Immigration overview:Permanent and temporary residents

Permanent residents


Since 2002, Canada’s immigration program has been based on the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and its regulations. IRPA replaces the Immigration Act of 1976 and defines three basic categories of permanent residents, which correspond to major program objectives: reuniting families, contributing to economic development and protecting refugees. Accordingly, statistical information in this section is presented for the main categories of permanent residents and refers to principal applicants and accompanying spouses and dependants (unless otherwise noted).

The family class is comprised of foreign nationals sponsored by close relatives or family members in Canada and includes spouses and partners, dependent children, parents and grandparents.

Economic immigrants are people selected for their skills and ability to contribute to Canada’s economy, including skilled workers, business immigrants, provincial and territorial nominees and live–in caregivers. The skilled worker component includes immigrants who are able to demonstrate their ability to enter the labour market and successfully establish in Canada by meeting selection criteria that assess factors such as education, English or French language abilities and work experience. The business immigrant component includes those who invest their money in an approved venture, those who intend to run their own business, or those who intend to be self–employed. The provincial and territorial nominees are permanent residents designated by provinces and territories that have entered into agreements with the Government of Canada to select immigrants who will meet their local economic needs. While these nominees must meet federal health and security admission criteria, they are not subject to the skilled worker selection grid for determining eligibility. Live–in caregivers are temporary foreign workers who are granted permanent residence after their participation in the Live–in Caregiver Program. Initially, live–in caregivers must be qualified to provide care for children, sick or elderly people, or persons with a disability. Successful candidates are granted temporary resident status and a work permit and, after two years, are eligible to apply for permanent resident status.

Refugees include government–assisted refugees, privately sponsored refugees, refugees landed in Canada and dependants of refugees landed in Canada who live abroad.

On an exceptional basis, IRPA also gives Citizenship and Immigration Canada the authority to grant permanent resident status to individuals and families who would not otherwise qualify in any category—for example, in cases where there are strong humanitarian and compassionate considerations, or for public policy reasons. These discretionary provisions provide the flexibility to approve deserving cases not anticipated in the legislation.

In this section of the report, selected landing and socio–demographic characteristics are presented for all permanent residents for the 1999 to 2008 calendar years. Statistical tables and charts provide gender–based information on immigrant category, source areas, intended destination in Canada, age at landing, level of education, marital status, language ability, occupational skill level and intention to work. Information pertaining to marital status, level of education, occupational skill level and intention to work is presented only for the permanent resident population 15 years of age or older. This age group corresponds to the age requirements for the labour force population as defined in the Census of Population. Supplementary tables for the permanent resident population include statistical information showing the number of years of schooling for children less than 15 years old, the major source countries, the level of education for new workers and the occupational skill level for skilled workers.

Due to privacy considerations, some cells in the following tables have been suppressed and replaced with the notation “—”. As a result, components may not sum to total indicated. In general, we have suppressed cells containing less than five cases except in circumstances where, in our judgement, we are not releasing personal information on an identifiable individual.

Canada – Permanent residents, 1860 to 2008
Canada – Permanent residents, 1860 to 2008

