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Economic Immigration

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Economic immigration is one of four admission categories that allow persons from other countries who are not Canadian citizens to move to—and live and work permanently in—Canada.

This article provides an overview of LMI data sources related to economic immigration.

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We created WorkWords to help people better navigate key labour market information (LMI) terms and sources.

Each WorkWords entry contains definitions of often-used labour market terms, links to assist users in finding data sources, and insights on how to best interpret the data to make more informed decisions.

Introduction

Due to persistently low birth rates, Canada, like other wealthy countries, needs economic immigration to sustain population growth, fill labour market shortages and fuel overall economic growth.

Economic immigrants also fill gaps in the labour force, bring with them skills, innovation and financial investments, and create jobs through entrepreneurship. In 2021, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) reported that immigration accounts for almost 100% of all labour force growth in Canada and approximately 75% of population growth.

The federal, provincial and territorial governments share jurisdiction over immigration in Canada. IRCC is responsible for facilitating the arrival of immigrants. With the exception of Quebec, each province and territory facilitates immigration through the Provincial Nominee Program. Quebec’s immigration is managed by Immigration, Francisation et Intégration Québec.

Definitions and Sources

In this section, we explore various ways the concept is defined in Canada. A list of different data collection tools related to the concept (for example, survey and administrative databases) will also be available.

What is economic immigration?

The ability to contribute to Canada’s economy, whether as workers, investors or business owners, and entrepreneurs, is what distinguishes economic immigrants from other types of immigrants.

Canada recognizes three other categories of immigrants and has policies to facilitate their admission:

  • Immigrants sponsored by family: persons who are granted permanent resident status based on their relationship as the spouse, partner, parent, grandparent, child or other relative of the sponsor
  • Refugees: persons who are granted permanent resident status based on a well-founded fear of returning to their home country
  • Other immigrants: persons who are granted permanent resident status under a program that does not encompass economic immigrants, immigrants sponsored by family or refugees

Steps to becoming a permanent economic immigrant

There are several pathways in becoming an economic immigrant in Canada.1

Most are defined and administered by the federal government (that is, IRCC), although the provinces and territories manage certain aspects of some programs (see Table 1).

Table 1: Pathways to becoming an economic immigrant in Canada
IRCC Regional immigration programs
Federal Skilled Worker Program Federal Skilled Trades Program Canadian Experience Program Business Immigration Program Provincial Nominee Program/
Québec Skilled Worker Program
Atlantic Immigration Pilot
Candidates are selected based on their skilled work experience and evaluated on a points system.

See the full eligibility requirements.

Candidates must have a job offer or hold Canadian qualifications in certain skilled trades.

See the full eligibility requirements.

Candidates must have at least 1 year of work experience in a skilled occupation in Canada.

See the full eligibility requirements.

Candidates are selected from self-employed persons and start-up visa programs.

See the full eligibility requirements.

Candidates are supported by individual provinces and territories based on regional needs.

Eligibility requirements can be found on each program’s website (see Table 2).

Designated employers may apply to hire international students who graduated in Canada and want to continue to reside in the region, or

foreign skilled workers who want to immigrate to the region.

Federal pathways

The four federal immigration pathways administered by IRCC are the Federal Skilled Worker Program, Federal Skilled Trades Program, Canadian Experience Program and Business Immigration Program.

These pathways rely on an online application management system called Express Entry, which IRCC uses to manage and process applications.

Prospective applicants first need to verify their eligibility under one of the federal pathways. Next, they submit an Express Entry profile to the pool of candidates. This submission is known as an Expression of Interest.

The Express Entry system will automatically score an applicant based on their profile and rank them relative to the other candidates in the pool based on the Comprehensive Ranking System (see Box 1). The highest-ranked applicants may then be invited to apply for permanent residency.

Box 1: Comprehensive Ranking System

The ranking score for Express Entry is based on the Comprehensive Ranking System. It is a points-based system that is used to calculate, assess and score immigrant applications in the Express Entry pool for permanent residency. Some of the factors that are considered include skills, education, official languages proficiency and work experience.

The total number of possible points is 1,200. Half of these are considered core points while the other half are considered additional points.

Core points are assigned based on four criteria: skills, work experience, education, and spouse or common-law partner’s language skills and education. Additional points are based on whether an individual has Canadian education and training, a valid job offer, a nomination from a region, a sibling who lives in Canada who is a permanent resident or citizen, or strong French language skills. An Invitation to Apply for permanent residency is assigned based on the total of both scores.

The Comprehensive Ranking System score is designed to project a candidate’s likelihood of being economically successful in Canada and is used as a cut-off point in Express Entry draws. Candidates with the highest scores are typically issued an Invitation to Apply for permanent residency. They must then complete the application, which IRCC will evaluate. If accepted, the candidate is awarded permanent residency and can relocate to Canada.

Regional, provincial and territorial pathways

In addition to the federal immigration pathways to becoming an economic immigrant, the provinces, territories and regions also administer their own pathways. This is done through the Provincial Nominee Program for provinces and territories (excluding Quebec and Nunavut), the Québec Skilled Worker Program and the Atlantic Immigration Pilot.

These programs offer immigration opportunities to persons who have the skills, education and work experience to contribute to the economic needs of a particular region, province or territory.

Individuals who come to Canada through the Provincial Nominee Program, Québec Skilled Worker Program or Atlantic Immigration Pilot are expected (but not required) to live and work in the region, province or territory that offers sponsorship. However, once they receive a permanent resident status, they may live in any province of their choice.

There are 12 Provincial Nominee Programs and regional programs in total, each with multiple different immigration streams (see Table 2). The eligibility requirements and selection criteria vary from one Provincial Nominee Program to another, as do the streams within them.

Several Provincial Nominee Programs offer Express Entry streams that use the same Express Entry system as the federal pathways. Applicants must still meet the eligibility requirements of one of the federal pathways in addition to the specific requirements of the Provincial Nominee Program, which requires a separate application.

Applicants who are selected by a province or territory are awarded 600 points to add to their Express Entry score, which usually places them in the top ranking. These candidates may then be invited to apply for permanent residency.

The Atlantic Immigration Pilot was launched in 2017 as a pilot to help the Atlantic provinces meet specific labour market demands. The Atlantic Immigration Pilot enabled designated employers to fill job vacancies quickly through an additional permanent residency pathway.

On January 1, 2022, the pilot became a permanent program. It has unique features to encourage the long-term retention and integration of newcomers. The features include an employer-driven model, settlement requirements and pan-Atlantic governance, with a variety of stakeholders.

Table 2: Regional, provincial and territorial immigration programs and streams
Regional, provincial and territorial immigration pathways  Description
Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program (AINP) The AINP is an economic immigration program that nominates individuals for permanent residence in Alberta. It is administered by the governments of Alberta and Canada.

Nominees must have in-demand skills that can reduce labour shortages in Alberta or must plan to start or buy a business in Alberta.

Multiple streams are available.

Atlantic Immigration Pilot (AIP) The AIP was launched in 2017 to help designated employers in the region hire foreign skilled workers who want to immigrate to the region as well as international graduates who want to remain in the region after graduation.

The program became permanent in 2022. Employers must demonstrate that they have not been able to fill job vacancies with candidates already in the region. They are not required to provide a labour market impact assessment. The AIP complements Provincial Nominee Programs in each Atlantic province.

Multiple streams are available.

British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program (BC PNP) The BC PNP is a way for high-demand foreign workers and experienced entrepreneurs to gain permanent residency in B.C. and to help the province meet its labour market needs.

Multiple streams are available.

Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program (MPNP) The MPNP targets recent graduates, skilled workers, businesspeople and their families who are willing and able to immigrate to Manitoba as permanent residents.

Seven pathways are available through three main streams.

Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Nominee Program (NLPNP) The NLPNP targets international graduates, qualified skilled workers and their families who want to immigrate to Newfoundland and Labrador as permanent residents.

Multiple streams are available.

Northwest Territories Nominee Program The N.W.T. nominee program targets people ready and able to open, purchase or invest in a business in N.W.T. or those with a valid job offer from an employer in the territory.

Applicants who have a valid job offer can apply through one of three programs.

Multiple streams are available.

Nova Scotia Nominee Program (NSNP) The NSNP targets immigrants who have the skills and experience required to meet provincial labour market needs. Skilled workers, international students, entrepreneurs and business managers and their families who want to immigrate to Nova Scotia as permanent residents may apply.

Multiple streams are available.

Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) The OINP targets foreign workers, international students, business owners and entrepreneurs who have the skills, experience and education that the provincial economy needs.

Multiple streams are available.

Prince Edward Island Provincial Nominee Program (PEI PNP) The PEI PNP targets skilled workers and international graduates from designated P.E.I. institutions and their families for permanent residency. Two pathways are available, depending on whether the applicant has a valid offer.

Applicants must be meet the requirements of at least one of the three federal economic immigration programs to be eligible for nomination through the PEI PNP.

Multiple streams are available.

Regular Skilled Worker Program (RSWP)   Quebec’s RSWP targets foreign individuals who have the training and professional skills needed to integrate into the Quebec job market and work in professions that are experiencing labour shortages.  

Applicants are required to submit an Expression of Interest containing personal and other information, education and work experience, a valid job offer if available, and knowledge of official languages. The RSWP is not linked to federal economic immigration programs.  

Multiple streams are available. 

Saskatchewan Nominee Program (SINP) 
The SINP targets skilled foreign nationals who work in the province or who wish to work and live in the province, and entrepreneurs who plan to start or buy a business, or operate a farm in the province and are interested in making Saskatchewan their permanent home.  

Multiple streams are available. 

 

Yukon Nominee Program (YNP) and

Yukon Business Nominee Program (YBNP)

The YNP and YNBP target skilled foreign workers and entrepreneurs to address labour market needs. Employers may hire long-term employees through the YNP.   

Multiple streams are available. 

 

Requirements for employers hiring internationally

Although there are exceptions, a common requirement for prospective economic immigrants to Canada who apply through the Provincial Nominee Program, Atlantic Immigration Pilot or Québec Skill Worker Program is a job offer.

However, to offer a job to a non-Canadian citizen or resident, employers must meet certain criteria established by their province, territory or region.

Typically, they must provide labour market information (LMI) that demonstrates an economic need to hire abroad, such as job vacancy statistics, wage information and evidence of labour and/or skills shortages. They are also typically required to demonstrate that they have attempted to recruit locally first.

Upcoming program to address labour and skills shortages through immigration

In addition to these federal and provincial immigration programs, Canada plans to launch a Municipal Nomination Program to address skilled labour shortages and promote a broader distribution of immigrants across small Canadian municipalities. IRCC has yet to announce a launch date or provide information on the specifics of this program.

Emerging pathways and programs

Canada’s immigration pathways change frequently to meet the country’s evolving labour needs, which may vary by sector as well as province and territory. As a result, new pathways—in addition to those discussed above—often emerge. Some examples include various programs for caregivers, the health-care workers permanent residence pathway and the Agri-Food Pilot.

Canada’s immigration system is also designed to respond to humanitarian needs: new pathways have been created to help skilled refugees immigrate to Canada through existing economic programs. Two examples are the permanent residence pathways for Hong Kong residents and the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot.

It is important to check the federal, provincial and territorial websites often for changes to immigration pathways and eligibility requirements.

Sources of Data

Longitudinal Immigration Database  

The Longitudinal Immigration Database (IMDB) is one of the most comprehensive sources of socio-economic information about immigrants.

A key advantage of this dataset is the ability to identify immigrants’ admission categories, allowing researchers to differentiate the earnings and mobility outcomes of immigrants who were admitted to Canada for economic reasons (as opposed to family reunification or refugee claims).

It provides detailed and reliable information about landed immigrants, such as characteristics at admission (for example, country of origin, level of education at admission, intended occupation) and about the socio-economic outcomes of individuals over time, such as their use of settlement services, attainment of citizenship, employment income, tax information related to education, and inter-jurisdictional mobility by immigration admission category.

It also includes pre-admission information about landed immigrants (level of education and language proficiency at landing), including information on immigrants admitted as children (that is, before the age of 18).

The IMDB is updated annually with administrative, tax and mortality data about immigrants and temporary residents (for example, temporary foreign workers and international students).2

The data have a two-year lag and are retrieved from IRCC’s immigrant and temporary resident records, Canadian Revenue Agency’s annual individual T1 file, T4 tax file and Canada Child Tax Benefit file (which Statistics Canada uses to create the IMDB-T1 Family File for the year), and mortality records from the Canadian Mortality Database.

The IMDB is somewhat limited in terms of the type of LMI available. For example, it does not provide labour force characteristics, such as employment or unemployment, but it does provide information about the incidence of employment (that is, those who report employment income over the population of tax filers, and median earnings over time).

As such, it allows for the analysis of employment trends over time through different metrics than those of the Labour Force Survey (LFS).

Labour Force Survey

The timeliest source of LMI about immigrants is the Labour Force Survey. It provides annual and monthly LMI based on immigration status. Unlike the IMDB, the LFS categorizes immigrants by their immigration status rather than by their admission category.

This immigration status flag refers mainly to landed immigrants and Canadian-born individuals. Landed immigrants are categorized based how long they have had permanent resident status. There are three groups: immigrants who landed five or less years earlier (recent immigrants); immigrants who landed more than five to 10 years earlier; and immigrants who landed more than 10 years earlier (experienced/established immigrants).

The “Born in Canada” category includes Canadian citizens born in Canada.

In the LFS tables, the sum of landed immigrants and citizens born in Canada does not add up to the total population. This is because it includes a third category containing both Canadian citizens born outside Canada and non-permanent residents.

Non-permanent residents encompasses persons from other countries who live in Canada temporarily, such as temporary foreign workers, international students and asylum seekers. This third category is not included in the public tables, but is available in the microdata.

The immigration status flag was developed because it was believed that the labour market outcomes of immigrants improve the longer they are in Canada. However, more recent research shows that country of birth can offset these expected improvements.

The data are available starting 2006. Several immigrant labour market estimates are available, including labour force characteristics by immigration status, educational attainment, sex, age group and country of birth.

Census

The census provides a variety of information for immigrants by admission category and sociodemographic attributes (for example, age, gender, racialized/visible minority group, country of birth, educational attainment, ethnicity, citizenship status, generational status) and LMI (for example, labour force population, employment, unemployment, participation rates, income).

Census data are collected every five years and published approximately two years after collection. The data are available for the reference period 1981 to 2016.3

Statistics Canada uses linked IRCC data to determine immigration status.4 As of 2016, by linking to the IMDB, the census provides data on immigrants not only by immigration status, but by admission category and applicant type.

The census is one of the most robust sources of LMI on immigrants, although the information is often not timely, given that the data can become dated quickly.

Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada 

The Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada (LSIC) is a comprehensive survey designed to study how new immigrants adapt to Canada and to understand the factors that hinder integration, some of which are related to the labour market.

Linked to the IMDB, it provides information on a cohort of immigrants who arrived in fiscal year 2000–01. Employment (job and industry experience), income sources (for example, wages, self-employment income, pre-tax income, social assistance), educational attainment (field of study and apprenticeship training obtained outside and inside Canada) and language skills are available. Place of origin/birth, detailed admission category (including work or student visa status), volunteer experience/activities, and other detailed education/training information are available.

