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The article is written by Harmanpreet Kaur from Amity University, Kolkata. The article will give an insight into the immigration laws of Canada.


Immigration policy is a decisive element of a country’s policy-making and development process. In each country, immigration has evolved through history that has reflected the nation’s historical development. However, the immigration policy not only reflects the past or historical development of a country or a nation, but it also precisely adjusts and balances contemporary, social, economic, and political events and developments. The globalization of trade, capital, and talent has contributed to the transformation of the concepts of immigration policies and systems related to governance, integration, and citizenship.

All around the past decades, the countries in the world have witnessed a skyrocketing increase in the number of immigrants. The period from 1960 to 2005 has witnessed an increase of about two hundred million migrants worldwide. Predominantly, Canada is the country that has attracted the highest number of immigrants in its provinces because of the adequate sophisticated standards of living. The Canadians have embraced immigration with a sort of civility and open-mindedness, and this act has either been envied or has been respected and accepted by all the other countries. Other foreign and neighboring countries have made efforts and given commitments to immigration post the World Wars to ensure security to the civilians and the foreign nationals. Canada has retained a high level of immigration without any anti-immigrant backlash at the grassroots levels. According to the study conducted in 2010 by Transatlantic Trends, Canada had admitted the highest number of immigrants in the last 20 years. According to recent reports by Statistics Canada study, 82 percent of the entire growth in the population has been due to immigration. The immigration policies have been praised by countries because of the introduction of new laws and legislation for the immigrants by the government, thereby contributing to the nation’s economic and social development. The article will throw light on the Canadian immigration laws.

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Understanding the meaning of immigration 

The dictionary meaning of immigration states that “it is the act of travelling into another country for permanent residency”. In other words, it refers to the process in which the individuals of a native nation-state migrate to a foreign nation-state either to become a permanent resident, temporary resident or to obtain citizenship of that particular nation-state. The process of immigration would be of great importance and benefit to that particular nation-state in terms of social, cultural, and economic variations. According to a 2015 report, the United States of America had a larger immigrant population than any other country. The new statistics Canada study of 2020 had estimated that Canada’s population grew by 76,000 in the initial months of 2020. Consequently, there was an increase of about 82 percent in the population in Canada by immigration.

Immigration law

The laws that exclusively govern the immigration of a particular nation are referred to as the immigration laws. They incorporate national statutes, regulations, and legal precedents that govern immigration and deportation from a country. Canada has had a long history of legislation for immigration.

Legislation governing immigration in Canada

The laws that govern immigration in Canada can be referred to as Canadian immigration laws. Canada has had a long history of laws and legislation concerning immigration since 1869. The immigration laws and legislation in Canada have evolved and changed with the changing times in society. The change in laws is affected by social, cultural, and political reliance. The change in laws has been occurring since the 19th century, which was either due to discrimination based on race, and national origin or any other determining factor. The immigration laws have been reformed to promote cultural diversity among the Canadian immigrants.

Let’s take a look at the immigration laws in Canada.

  1. The Immigration Act, 1869

The Immigration Act, 1869 was the first legislation introduced by the Parliament of Canada in 1869. The Act was introduced with the main aim and objective to ensure the safety of the immigrants during their transit to Canada and to provide protection to the immigrants from any kind of exploitation on their arrival. But the Act was not a successful one as it failed to comply with the provisions of equality in the 19th century.

  1. The Royal Commission on Chinese Immigration, 1885

The Royal Commission on Chinese Immigration Act was passed by the government in 1885. The main aim and objective of the Act were to regulate Chinese immigration to Canada. The Act prohibited the entrance of Chinese immigrants to Canada. They were restrained from entering the provinces of Canada because the Canadians believed that the Chinese laborers and workers were immoral, prone to diseases, and were incapable of assimilation. 

  1. The Chinese Immigration Act, 1885

The Chinese Immigration Act, 1885 was passed based on the recommendations from the Royal Commission on Chinese Immigration Act, 1885. The Act was the first segment of the primary legislation that proposed provisions excluding immigrants based on ethnic origin i.e., to exclude the Chinese from entering the territory of Canada. The Act also aimed to reduce the number of Chinese immigrants in the provinces of Canada. 

