Immigration Status

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Immigration Status

Quick Facts Concepts, Skills and Terminology How to Learn More Find Services
Immstatus.jpgNewcomers enter Canada through various immigration programs, as refugees, temporary residents or without any legal status at all. Settlement workers need to have a basic understanding of the different immigration statuses their clients fall under in order to serve them effectively.

Quick Facts

Immigration Status

In order to fully participate in Canadian society, it is necessary to have legal immigration status in Canada. The status one has in the country, for example if they are a permanent resident or are on a temporary visa, determines their rights and responsibilities in Canada. In the settlement sector, a client's immigration status often defines which services are available to them.

Below is an overview of key facts regarding immigration status in Canada:

  • In 2011 Canada admitted 248,748 immigrants to Canada and 190,842 temporary residents - Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)
  • In 2011, 181,286 people became Canadian citizens - Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)
  • Most immigration programs are decided at the federal level by the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and administered by Citizenship and Immigration Canada - Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)
  • Many settlement agencies can only serve individuals who have Permanent Residency, or are in the process of becoming Permanent Residents. Funding for refugee claimants, international students, temporary foreign workers or foreign nationals without status can be more limited - Alboim and Cohl
  • In 2011, 11.5% of newcomers arrived as refugees - Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)
  • There have been significant changes to Canada's immigration system in recent years including new immigration classes, changes to citizenship requirements and modifications to the refugee determination process - Alboim and Cohl
  • The number of temporary residents admitted to Canada has increased dramatically in recent years - Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)
  • It is estimated that there are between 20,000 and 500,000 people without any legal status in Canada - Goldring et. al

Concepts, Skills & Terminology

Discover important concepts, definitions and terms relating to mental health in the settlement sector.


(Immigration) Status

Immigration status, commonly referred to simply as “status” refers to how one is (il)legally in Canada. Status is extremely important for newcomers to Canada as it determines which services they have access to and their rights in Canada.

Permanent Residency

A Permanent Resident (PR) is a citizen of another country who lives in Canada on a regular basis but is not yet a Canadian citizen. Individuals with temporary work, visitor or study permits are not permanent residents - Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA)

IRPA is the primary legislation concerning immigration in Canada. Implemented in 2002, it outlines the goals and restrictions of Canada's immigration system. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) carry out their activities in accordance to this act - Department of Justice

Relevant Government Agencies

Recent Trends

Citizenship attainment

Once newcomers gain citizenship, they have full rights and responsibilities in Canada. Therefore, this is a goal of most immigrants to Canada. However, there have been several changes in recent years to citizenship requirements. A more thorough citizenship exam was introduced in 2010 and language requirements were introduced in 2012. It is possible that these changes may decrease the number of permanent residents achieving citizenship - Alboim and Cohl

Temporary to permanent pathways

Although most immigrants apply directly to live in Canada permanently, a growing number of immigrants enter Canada as temporary residents. For example, many international students or temporary foreign workers can now apply to become permanent residents through the Canadian Experience Class stream. Additionally, Live-in Caregivers may be able to apply for permanent residency after completing the requirements of the program.

Temporary foreign workers

The number of temporary residents has increased significantly in recent years. In fact, more temporary foreign workers now enter Canada than economic immigrants who achieve permanent residency - Faraday. Many work permits for temporary foreign workers are tied to one employer. These individuals generally do not have access to settlement services and access to other social services is limited.

Significant immigration changes

Recently there have been many changes to Canada’s immigration system. These changes include the creation of new immigration programs, significant modifications to current programs and an overhaul of the refugee determination system. Since 2008 these changes have occurred at an unprecedented speed - Alboim and Cohl

People without status

It is unclear how many people are living in Canada without legal immigration status, however, estimates range from 20,000 to 500,000 - Goldring et. al. Most people in Canada without status enter through a legal pathway such as a visitor permit, temporary work permit or as a refugee claimant and stay in Canada beyond the expiration of their permit - City of Toronto. People without status in Canada are extremely vulnerable as they have limited access to healthcare, settlement social assistance and legal services - OCASI - Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants.

Immigration Programs and Acronyms

Most newcomers to Canada arrive through one of the programs within the government's immigration streams: economic, family class or humanitarian. In addition to Canada's immigration programs, many newcomers enter the country as temporary residents. Below are some examples of popular immigration and temporary residency programs. However, please note that this is not an exhaustive list.


Family Class


Temporary Residents


Although it is important to understand how newcomers are affected by their immigration status, the details of this subject can be very complex. In many cases settlement workers may wish to consult with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) for clarification on these issues. In some cases, an immigration consultant or lawyer may also be necessary.

How to Learn More

40px-Crystal package settings.png Featured Resource! Access to Services Without Fear Immigration Campaign: Toronto Community Services Guide

Further your knowledge with practical guides, best practices, projects and research.

Find out how to become qualified to work in the field through online or classroom-based training.

Best Practices/Practical Guides


People Without Status

Permanent Residency


Temporary Foreign Workers


Related Projects/Initiatives

Further Reading

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