Respondents are restricted to immigrants who applied for residency from outside Canada. Three waves of data are available on newcomers (that is, 12,000 immigrants ages 15 and over) who arrived in Canada between October 1, 2000, and September 30, 2001.

The sample follows a cohort of newcomers for three waves: at six months, two years and four years after landing in Canada. The survey applies a funnel-shaped approach, meaning the response rate for each wave may decrease and could impact results.

Longitudinal Administrative Databank

The Longitudinal Administrative Databank (LAD) is a longitudinal file designed to provide income and demographic information on immigrants compared with Canadian-born residents. LAD is updated annually with a sample (20%) of the annual T1 Family File.

Since 2017, a linking variable has been available in the IMDB that links key characteristics of tax-filing immigrants available in the IMDB to their records on the LAD from 1952 onward.

The LAD provides several annual demographic variables about the individuals represented, including the landing year of recent immigrants and an immigration flag (citizenship status), and annual income information for both the individual and their census family in that year. It also provides income information, including wages, salaries and commissions, and other income information.

Certain levels of geography are not included in the main LAD database, such as economic region and federal electoral district. However, these may be found using postal code conversion.

Canadian Employer-Employee Dynamics

The Canadian Employer-Employee Dynamics Database (CEEDD) is a set of linkable files that provides linkages between employees and employers in the labour market.

Linked to IMDB, CEEDD provides some data on immigrants by admission category. It also provides data on temporary foreign workers and international mobility program workers. The latest release, vintage 2020, has files up to tax year 2018 for most component files (except for the T1 historical file, which is available up to tax year 2016). Data are also available for 2001 to 2016.

CEEDD includes several administrative data sets that can be linked at the person and job level using the individual’s social insurance number and the employer’s business number. CEEDD covers all individuals and firms that can be identified from the administrative files, including immigrants. It permits both cross-sectional and longitudinal analysis.

Immigrant worker transitions across employers, job tenure, number of jobs held at a specific point in a year, and business and job creation can be tracked across time. Individual worker and firm observations are confidential under the Statistics Act.

As such, external researchers can access CEEDD only from Statistics Canada’s head office.

Table 3: Types of immigration LMI available
Data source Type of immigration classification Frequency Year Granularity Available LMI
Longitudinal Immigration Database (IMDB) Sub-categories of admission: immigrant sponsored by family; economic immigrant; refugee landed in Canada; other Annual 1980 to 2019 Canada, province, territory and economic region Information on income sources (status, type, value), level of education at time of obtaining permanent residence, tax records on education by immigration admission category
Labour Force Survey (LFS) Immigration status: landed immigrants; born in Canada Annual tables available up to 2021; monthly (3-month moving average) tables available for 2022 2006 to 2020 Canada, province and census metropolitan area Several labour force characteristics available by immigration status and other demographic variables

Educational attainment information by immigration status is also available

Census Immigration status (landed immigrants and born in Canada) and non-permanent residents and immigration admission category Every five years 1981 to 2006 Canada, province, territory, census metropolitan area and census agglomeration, census division and sub-division (municipalities), census tracts (neighbourhood level): all census levels of geography can be applied Labour market characteristics, educational attainment and income data grouped by immigration status and immigration admission category
Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada (LSIC) Recent immigrants/newcomers Conducted once for the 2000–01 cohort in three waves between 2000 and 2005 and updated annually using LSIC-IMDB linkage 2001 to 2019 Canada; province; census metropolitan area Employment (job and industry experience), sources of income (wages, self-employment income, pre-tax income, social assistance), educational attainment (field of study and apprenticeship training obtained outside and inside Canada), and language skills
Longitudinal Administrative Databank (LAD) Citizenship status (i.e., immigration status: immigrant or Canadian-born) Annual 1982 to 2019 Canada, province/territory, census division, census metropolitan area/census agglomeration, census sub-division and census tracts Income, low-income status
Canadian Employer-Employee Dynamics (CEEDD) Immigration status Occasional/annual 2001 to 2008 Sub-provincial geographies available Job-level data from tax files

*Note: Links to publicly available tables are provided in the “available LMI” column.

