number of new permanent residents to Canada from Syria has remained relatively flat in the five years ending in 2019, rising just over 2.7 per cent, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.


Syrian Immigrants to Canada by Year


Last year, Syrians accounted for almost 2.97 per cent of all new permanent resident arrivals to Canada.

Although that may seem like a small share of new permanent residents to Canada in 2019, it is still 44 per cent more than the number of Eritreans from that northeastern African country who made Canada their permanent residence that year.

The biggest source of new permanent residents in 2019 was India with almost 85,590 people from that country choosing to make Canada their home, roughly 25 per cent of the total number of new permanent residents to Canada that year. 

China was then the next-biggest source of new permanent residents to Canada, with 30,245 Chinese citizens immigrating to Canada.


New 2019 Canada Permanent Residents by Country of Citizenship


If you are looking to apply for Canada permanent residence from Syria, the first step is to assess which programs give you the best chance of success.

What Are The Options For Immigrating To Canada From Syria?

Broadly, the options are:

  • Federal Economic Class.
  • Provincial Economic Class.
  • Quebec Immigration.
  • Business Immigration, including the Start-Up Visa Program.
  • Temporary Residence First, Then Transition To Permanent.
  • Family Class Sponsorship.

1) Federal Economic Class

Canada accepts the largest number of immigrants under the economic class, with annual levels set to move over 200,000 in the category over the next three years.

The largest group within the economic class is the Federal High Skilled category.

There are many immigration streams to be considered when considering applying for Canadian permanent residence from Syria.

What Are Canada’s Federal Economic Class Programs?

Canada operates its federal economic class immigration system using Express Entry. Many provinces also follow a similar approach.

Express Entry requires candidates to submit a profile, with the highest scoring profiles issued an Invitation to Apply to one of the above immigration programs.

Candidates then get 60 days to submit a full application.

Under Express Entry, candidates score Comprehensive Ranking System points for core factors such as age, education, work experience and language ability.


What Is The Express Entry Process?

  • Submit profile and enter Express Entry Pool.
  • Get issued an Invitation to Apply if you meet minimum points requirement.
  • Submit an application in 60 days.
  • Get a decision in target processing time of six months.
  • If successful, move to Canada.

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Several of Canada’s provinces also operate Express Entry streams, allowing them to tap skilled workers from the pool.

A provincial nomination is worth 600 points and effectively guarantees an Invitation to Apply.

If you meet the requirements, Express Entry can be a fast way to achieve Canada immigration, with target processing times of six months once the full application is received.

What Are Canada’s Provincial Programs?

If you do not qualify through a federal economic program, the next step is to consider provincial streams for your application for permanent residence from Syria.

Each one of Canada’s provinces runs its own immigration programs, targeting the specific demands of local labour markets.

If you have specific skills, there could be a provincial stream waiting to accept you.

Quebec has autonomy over its immigration system, with the right to set its own immigration levels and the power to operate its own programs.

Quebec recently launched an Expression of Interest system similar to Express Entry, where candidates submit profiles to the Arrima system and are issued periodic invitations to apply.

Can I Apply For A Business Immigration Program?

Canada also aims to attract entrepreneurs and investors through its business immigration programs, with many applications accepted from Syria.

At the federal level, options include:

Start-Up Visa Program

Canada’s Start-Up Visa Program offers Canadian permanent residence to qualified immigrant entrepreneurs.

The program targets innovative entrepreneurs and links them with private sector investors in Canada who will help establish their start-up business.

Candidates can initially come to Canada on a work permit supported by their designated Canada-based investor, before qualifying for permanent residence once their business is up and running.

There are three types of private-sector investor:

  1. Angel investor.
  2. Venture capital fund.
  3. Business incubator.

Initially a three-year pilot, the program was made permanent on March 31, 2018.


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What Are the Start-Up Visa Candidate Eligibility Requirements?

The basic candidate eligibility requirements for the Start-Up Visa are:

  1. Qualifying business.
  2. Commitment Certificate and Letter of Support from a designated entity.
  3. Sufficient unencumbered, available and transferable settlement funds.
  4. Proficiency in English or French at minimum Canadian Language Benchmark level 5.

