Canada’s immigration categories

When it comes to deciding how to immigrate to Canada, knowing which category to apply to is a great place to start.

Whether you are a skilled worker, looking to sponsor family or seeking refugee status, understanding the basics will save time, stress and money on the journey to Canada.

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.

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.
  • 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.

Provincial Nomination Program

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. 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.


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.

Québec 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

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.

Refugees and humanitarian class

Canada has long been seen as a haven for refugees and asylum seekers. Refugees are seeking escape from persecution, war or disasters in their home country.

There are three main categories to enter Canada as a refugee or as a humanitarian class immigrant.

Resettled refugees

Refugees through the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. These referrals are designed to bring them to Canada with the government for one year.

Privately Sponsored Refugees are brought to Canada through the sponsorship of non-government groups. Sponsors are often faith groups, NGOs or groups of five or more people who work together to resettle refugees within their community, for any reason. Private sponsors must support refugees for at least one year.

Blended-visa office referred refugees are a mix of the first two categories. Upon arrival to Canada, they are supported by the Canadian government for six months and are supported by private sponsors for the other six months.

Asylum claimants in Canada

Those seeking asylum can submit a claim for refugee status after arriving in Canada. If their claim is approved by the Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, they will receive permanent residence.

Humanitarian and compassionate Claimants

Humanitarian and compassionate grounds can be used to apply for permanent residence in cases where the applicant would not normally be eligible.