Chapter 4

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4.1 Data sources and relevant concepts
4.2 Estimates of immigration, Canada, provinces and territories

This chapter provides the information on the data sources regarding immigration, and the methods used to produce estimates of immigrants by age and sex, by province and territory. Information on the other four components of international migration can be found in the subsequent chapters.

4.1 Data sources and relevant concepts

The immigrant population refers to people who are landed immigrants in Canada. A landed immigrant is a person who is not a Canadian citizen by birth, but has been granted the right by immigration authorities to live in Canada on a permanent basis.

In Canada, immigration is regulated by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) of 2002. This statute superseded the Immigration Act, which was passed in 1976 and amended more than 30 times in the years thereafter. Under the IRPA, there are three basic categories of permanent residents1: the economic class, the family class, and the protected persons category (or refugees).

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) collects and processes immigrants' administrative files. It then provides Statistics Canada with information from Field Operational Support System (FOSS) files. The information is used to estimate the number and characteristics of people granted permanent resident status by the federal government for a given period. Immigrants are usually counted on or after the date on which they are granted permanent resident status or the right to live in Canada. For Demography Division, the terms immigrant and permanent resident are equivalent.

4.2 Estimates of immigration, Canada , provinces and territories

Maintaining Canadian immigration statistics is statutory. Measuring the number of immigrants entering Canada in a given period is straightforward, and adjustments to the data are not required. Information is available for each person entering Canada under landed immigrant status from CIC's administrative file.

Each month, CIC makes available to Statistics Canada, a data file containing the records of landed immigrants for the previous month, as well as any additions or updates to data already received. Given that there are typically few changes to the CIC data, the differences between preliminary and final estimates are very small.

For provincial and territorial level estimates, the file obtained from CIC identifies the province or territory of intended destination upon arrival, rather than the province or territory in which the immigrant actually settles. In a small number of cases, information on the province of destination is lacking. For these cases, the province of destination is distributed proportionately between the provinces and territories according to the distribution observed from immigrants for whom the information is available.

4.2.1 Immigration estimates by age and sex

The distribution of immigrants by age and sex is also straightforward, as these variables are available from the CIC file. The distribution only requires basic tabulation by age and sex. In the event of missing information, these cases are prorated according to the distribution for immigrants for whom the information is available.

4.2.2 Levels of estimates

The difference between preliminary2 and final postcensal estimates lies in the timeliness of the source used to estimate this component. Since the FOSS file is continually being updated, new calculations are carried out each year to update the immigration estimates. Immigration estimates are preliminary in the first year and finalized the following year.


  1. Children born abroad to Canadian parents who are out of the country are, by definition, Canadian citizens, and therefore are not included in estimates of immigration.  Included however, are those persons who change status from non-permanent residents (i.e., permit/authorization holders or refugee status claimants) to landed immigrant status from within Canada.  Although their migrations do not involve crossing Canadian borders, they are counted as non-permanent residents, upon their initial entry to Canada.
  2. Unless otherwise noted, the term preliminary includes both preliminary and updated estimates.
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