Historical highlights

  • 1896 to 1905: the settlement of the West with an offer of free land results in large numbers of immigrants from the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States
  • 1906: Immigration Act
  • 1910: Immigration Act
  • 1913: 400,000 immigrants arrive in Canada
  • 1914 to 1918: immigration slump during World War I
  • 1928: opening of Halifax’s Pier 21, the Atlantic gateway to Canada
  • 1930s: extremely low levels of immigration during the Depression years
  • 1940s: during and after World War II, approximately 48,000 war brides and their 22,000 children arrive in Canada
  • 1950s: Canada receives about one and a half million immigrants from Europe
  • 1952: Immigration Act
  • 1956 and 1957: Canada accepts 37,500 Hungarian refugees
  • 1962: new immigration regulations are tabled to eliminate all discrimination based on race, religion and national origin
  • 1967: the government amends Canada’s immigration policy and introduces the point system for the selection of skilled workers and business immigrants
  • 1968 and 1969: Canada takes in 11,000 Czechoslovakian refugees
  • 1972: Canada resettles more than 6,175 Ugandan Asians
  • 1973: Canada accepts more than 6,000 Chileans
  • 1975 to 1978: Canada resettles almost 9,000 Indochinese
  • 1978: Immigration Act (1976) came into effect April 10, 1978
  • 1979 and 1980: 60,000 Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian “boat people” arrive in Canada
  • 1999: Canada accepts more than 7,000 Kosovars
  • 2002: Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) came into force June 28, 2002
Canada – Permanent residents as a percentage of Canada’s population, 1860 to 2008
Canada – Permanent residents as a percentage of Canada’s population, 1860 to 2008
Year 1860 1861 1862 1863 1864 1865 1866 1867 1868 1869
Number 6,276 13,589 18,294 21,000 24,779 18,958 11,427 10,666 12,765 18,630
% of Population 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.6 0.7 0.6 0.3 0.3 0.4 0.5
Year 1870 1871 1872 1873 1874 1875 1876 1877 1878 1879
Number 24,706 27,773 36,578 50,050 39,373 27,382 25,633 27,082 29,807 40,492
% of Population 0.7 0.8 1.0 1.3 1.0 0.7 0.6 0.7 0.7 1.0
Year 1880 1881 1882 1883 1884 1885 1886 1887 1888 1889
Number 38,505 47,991 112,458 133,624 103,824 76,169 69,152 84,526 88,766 91,600
% of Population 0.9 1.1 2.6 3.0 2.3 1.7 1.5 1.8 1.9 1.9
Year 1890 1891 1892 1893 1894 1895 1896 1897 1898 1899
Number 75,067 82,165 30,996 29,633 20,829 18,790 16,835 21,716 31,900 44,543
% of Population 1.6 1.7 0.6 0.6 0.4 0.4 0.3 0.4 0.6 0.9
Year 1900 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 1909
Number 41,681 55,747 89,102 138,660 131,252 141,465 211,653 272,409 143,326 173,694
% of Population 0.8 1.0 1.6 2.5 2.3 2.4 3.5 4.2 2.2 2.6
Year 1910 1911 1912 1913 1914 1915 1916 1917 1918 1919
Number 286,839 331,288 375,756 400,870 150,484 33,665 55,914 72,910 41,845 107,698
% of Population 4.1 4.6 5.1 5.3 1.9 0.4 0.7 0.9 0.5 1.3
Year 1920 1921 1922 1923 1924 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929
Number 138,824 91,728 64,224 133,729 124,164 84,907 135,982 158,886 166,783 164,993
% of Population 1.6 1.0 0.7 1.5 1.4 0.9 1.4 1.6 1.7 1.6
Year 1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939
Number 104,806 27,530 20,591 14,382 12,476 11,277 11,643 15,101 17,244 16,994
% of Population 1.0 0.3 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.2
Year 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949
Number 11,324 9,329 7,576 8,504 12,801 22,722 71,719 64,127 125,414 95,217
% of Population 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.6 0.5 1.0 0.7
Year 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959
Number 73,912 194,391 164,498 168,868 154,227 109,946 164,857 282,164 124,851 106,928
% of Population 0.5 1.4 1.1 1.1 1.0 0.7 1.0 1.7 0.7 0.6
Year 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969
Number 104,111 71,698 74,856 93,151 112,606 146,758 194,743 222,876 183,974 164,531
% of Population 0.6 0.4 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 1.0 1.1 0.9 0.8
Year 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979
Number 147,713 121,900 122,006 184,200 218,465 187,881 149,429 114,914 86,313 112,093
% of Population 0.7 0.6 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.8 0.6 0.5 0.4 0.5
Year 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989
Number 143,140 128,642 121,179 89,192 88,276 84,346 99,353 152,084 161,582 191,554
% of Population 0.6 0.5 0.5 0.4 0.3 0.3 0.4 0.6 0.6 0.7
Year 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
Number 216,456 232,818 254,818 256,702 224,397 212,873 226,073 216,039 174,198 189,954
% of Population 0.8 0.8 0.9 0.9 0.8 0.7 0.8 0.7 0.6 0.6
Year 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008  
Number 227,458 250,639 229,049 221,348 235,825 262,241 251,643 236,754 247,243  
% of Population 0.7 0.8 0.7 0.7 0.7 0.8 0.8 0.7 0.7  
Date Modified: