Has Trump increased U.S. immigration to Canada?

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ANALYSIS: A look at why immigration from the U.S. has increased. It is not just about Trump.

Skilled worker immigration from the U.S. to Canada is on the rise.

Each year, Canada targets roughly 60 per cent of its new permanent resident arrivals under economic class immigration programs. In addition, it welcomes just over 25 per cent under the family class, and the remaining 15 per cent on refugee and humanitarian grounds.

When we solely focus on immigrants arriving from the United States under the economic class, we see there has been an exponential increase since 2015.

One may think the purpose of looking at the 2015 to 2020 period is to assess the impact of U.S. President Donald Trump on immigration to Canada.

However, using 2015 as the reference period is useful because it marks the year Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) overhauled the way it manages economic class applications. That year, it introduced Express Entry to manage skilled worker applications in a more dynamic and quick fashion.

The number of immigrants coming to Canada from the U.S. under Express Entry has risen by leaps and bounds. Upon Express Entry’s launch in 2015, only 600 U.S. residents obtained invitations to apply for permanent residence. Last year, this figure stood at over 10,000 people.

The big question is: How much of this is due to Trump?

Understanding U.S. immigration to Canada

It is important to make a distinction between U.S. citizens immigrating to Canada, and U.S. residents immigrating to Canada.

Most of those who move north as skilled workers are actually U.S. residents. They are individuals who lived in the U.S. for whatever reason, be it as workers or students, for example, and then decided that they wanted to pursue permanent residence in Canada.

The number of U.S. citizens arriving as economic class immigrants has also increased on an absolute basis since 2015. There were 4,800 individuals who did so in 2019 compared with 3,300 in 2015.

One may attribute this to Trump, however it would be a mistake to do so.

On a relative basis, U.S. citizens have comprised about 2 per cent of all new economic class immigrants welcomed by Canada since 2015.

The reason that more such U.S. citizens have come to Canada over this period is because Canada has increased its overall immigration levels from 272,000 in 2015 to 341,000 in 2019.

So, there has not been a “Trump bump” among U.S. citizens immigrating to Canada.

Now, what about U.S. residents immigrating to Canada?

“Trump Bump” is likely one factor for higher immigration among U.S. residents

IRCC’s Express Entry data shows that just over 10,000 individuals residing in the U.S. obtained permanent residence invitations in 2019. This figure was also 10,000 in 2018, but was 6,000 in 2017, and only 600 in 2015.

IRCC’s data suggests that roughly 85 per cent of these individuals were non-U.S. citizens residing in the U.S. upon the time of invitation. We presume this by subtracting the number of total invitations from the number of U.S. citizens who received invitations (about 10,200 total invitations subtracted by 1,600 U.S. citizens).

One explanation is that again, Canada’s overall immigration increased and IRCC has steadily processed more applications through Express Entry over this period. However, this cannot explain the nearly twenty-fold growth in U.S. residents succeeding under Express Entry.

There are other factors that we need to look at, and Trump is one of them.

In the absence of concrete evidence, we cannot assume a causal linkage between the Trump presidency and higher immigration from the U.S. However, it is highly probably that the immigration uncertainty in the U.S. has contributed to more residents in the U.S. moving to Canada.

It is important to remember, however, that while Trump may not have helped matters, uncertainty for immigrant hopefuls in the U.S. has existed for decades now. Although the U.S. has a population that is nine times bigger than Canada’s and a labour market that is eight times bigger, it welcomes about the same number of skilled immigrants each year as Canada.

This means there are simply not enough spots available for individuals looking to remain in the U.S. as permanent residents.

This issue long predates Trump and is one likely to linger following the November 3rd presidential election. Irrespective of who wins the election, the U.S. is unlikely to increase its permanent residence allocation to a level that would satisfy the demand of aspiring skilled workers and American employers. Come January 2021, the President and Congress will be laser-focused on America’s COVID-19 recovery.

On a practical level, it may prove difficult for U.S. politicians to explore welcoming more immigrants given the ongoing recession in the U.S. caused by the global coronavirus pandemic.

Hence, we can expect immigration among U.S. residents to remain strong in the coming years as such individuals move to Canada in pursuit of certainty.

Certainty is exactly what Canada offers the growing number of U.S. residents that have moved here since 2015. Canada has a stable immigration system with a growing level of permanent residence spots that successful candidates can secure in six months or less. This is a system that Canada put in place prior to Trump’s arrival, and will help it lure many more talented individuals from its southern neighbour well beyond the Trump presidency.

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