  1. The Immigration Act, 1906

The Immigration Act, 1906 was introduced by the Parliament with more restricted policies of immigration. The Act enumerated the categories of the immigrants that were to be prohibited from entering the provinces of Canada, formalized the processes of deportation, and allocated the government with the authoritative powers and abilities. The Act did not specify the provisions restricting immigrants based on culture, race, and caste, but accorded the federal government with the powers to prohibit any classes of immigrants to the provinces of Canada.

  1. The Immigration Act, 1910

The Immigration Act, 1910 was passed in the year 1910 by the Canadian Parliament. The Act was passed to expand the list of prohibited immigrants to Canada. The federal government was formulated with the discretionary powers and functions to make indiscriminate laws concerning immigration and deportation. The Act also introduced the concepts of domicile, permanent residency, and deportation in the immigration laws of Canada.

  1. The Naturalization Act, 1914 

The Naturalization Act, 1914 introduced more stringent measures for naturalization in Canada.Naturalization is the legal act in which the non-citizens of a country acquire citizenship or nationality per the laws of that particular nation. The basic rights of a citizen include the right to enter or leave that particular nation-state. The Act introduced the concept and process of naturalization. The advantage of naturalization was that it would give the same rights and privileges to the immigrants after they get the status of a Canadian citizen and was also given the power to vote. The secretary of state was given the authority to make decisions related to naturalization and had discretionary powers in terms of granting certificates or revoking citizenship if obtained by fraud.

  1. The Immigration Act Amendment, 1919

The Immigration Act Amendment, 1919 was amended after the First World War due to the social and economic turmoil. The government added more confining restrictions to the immigration policy to protect the country from the threats and other perils from the other native and neighboring countries. The Act also prohibited the immigrants from entering Canada who fought against them during the First World War.

  1. The Canadian Citizenship Act, 1947

The Canadian Citizenship Act, 1947 was introduced to provide citizenship to persons regardless of their country of origin i.e, the immigrants. The main aim of the Act was to alleviate the racial and ethnic tensions in Canada and to foster a sense of unity and brotherhood among the civilians of Canada. It specified the criteria for citizenship and also stated the provisions that would lead to the revocation of citizenship.

  1. The Immigration Act, 1952

The Immigration Act, 1952 was passed to provide a more recognized framework to the Immigration Act, 1910. It introduced and reinforced the powers of the federal government and established the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration which was granted with the mandatory powers and functions. 

  1. The Immigration Act, 1976

The Immigration Act, 1976 was introduced by the Parliament in 1976. The Act was the foundation of the immigration laws in Canada. The Act outlined the fundamental principles and objectives of immigration policy. It also categorized the ‘refugees’ as a class of immigrants who should also be allowed in the provinces of Canada.

Present legislation governing Immigration Law in Canada

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, 1976

The Act was repealed and enacted in the year 2002 to provide comprehensive protection to the immigrants. It is an Act introduced by the joint efforts of the administrative departments of immigration i.e, the Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). It is the primary legislation that was enacted to regulate the provisions of immigration to Canada. The objectives of the Act included providing economic, social, and cultural benefits to the immigrants.

Important terminology

  1. Immigrant

The term ‘immigrant’ is not defined under any of the immigration laws of Canada. It is defined as the person who migrates from their native country to another foreign nation-state in search of a job, education, and other opportunities. The intention to migrate from one country to another can be either for a long-term basis, short tenure or to acquire the status of a permanent resident.

  1. Citizen

The term ‘citizen’ is defined under the Citizenship Act, 1947. It can be defined as an individual who is the permanent resident of that particular nation-state and has been accorded all the rights and privileges by the government. The person acquires the status of a citizen in Canada either by birth or by the process of naturalization.

  1. Permanent resident

The term ‘permanent resident’ is defined under Section 2(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, 1976. It can be defined as the term in which the people from other countries have been accorded all the rights and privileges as similar to that of the citizen. The permanent resident is a person from another country and has been given permanent status by the immigration policies of Canada. If the permanent resident commits any illegal act or gets involved in any of the criminal charges, then they can be deported by the government authorities and agencies.  

  1. Temporary resident

The term ‘temporary resident’ has not been defined in any of the Canadian immigration laws. It can be defined as the person who has been permitted to reside in Canada for a limited period. The students, workers, and the labour forces have been given the status of temporary resident. They are the ones temporarily working in Canada, either with or without work permits. If the temporary resident works in the country without registered working permits, then they can also be deported by the government agencies and authorities. 

  1. Foreign nationals

The term ‘foreign nationals’ has been defined under Section 2(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, 1976. They can be defined as individuals who are not citizens of Canada and have not even acquired the status of a permanent resident. This can even include government agencies and entities who are barred from doing business in Canada. 

  1. Refugee

The term ‘refugee’ has been defined as the person who migrates to another country with the fear or threat in their native country due to any social, religious, nationality, or political problems.

  1. Visa

In general, a visa is defined as the endorsement given by the government stating that the individual has met all the requirements for being permitted in Canada following the laws and policies. The visa acts as a seal of approval for the citizens. 

Current immigration policies

Immigration takes place either to seek opportunities or if an individual is under any threat or fear. The statistics show that annual immigration i.e, immigration in Canada from 2000 to 2020 has been increasing, which has increased the ratio of population in Canada. The report of 2019 shows that 21.5 percent of the people living in Canada are immigrants with the status of permanent residents.

Immigration in Canada can be classified into:

  1. Family reconciliation 

Any person or foreign national can qualify or can attain the status of a permanent resident. Permanent residency can be obtained if any foreign national has any kind of relationship with an already well-settled citizen in Canada, who has obtained Canadian citizenship either by permanent residency or by naturalization under the immigration laws in Canada. The permanent resident then has the beneficial right to act as the sponsor, i.e, he can sponsor his family, relatives, or any other closed ones who want to attain the status of a permanent resident or become a citizen of Canada. The eligibility of the sponsor to bring their family members or relatives depends on the age, residence, his or her economic conditions and stability, and a well-established way of living.

  1. Economic immigration

The immigration process in Canada has been proclaimed and praised and has acted as a model for other countries. Any foreign national can qualify for permanent residency if they want to become economically established and stable in Canada. A foreign national who wants to acquire the status of a permanent resident is to be evaluated on his professional background or education. There are various pathways through which the immigrants can be admitted economically. The government has initiated various programs through which he foreign nationals can apply for permanent residency or the status as a permanent resident. The government has initiated various comprehensive programs that include a long testing and biometric screening or a provincial nominee program.

  1. Protected persons and refugees

The refugees have also been categorized as the persons who are made liable for immigration. They are allowed to settle in Canada and can be classified into two categories namely:

  • The government-assisted refugees, who should be granted immigration as specified by the United Nations High Commission for refugees based on location, vulnerability so are liable to receive government assistance, and 
  • The privately sponsored refugees are the refugees brought to Canada by the appropriate government organization assuming legal responsibility. 

According to the Canadian immigration law, the refugees have been referred to as the types of immigrants that are classified to acquire the status of a permanent resident.

  1. Immigration on the humanitarian grounds

The Canadian immigration laws also legalize and grant permanent residency to individuals on humanitarian grounds i.e., if the individual is going through any kind of hardship or his life is under any kind of risk.

Illegal immigration to Canada

Illegal immigration is an act of a person who enters the boundary of a foreign country illegally, with a wrongful intention of not being a Canadian citizen or a permanent citizen. The person illegally entering the provinces of Canada violating his native country’s domestic laws and the immigration laws and the international law, can be faced with the negative consequences of deportation. The illegal immigrants enter the provinces of Canada by a travel visa but remain permanently beyond the limited period of stay. The illegal immigrants are then deported back to their native nation-states by the Canadian government and authorities. The reports show that approximately 5,00,000 undocumented people are residing in Canada violating the rules, regulations, and the provinces of international law. The people residing in Canada illegally have either entered by fake marriages, travel visas, or through water borders.

Role of the government in enforcing Canada’s immigration laws

The immigration laws in Canada are mainly enforced and governed by the two federal governments acting at the central level to regulate all the activities related to immigration.

  1. Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)

The Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada(IRCC) is responsible for the enforcement and implementation of all the laws related to immigration and citizenship in Canada. The administration body plays a very important role in facilitating the arrival of immigrants, protecting the refugees and the immigrants, granting citizenship to the immigrants residing in Canada, and also has the responsibility of issuing documentation and certifications to the Canadians and the immigrants.

  1. Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), is an administrative body that has the authority for the implementation of all the border services, customs, statutes, and conventions and helps in enforcing the immigration laws in Canada i.e, keeps a check over whether the laws are being implemented accurately. It also facilitates the circulation of legitimate immigrants and travellers and fair trade and service.

The administrative departments of IRCC and CBSA  work with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the Canadian Security Intelligence Services (CSIS), and the Ministry of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness for the implementation of the laws of immigration in Canada.