What Is A Start-Up Visa Program Designated Entity?

A designated entity is a Canadian private sector angel investor, venture capital fund or business incubator.

The required commitment must meet the following criteria:

  1. A designated angel investor group must invest at least $75,000 into the qualifying business. Candidates can also qualify with two or more investments from angel investor groups totalling $75,000.
  2. A designated venture capital fund must confirm that it is investing at least $200,000 into the qualifying business. Candidates can also qualify with two or more commitments from designated venture capital funds totalling $200,000.
  3. A designated business incubator must accept the applicant into its business incubator program.

What Are the Start-Up Visa Program Business Ownership Requirements?

For the candidate to qualify for permanent residence:

  1. The intended business must be incorporated and carrying on business in Canada.
  2. The candidate must own at least 10 percent of the voting rights in the corporation.
  3. No other person can hold 50 percent or more of the voting rights in the corporation.

NOTE: Up to five candidates may have their permanent residence application supported by the same business investment. However, certain candidates may be designated essential to the business. If any essential candidate withdraws their application, or are refused, all other candidates under the same business investment will see their applications terminated.

Quebec Immigrant Investor Program

One of Canada’s most popular business programs is the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program.

It is the only passive investment program that leads to Canadian permanent residence.

Intake for the Quebec Investor is currently paused as the provincial government reviews the requirements.


 Quebec Investor: Primary Requirements

  • Legally acquired personal net worth of $2 million;
  • Two years of suitable management or business experience within the five years preceding the application;
  • Investment of $1.2 million into a passive government guaranteed investment for a period of five years bearing no interest;
  • Intend to settle in the province of Quebec.

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Quebec also runs Immigrant Entrepreneur and Self-Employed programs.

Several of Canada’s other provinces also operate business programs as a route to permanent residence from Syria.

Increasingly, the provinces require time spent in Canada setting up a business as a temporary resident before candidates are nominated for permanent residence.

Owner-Operator Business Immigration

Candidates looking to immigrate to Canada from Syria should also consider the Buy a Business and Move to Canada Program.

Federal owner-operator rules allow a candidate to buy a business and move to Canada on a temporary work permit, before transitioning to permanent residence further down the line.

Under this policy, a work permit is issued following the sale and transfer of the majority share ownership of an existing profitable Canadian business to the immigration candidate.

Can I Transition From Temporary To Permanent Residence?

Increasingly, immigrants are coming to Canada as temporary residents and transitioning to permanent residents.

Canada continues to accept temporary workers in priority occupations during the coronavirus pandemic.

This is a popular route for candidates who do not immediately qualify for permanent residence when applying from Syria.

Time spent in Canada as a temporary resident counts towards a permanent residence application.

Work permits are issued through the Temporary Foreign Worker ProgramInternational Mobility Program and International Experience Canada Program.

Caregivers also have their own streams for work permits (under the TFWP) and transition to permanent residence.

What Is Family Class Immigration?

Candidates in Syria with family members who are already permanent residents or citizens can apply through Family Class Sponsorship immigration.

Which Family Members Can Be Sponsored For Canada Immigration From Syria?

  • Spouse
  • Common-Law partner
  • Conjugal partner
  • Dependent children
  • Parents
  • Grandparents
  • Brothers or sisters, nephews or nieces, granddaughters or grandsons who are orphaned, under 18 years of age and not married or in a common-law relationship
  • Another relative of any age or relationship but only under specific conditions
  • Accompanying relatives of the above (for example, spouse, partner and dependent children).

What Are The Requirements To Be A Sponsor?

  • You must be 18 years of age or older.
  • You and the sponsored relative must sign a sponsorship agreement that commits you to provide financial support for your relative, if necessary. This agreement also says the person becoming a permanent resident will make every effort to support her or himself.
  • You must provide financial support for a spouse, common-law or conjugal partner for three years from the date they become a permanent resident.
  • You must provide financial support for a dependent child for 10 years, or until the child turns 25, whichever comes first.
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