The United States and Canada have long been regarded as desirable immigration destinations, attracting millions of individuals from around the world. With distinct immigration policies and a range of options available, prospective immigrants often find themselves contemplating which country offers the best opportunities for them. In this article, we will compare the immigration policies of the United States and Canada, highlighting the different pathways available and providing insights into the benefits each country has to offer.
Immigration Policy in Canada
Canada has embraced immigration as a fundamental aspect of its nation-building efforts. Annually, the Canadian government releases an Immigration Levels Plan, which outlines the number of immigrants to be welcomed into the country. The plan encompasses economic, family, and humanitarian class programs over a three-year period.
In the recently announced Immigration Levels Plan for 2023-2025, Canada revealed its commitment to increasing immigration targets. It aims to welcome 460,000 immigrants in 2023, followed by 485,000 in 2024 and 500,000 in 2025. The plan focuses on attracting skilled workers to address labor shortages, prioritizing family reunification, and providing refuge to vulnerable populations through refugee resettlement efforts.
In 2022, the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) welcomed over 437,000 immigrants to the country. Among the new arrivals, 56% entered through economic pathways such as Express Entry and Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP), while family class immigrants accounted for 24% of admissions.
The most common countries of origin for Canadian permanent resident immigrants include India, China, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Philippines, and France, with India being the leading source country.
Immigration Policy in the United States
The United States has historically been a popular destination for immigrants seeking new opportunities. However, recent years have seen a decline in the number of lawful permanent residents (LPRs) admitted to the country. Factors such as government policies, processing delays, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to this decrease.
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) governs US immigration policy. The INA permits the issuance of up to 675,000 permanent immigrant visas annually across various visa categories. Additionally, there are no limits on the 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 each year.
The United States provides multiple avenues for immigrants with valuable skills to enter the country on a permanent or temporary basis. Temporary non-immigrant worker visas encompass over 20 types. As for permanent employment-based programs, the US caps the number of immigrants at 140,000 per year.
While an unlimited number of visas are available for immediate relatives of US citizens, the family preference system imposes limitations on adult children, siblings of US citizens, and spouses and unmarried children of permanent residents.
The leading countries of origin for US permanent resident immigrants include Mexico, China, India, Philippines, Dominican Republic, and Cuba.
Obtaining Permanent Residence in the United States
Lawful permanent residents (LPRs) in the United States enjoy the privilege of living permanently in the country. They have the freedom to accept employment offers, own property, access financial assistance, and even join the Armed Forces. Several avenues exist for obtaining permanent residency:
- Employer-sponsored green card application: This option requires a specific, full-time job offer. The process involves five preference categories (EB-1, EB-2, etc.).
- Self-sponsored employment-based green card application: This route, under EB-1 Extraordinary Ability (EB-1A) or EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW), does not necessitate a specific job offer.
- Marriage to a US citizen.
- Sponsorship by a close relative who is a US citizen or permanent resident.
- The US Department of State diversity lottery program.
Obtaining Permanent Residence in Canada
Canadian permanent residents can live, work, study, and access social benefits, including healthcare coverage. The Canadian government offers several pathways to qualify for permanent residency:
- Express Entry: This is the primary application management system for skilled workers, covering the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), Canadian Experience Class (CEC), and Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP). Eligible candidates are ranked based on the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS), with the highest scoring individuals receiving Invitations to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence.
- Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs): Operated by most provinces and territories, PNPs allow provinces to nominate individuals interested in settling in a particular region.
- Sponsorship: Canadian citizens and permanent residents can sponsor their family members, including spouses, children, and grandchildren, for immigration.
Both the United States and Canada have witnessed ongoing changes in their immigration policies, reflecting government actions and court rulings. The US has placed emphasis on border enforcement and the orderly management of migration. Family-sponsored and employment-based immigration visa numbers can fluctuate as unused visa numbers from previous years are reallocated.
Canada, on the other hand, remains committed to increasing immigration targets. Provincial Nominee Programs will continue to play a significant role, granting provinces more authority in nominating immigrants. The country aims to welcome 500,000 newcomers by 2025.
Choosing between the United States and Canada as an immigration destination depends on various factors such as individual circumstances, career opportunities, and personal preferences. Both countries offer distinct pathways to permanent residency and possess unique qualities that attract immigrants. By understanding the nuances of their immigration policies, prospective immigrants can make informed decisions that align with their goals and aspirations.