Enforcement measures

Enforcement measures are thus required for protecting the residents of Canada from any kind of threat. The measures apply to:

  • People who are not citizens of Canada.
  • A person who has citizenship under their native states i.e, supposedly a registered Indian under the Indian acts.
  • Persons who have violated any of the immigration laws of Canada or the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA).

The enforcement measures can be conducted in Canada against the immigrants if the illegal activities take place outside or inside the provinces and at the ports of Canada.

  1. Outside the province of Canada

The people who want to immigrate to Canada must apply for a visa for their immigration to Canada. Their visas must be legalized by the government. They will not be granted a visa if found inadmissible.

  1. Inside the province of Canada

If the immigrants residing in Canada commit any kind of crime or are found violating the laws of the nation-states, the government has the power to arrest, detain or even deport that particular immigrant to their native states.

  1. Ports of Canada

The government has the power to refuse the entry of inadmissible people in the provinces of Canada if the immigrants are found with false documentation of travel or have been suspected of any kind of illegal activities.

Confiscation directives

The immigrants cannot be allowed to enter the province of the nation-state of Canada if they are considered inadmissible by the authorities at the supreme level. The immigrants are found to be inadmissible:

  • If they have any criminal records in the past or are suspected criminals and are trying to enter the provinces of Canada to escape from the clutches of the stringent laws and policies.
  • If they have been diagnosed with any disease and can pose a threat to public health in Canada.
  • If the documents are found to be false, or their visas have expired and are still residing in the provinces.

If the authorities and the government agencies detect any kind of mishappenings on the part of the immigrants that violated the rules and regulations of the Canadian immigration laws, they are ordered for removal that can be either made as a departure order, a deportation order, or an exclusion order.

Immigration to Canada in 2021

The government of Canada has taken initiatives and announced several immigration policies for the people who wish to migrate to Canada in 2021 to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. Immigration is not easy and a person has to go through various phases to get approval for their immigration. 

There are various policies that can be undertaken by an individual to immigrate to Canada to secure permanent residency. 

  1. Express Entry Program 

The government has announced a programme under which an individual might be granted the status of a skilled worker and had been given the right to work and reside in Canada. This has been acknowledged under the Express Entry Program concept. The scheme has given the authority to the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to examine, recruit, and select immigrants who are skilled and have the appropriate requirements under the federal economic immigration programmes. The concept has also allowed particular provinces and territories to use the system effectively to recruit suitable persons to meet labour market demands.

  1. Family class sponsorship 

Family class sponsorship is the cornerstone of all the other immigration policies in Canada. The scheme gives the allowance to the permanent residents of Canada to sponsor their respective family members and relatives to settle on a permanent basis. To qualify for the sponsorship programme, the person has to be a permanent resident of Canada. The sponsor gives the right to sponsor the individual’s children who are under the age of 22. The grandparents or the parents can only be allowed for sponsorship under the Super Visa category.

  1. LMIA work visa

The people who want to immigrate to Canada can get secured jobs, or any kind of work and apply for a work visa and then immigrate to Canada. The LMIA work visa is the process in which the individual after securing a job offer applies for an LMIA through the Portal of service Canada and then subsequently applies for a work permit after getting the approval from LMIA. The person can even be granted the status of a permanent resident in Canada through the process.

  1. Provincial nominee programs

The program has been introduced by the provincial states of Canada like Alberta, Ontario, and British Columbia to make immigration possible to Canada through a fast and speedy process. The policies have stated that the members should reside in the respective provincial states through which they have been granted immigration. 

  1. Canada investor immigration

The policy is applicable for individuals who have their businesses overseas. The benefit of announcing this policy is that individuals can invest in the Canadian economy which can contribute to the overall growth and prosperity of Canada. This includes two kinds of investor programs in Canada namely:

  1. The Federal Investor Program, and
  2. The Quebec program.


Consequently, immigration has transformed the very concept of Canada. Immigration has confined the demography of Canada, which was once a monocultural landscape and had historical dualities but has been turned into a cosmopolitan scope of cultures, colors, and connections with striking implications of national unity and social identity. The laws, legislation, and programs for Canada’s immigration are recognized as a model to emulate and are widely appreciated all over the world by other nations. It has offered a principled and transparent approach for attracting immigrants from neighboring countries all over the world, barring the unwanted and unwashed.


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