Who are immigrants? What are the different categories of immigrants in Canada?

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“The greatest nations are defined by how they treat their weakest inhabitants.”

– Jorge Ramos

Who are immigrants and why do people immigrate?

Immigrants are people who move to a different country from the one they were born in with the intent to settle down in the new country or stay there for a long period. There are several factors that encourage immigration. We could divide them into push and pull factors:
Push factors: These are negative elements within one’s home country that influence an individual to leave and move to a new one. This can include factors like environmental issues, lack of educational and employment opportunities, war, and political turmoil.
Pull factors: These are positive aspects in a country that attract individuals from other countries to come and live there. For instance, people move to Canada for a better lifestyle, higher standard of living, better healthcare, and education system, among others.

Learn more about push and pull factors that impact immigration to Canada from this video:

Push and pull factors of immigration, John Scully

What are the different categories of immigrants?

Have you ever wondered what makes a permanent resident different from a refugee? Or whether every immigrant came to Canada the same way you did?

Immigrants can be classified based on their status, or by the immigration pathway they took to be accepted to live in Canada (also called classification of admission category of immigrant). Learn more about what sets a certain status apart from another and the different ways by which applicants are admitted to Canada:

By status:

  1. Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW)

    TFW are citizens of another country who are legally allowed to work in a different country. TFWs enter Canada with a work permit and stay in the country for a limited period. The period depends on their employment offer or contract.

    TFWs are an important part of the Canadian labour market as they fill labour or skills shortages. Under the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TWFP) and the International Mobility Program (IMP), Canadian employers can hire and appoint foreign nationals in temporary positions if there are no qualified Canadians or Permanent Residents for particular job profiles. To learn more about services for Temporary Foreign Workers, follow the link.

  2. Permanent Residents

    Permanent Residents are citizens of another country who have decided to live in Canada permanently. They can enter Canada anytime and stay here as long as they meet requirements to maintain their status (they must be physically present in Canada for a minimum of 730 days for five years).

    Just like Canadian citizens, permanent residents receive social benefits such as healthcare, education and protection under Canadian law. However, they cannot vote or contest for political positions, nor hold positions in high-level security jobs. Yet, they can live, study and work anywhere in Canada. To know more about the rights of permanent residents, go to: Do you know your rights as a permanent resident?

    Permanent residency is a privileged status accorded by the Canadian government, and it can be invoked if residents commit a serious offence. Also, permanent residents can become Canadian citizens if they meet eligibility requirements.

  3. Refugees

    Refugees are people who have fled their own country due to fear of war, violence or persecution based on religious and/or political ideology. While most immigrants chose to leave their home country and move to a new one, refugees have no choice but to leave behind their lives, jobs and possessions and start their life from scratch in a new land. Usually, refugees spend several months in refugee camps before they find a safe haven in another country. It is unlikely for them to be able to return to their home countries.

    Refugees come to Canada through the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program or the In-Canada asylum Program. Unlike temporary migrants and immigrants who willfully left their native countries, refugees are in a greater need for resettlement programs as they carry with them immense pain, suffering and trauma. The horrifying and depressing nature of their escape demands a sensitive settlement approach from both the government as well as the people in the larger community. To know more about specialized services for refugees, follow the link.

By pathway:

  1. Economic immigrant

    This is a category of those who are selected to become permanent residents in Canada for their ability to contribute to Canada’s economy, meet labour market needs, or to make a substantial investment or build a business. There are three classes of economic immigrants: skilled workers, Canadian Experience, and Business Class.

  2. Family Class

    Immigrants who have close relatives in Canada who are either citizens or permanent residents who can support them financially. They can be a spouse, partner, parent, grandparent, child or other relative of a sponsor. They are granted permanent residency when they are approved to immigrate.

  3. Refugee Class

    Immigrants who are granted permanent resident status on the basis of a well-founded fear of returning to their country. These are individuals who may have been persecuted in their home country for their race, religion, nationality or political beliefs. Other may be displaced by war, armed conflict, or violation of human rights.

  4. Other immigrant

    A category of immigrants who were granted permanent resident status under a program that does not fall under economic, family, or refugee class. An example are those who apply to immigrate to Canada under humanitarian and compassionate grounds. These are exceptional cases assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Moving to another country requires a lot of thought and deliberation. Various social, economic and political factors trigger this decision.

What aspects influenced your decision to move to Canada?

References: Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada; Employment and Social Development Canada; and Understand permanent resident status. Accessed June 29, 2022.
By Tanveen Tatke

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