For decades, the United States has been renowned as the land of opportunity, attracting many newcomers seeking to immigrate, live, work, study, and establish permanent residency. Approximately 45 million foreign-born individuals call the US home, constituting around 14% of the population.
Meanwhile, Canada has also emerged as a top-rated immigration destination. As of 2021, more than 8.3 million foreign-born individuals had chosen to settle in Canada, accounting for nearly a quarter (23%) of the total population.
This article examines and compares the immigration policies of both nations, shedding light on the diverse options available to prospective immigrants who find themselves deliberating between these two countries.
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Canada’s Immigration Targets and Policies Unveiled
Each year, Canada unveils its Immigration Levels Plan, which is a guideline for the number of immigrants to be welcomed. The plan encompasses the breakdown of immigrants across economic, family, and humanitarian class programs for the next three years.
In the recently announced Immigration Levels Plan for 2023-2025, Canada reveals its intention to increase immigration targets. The plan outlines a progressive rise too, with marks of 460,000 immigrants in 2023, 485,000 in 2024, and 500,000 in 2025. The key focus of the program include:
- Attracting skilled workers to address labor shortages
- Prioritizing family reunification
- Aiding vulnerable populations through refugee resettlement initiatives.
In 2022, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) welcomed over 437,000 immigrants to Canada. Among the newcomers, 56% arrived through economic pathways such as Express Entry and Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP), while family-class immigrants comprised 24% of admissions.
Moreover, the most common countries of origin for Canadian permanent resident immigrants include India, China, Afghanistan, Nigeria, the Philippines, and France, listed in descending order.
Canada’s Immigration Levels Plan exemplifies its commitment to addressing various needs, such as economic growth, family unity, and international humanitarian efforts. With increasing targets and diverse immigration pathways, Canada is an appealing destination for individuals seeking opportunities and a fresh start in a welcoming and inclusive country.
Obtaining Permanent Residence in Canada
Becoming a permanent resident of Canada grants individuals the ability to live, work, and study in the country while also providing access to the most social benefits available to Canadian citizens, including healthcare coverage and the opportunity to apply for Canadian citizenship.
There are various pathways to qualify for Canadian permanent residency, with the following being the most commonly utilized by skilled immigrants:
- Express Entry
Express Entry serves as the primary application management system employed by the Canadian government to offer permanent residence to skilled workers through the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), and the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP). Eligible candidates are entered into the Express Entry pool and ranked based on several factors using the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). The highest-scoring individuals in the pool receive Invitations to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence.
- Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs)
Nearly every province and territory in Canada, except Quebec and Nunavut, operates Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs). These programs enable provinces and territories to nominate individuals interested in immigrating to Canada and settling in a specific province or territory.
Canada also provides immigration programs that allow Canadian citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their family members to come to the country. Spouses, children, and grandchildren of permanent residents or citizens may be eligible for family sponsorship.
By exploring these avenues, skilled immigrants can increase their chances of obtaining permanent residence in Canada and enjoy the benefits and opportunities available there.
The Immigration Policy of the United States
In 2016, the United States admitted over 1,100,000 lawful permanent residents (LPRs). However, in recent years, the number of LPRs admitted to the US has significantly declined, with just over 700,000 in 2020 and 740,000 in 2021. Government policies, processing delays, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic can be attributed to this decline.
Conversely, Canada welcomes approximately three times more immigrants per capita than the United States.
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) governs US immigration policy. The INA permits the US to grant up to 675,000 permanent immigrant visas annually across various categories. Furthermore, the INA does not limit the annual admission of spouses, parents, and children under the age of 21 who are US citizens. The US Refugee Admissions Program also admits a certain number of refugees annually.
The United States offers several avenues for immigrants with valuable skills to enter the country, either permanently or temporarily. Over 20 types of visas are available for temporary non-immigrant workers. Furthermore, Regarding permanent employment-based programs, the US restricts the number to 140,000 immigrants per year.
Immediate relatives of US citizens have access to unlimited visas each year, provided they meet the eligibility criteria. However, the family preference system, which generally encompasses adult children, brothers and sisters of US citizens, and spouses and unmarried children of permanent residents, has a limited number of visas available annually.
US permanent resident immigrants’ most common countries of origin include Mexico, China, India, the Philippines, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba.
Obtaining Permanent Residence in the United States
Lawful permanent residents (LPRs) in the United States are granted the authority to reside permanently there. They enjoy various privileges, such as accepting employment offers without special restrictions, owning property, accessing financial assistance, and even joining the Armed Forces.
To acquire permanent residency in the United States, individuals can explore several avenues, including:
- Employer-Sponsored Green Card Application
This method involves obtaining a green card through an employer’s specific, permanent full-time job offer. There are five preference categories, EB-1, EB-2, and so on, which determine the eligibility criteria for the application.
- Self-Sponsored Employment-Based Green Card Application
In some cases, individuals can pursue a self-sponsored employment-based green card application without needing a specific job offer. This pathway typically falls under the EB-1 Extraordinary Ability (EB-1A) or EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) categories.
- Marriage to a US Citizen
One can obtain permanent residency by marrying a US citizen. This option requires meeting specific requirements and going through the marriage-based immigration process.
- Sponsorship by a Close Relative
Another way to secure permanent residency is through sponsorship by a close relative who is either a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident. The eligibility and requirements vary based on the relationship with the sponsoring relative.
- US Department of State Diversity Lottery Program
The US Department of State runs the Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery Program, which allows individuals from countries with low immigration rates to apply for permanent residency. Participants are selected through a random lottery system.
Exploring these different pathways can help individuals navigate the process of obtaining permanent residence in the United States and enjoy the privileges and opportunities available in the country.
Looking to the Future
The government and court rulings have prompted ongoing changes in immigration policies in the United States. These changes primarily revolve around border enforcement, addressing unlawful migration, and expanding legal pathways for safe and orderly migration.
In the United States, the allocation of family-sponsored and employment-based immigration visa numbers can vary. Unused visa numbers from previous years may be carried over, affecting the annual limits. For instance, the Department of State estimates that the 2023 employment-based yearly limit will be around 197,000, with approximately 57,000 unused family-sponsored visa numbers from 2022 added to the employment-based limit for 2023.
Meanwhile, Canada is steadily increasing its immigration targets and will welcome 500,000 newcomers by 2025. The Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) will gain more authority as the provinces continue to nominate immigrants, with PNP targets rising.
In addition, Canada’s immigration ministers have agreed upon a multi-year PNP allocation plan, setting targets for three years similar to permanent residence targets.
These developments underscore the evolving nature of immigration policies in both countries as they strive to effectively manage migration and meet their economic and societal needs in the years to come.
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