Data access

In this section, for each concept we describe where and how the available data is collected and can be accessed. The data discussed in the section above can be accessed through the different channels presented below.

Table 4: How to access immigration LMI
Data sets Data tables Customized products Public use microdata file (PUMF) Real Time Remote Access (RTRA) Research Data Centre (RDCs) Canadian Centre for Data Development and Economic Research (CDER)
Longitudinal Immigration Database (IMDB) Several tabulations available Several tabulations available in accordance with confidentiality release criteria N/A N/A Available N/A
Census Several tabulations available Customized tabulations available through Statistics Canada’s Analytical Studies Branch Available N/A Available Available
Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada (LSIC) N/A N/A N/A Available Available N/A
Labour Force Survey (LFS) Several tabulations available Several tabulations available in accordance with confidentiality release criteria Available N/A5 Available N/A
Longitudinal Administrative Databank (LAD) N/A Several tabulations available in accordance with confidentiality release criteria N/A N/A Available N/A
Canadian Employer-Employee Dynamics (CEEDD) N/A N/A N/A N/A Customized data extractions can be made available at RDCs Available

Data applications

In this section, we unpack how the concept is used in Canada, particularly as it relates to policy and program design. We believe that understanding the use-cases for which data collection, analysis and distribution were designed provides the much-needed context for understanding both the advantages and the limitations.

Immigration is an important factor in Canada’s economic success. It helps to build Canada’s population and labour force, increase taxable income and consumer spending, grow the economy, and fill labour force needs in regions and sectors.

Labour market information related to immigrants is used by a variety of stakeholders, such as governments, policy-makers, researchers, immigration professionals and settlement workers.

Tracking these labour market outcomes is critical in evaluating and improving immigration policies and building a more diverse, inclusive and equitable Canada.

Governments and policy-makers

Federal, provincial and territorial, and municipal governments and policy-makers use immigration data to inform policy initiatives and programs related to a wide range of immigration issues.

Setting targets for economic immigration, determining which skills and occupations to prioritize, evaluating the performance of programs and policies, and monitoring immigrants’ socio-economic outcomes are just some of the important decision items that labour market data on immigrants help to inform.

Immigration agents and settlement workers

Researchers use labour market data on immigrants to understand economic and labour market trends.

Immigration professionals and settlement workers may also use this information to understand the barriers that immigrants face in finding appropriate employment and integrating into Canadian society.

Acknowledgements

This WordWords entry was prepared by Bolanle Alake-Apata of LMIC.

We would like to thank Ümit Mustafa Kiziltan, Lorna Jantzen, Rima Sakr and Mete Pamir, Moshen Hashem, David Kurfust, James McNamee and Ian Merkley (Immigration and Refugees Canada), Martha Patterson (Statistics Canada), and Kareem El (Canada Visa) for their feedback and constructive comments. 

For more information about this report, please contact Bolanle Alake-Apata, economist, at bolanle.alake-apata@lmic-cimt.ca, or Anthony Mantione, director of research (acting) at anthony.mantione@lmic-cimt.ca.

End Notes

1 In addition to these four federals pathways, there are several pilot programs that are testing regional (for example, rural and northern) immigration pilots and sectoral (for example, agri-food) approaches to permanent economic immigration.

2Temporary residents are considered equivalent to non-permanent residents. Non-permanent residents are persons from other countries who live in Canada temporarily, such as temporary foreign workers, international students and asylum seekers.

3The 2021 census is expected to be released in October 2022.

4 The 2021 census results will contain detailed data on the non-permanent resident population for the first time.

5LFS data can be accessed through the RTRA, but data by immigration status are not available.

What is WorkWords?

We created WorkWords to help people better navigate key labour market information (LMI) terms and sources.

Each WorkWords entry contains definitions of often-used labour market terms, links to assist users in finding data sources, and insights on how to best to interpret the data to make more informed decisions.

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