Getting to know Canada’s immigration categories

Getting to know Canada’s immigration categories

An overview of immigration categories to help guide your journey to Canada.

A recent announcement that as of July, Canada will resume Express Entry invitations to all candidates is welcome news for those who had their immigration plans put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Express Entry is just one way to immigrate to Canada and with an overwhelming number of pathways, it can be difficult to know where to start. Understanding Canada’s immigration categories is a good first step.

Economic Class

The economic class is the largest source of immigration to Canada. Those who are eligible for any of the more than 100 pathways are seen as able to contribute the most to Canada’s economy and have an easier time integrating into the Canadian job market.

Discover if You Are Eligible for Canadian Immigration

Express Entry

The main federal economic class immigration pathway is called Express Entry. Through Express Entry, there are three programs:

  • The Federal Skilled Worker Program is designed for any applicant who meets specific language, education, and work experience. Work experience is categorized using the National Occupational Classification system. This system is used to determine if a candidate is eligible for an economic class immigration program. Each occupation has a code and is assigned a skill level.
  • The Federal Skilled Trades Program is an option for those with at least two years of experience in a skilled trade in the five years before applying, as well as required language skills in either English or French.
  • The Canadian Experience Class is available to those who have already worked for at least one year in Canada and who meet language skills criteria.

Through each pathway, eligible applicants upload their profile to the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website and are given a score using the Comprehensive Ranking System. This score, based on criteria such as education, language skills and work experience, is used to rank candidates. The higher the score, the more likely you are to receive an Invitation To Apply for permanent residence.

IRCC invites the highest-ranking candidates every two weeks.

Provincial Nomination Program

Newcomers seeking permanent residency can opt to apply to the Provincial Nomination Program (PNP). Each Canadian province and territory (with the exceptions of Quebec and Nunavut) has a PNP, which allows them to nominate immigration candidates for permanent residence.

There are two types of PNP. Enhanced PNPs invite Express Entry candidates to apply for a provincial nomination. If an Express Entry candidate successfully applies for a provincial nomination, they are eligible for an additional 600 CRS points.

Provinces that participate in the PNP also have base streams that operate outside of the Express Entry system. Through these immigration programs, it is possible to apply directly to a provincial government, although the application may take longer to process.

Getting a provincial nomination is not the same as becoming a permanent resident. In Canada, only the federal government can issue permanent residency status. However, a provincial nomination can greatly support a Canadian immigration application.


The province of Quebec does things a little differently. Quebec has a special agreement with the federal government that allows it to choose immigrants. Quebec is the only province in Canada with French as the official language, and as such, many of its immigration programs require applicants to have French language skills.

Quebec has unique immigration programs. For example, skilled workers can apply to the Quebec Skills Workers Program, which is similar to the Federal Skilled Worker Program. It is also possible to take advantage of pilot programs that encourage immigration by those with experience in the food industry, orderlies and those who are experienced in artificial intelligence and tech.

Family class

After economic class immigration, family class sponsorship is the second-most common path for immigration to Canada. Canada welcomes over 100,000 newcomers a year through family sponsorship. Two main pathways make this possible: the Spouses, Partners and Children’s Program and the Parents and Grandparents Program.

Spouses and partners

Canadian citizens and permanent residents can sponsor a spouse, common-law partner and any dependent children. They must be able to prove that they can financially support their partner and any dependent children for a certain length of time known as an undertaking, in this case three years, regardless of any change to a financial situation in the future. Applicants need to show proof of a relationship such as a marriage certificate, photos or proof of shared expenses. It is important to note that Canada welcomes those in same-sex relationships and all sponsorship requirements are identical for same-sex partners and spouses.

Parents and grandparents

Parents and Grandparents can be sponsored by any Canadian citizen or permanent resident. To sponsor a parent or grandparent, you must meet a minimum income requirement and be prepared to support your relatives for an undertaking of 20 years. The minimum income requirement can be met by factoring in the income of a spouse or common-law partner.