The Covid 19 Immigration Policy Tracker is a project developed to track Canadian immigration policy-making at the federal level of government over the duration of the pandemic. Data for the tracker was collected from publicly available sources including government press releases, notices and departmental websites, supplemented by news articles and academic journals. These were identified and indexed by CERC Migration staff with the help of research assistants. The scope for the tracker was broad, including all policies at the federal level that impacted immigration and mobility across borders. Given the complexity of policy making and the collaboration between departments and levels of government, there is crossover between categories. We welcome feedback and suggestions to refine, supplement, and add content in the hope that the tracker can be updated and improved through crowd-sourcing over time.

Federal Immigration Policy

In Canada, under the Constitution Act, 1867-1982, immigration is an area of shared federal-provincial jurisdiction. Similar powers have been devolved to the territories through legislation. In provinces other than Québec (which has a unique Accord with Canada), the federal government is responsible for setting national immigration levels, establishing admission requirements, defining immigration categories, determining refugee claims within Canada, reuniting families, and establishing eligibility criteria for settlement programs.

Using the Tracker

The tracker can be searched in three different ways: 

  1. Chronologically by clicking on View All Policies and scrolling down
  2. Using the dropdown menus:
    • Departments or Agencies
    • Type of Administrative Action
    • Immigration Category
  3. Using the search tool, with keyword options

Each policy includes the date it was announced, the active period (when relevant), an overview of the policy, and is labelled by the department or agency associated with the policy, the type of action and the admission category. Each entry also includes a link to the underlying source documents.

A Note on Categories

While indexing policies and developing a taxonomy, we tried to echo the nomenclature used by the various government departments and agencies involved. At times, the language used in press releases, notices and other documents was not identical to official categories. We created additional umbrella categories to catch these nuances and make the database easier to search. The keyword search function was included to enable specific queries. Definitions for all the categories used can be found below.

Category Definitions

Departments and Agencies

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

The department of the Government of Canada responsible for the federal regulation of agriculture, including policies governing the production, processing, and marketing of all farm, food, and agri-based products. These can include policies affecting Agri-food workers and temporary foreign workers. Agriculture in Canada is a shared jurisdiction and the department works with the provinces and territories in the development and delivery of policies and programs.

Canada Border Services Agency

The federal law enforcement agency that is responsible for border control (i.e. protection and surveillance), immigration enforcement, and customs services in Canada. The CBSA is responsible to Parliament through the minister of public safety and emergency preparedness.

Canada Revenue Agency

The revenue service of the federal government and most provincial and territorial governments. The CRA collects taxes, administers tax law and policy, and delivers benefit programs and tax credits.

Department of Finance

assists the Minister of finance in developing the government’s fiscal framework and advises the federal government on economic and financial issues. A principal role of the department is assisting the government in the development of its annual budget.

Department of Finance

assists the Minister of finance in developing the government’s fiscal framework and advises the federal government on economic and financial issues. A principal role of the department is assisting the government in the development of its annual budget.

Department of National Defence

supports the Canadian Armed Forces in its role of defending Canadian national interests domestically and internationally.The department is a civilian organization within the Government of Canada’s public service.  As a civilian organization, it is separate from the military itself.

Economic and Social Development Canada

federal department responsible for social programs and the labour market. The department delivers a number of federal government programs and services including Employment Insurance, Service Canada centres, issuing social insurance numbers and the federal Labour Program among others things. Notably, the ESDC is responsible for the implementation of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program.

Global Affairs Canada

federal department responsible formanaging Canada’s diplomatic and consular relations, promotes Canadian international trade and leads Canada’s international development and humanitarian assistance. It is also responsible for maintaining Canadian government offices abroad with diplomatic and consular status on behalf of all government departments.

Health Canada

responsible for national health policy. The department itself is also responsible for numerous federal health-related agencies, including the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Public Health Agency of Canada, among others. These organizations help to ensure compliance with federal law in a variety of healthcare, agricultural, and pharmaceutical activities.

Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

an independent administrative tribunal that is responsible for making decisions on immigration and refugee matters. As one of its responsibilities, the IRB decides on applications for refugee protection made by individuals.The IRB reports to Parliament through the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, but remains independent from both the IRCC and the Minister.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

federal department that facilitates the arrival of immigrants, provides protection to refugees, and offers programming to help newcomers settle in Canada. The department grants citizenship and issues travel documents (such as passports) to Canadians. The Minister of IRCC works closely with the Minister of Public Safety in relation to the administration of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Office of the Prime Minister

the political arm of the staff housed in the Office of the Prime Minister and Privy Council building that supports the role of the prime minister of Canada. Its staff provides provision of policy advice, information gathering, communications, planning, and strategizing.

Privy Council Office

supports the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Led by the Clerk of the Privy Council, the department helps the government in implementing its vision, goals and decisions in a timely manner. The Orders in Council Division provides advice and support to the Clerk of the Privy Council on a range of activities relating to the use and management of Orders in Council (OICs), Regulations and other Statutory Instruments.

Public Health Agency of Canada

an agency of the Government of Canada responsible for public health, emergency preparedness and response, and infectious and chronic disease control and prevention.

Public Safety Canada

legally incorporated as the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, is the department of the Government of Canada responsible for (most) matters of public safety, emergency management, national security, and emergency preparedness in Canada.

Transport Canada

federal department responsible for developing regulations, policies and services of road, rail, marine and air transportation in and to Canada. It is part of the Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities portfolio.

Type of Administrative Action

Programmatic Changes   

Digital Infrastructure

changes in practice related to the use of digital technologies and online platforms as well as any new developments in the use of artificial intelligence.

Guidelines and rule changes

any changes in practice and procedure as issued in notices and guidelines issued by the various departments and agencies.

Immigration Pathways & Pilots 

all possible immigration pathways through which newcomers can immigrate to Canada, including pilot programs. Immigration pilots are limited-term programs specifically designed to address the needs of particular areas, sectors and communities in Canada. These aim to bring lower skilled, semi-skilled, and skilled workers to Canada to address labour and skill shortages and by creating a path to permanent residence for those who want to live and work permanently in Canada.


changes to the everyday operations and functioning of government services.

Agency Directives 

Border Closures

changes in policy that affect movement across Canadian borders

Interim Orders

temporary orders of the court pending a hearing, trial, a final order or while awaiting an act by one of the parties.

New Programs

introduced to address matters of immigration.

Orders in Council

a statutory instrument by which the governor general (the executive power of the governor-in-council), acting on the advice and consent of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada, expresses a decision. In practice, orders-in-council are recommended by Cabinet and formally approved by the Governor General. Orders-in-council are not discussed by Parliament and do not require legislation by Parliament before being implemented.

Travel Advisories

government announcements pertaining to both essential and non-essential travel.

Covid Prevention Measures

Covid Testing

any measures that mandate testing for SARS-CoV-2.


any measure taken by the government under the authority of the Quarantine Act, 2005. The act gives sweeping powers to the federal health minister to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases. These powers can include health screenings, the creation of quarantine facilities and mandatory isolation orders.

Vaccine mandates

any rules requiring vaccination in order to travel across Canadian borders.

Legislation and Regulations


refers to written laws, often referred to as Acts or statutes, which are enacted by Parliament, the legislative arm of government.


are the rules used to carry out the intent of statutes (Acts) enacted by the Parliament of Canada. They are instruments of legislative power and have the force of law. Regulations contain more specific guidelines than Acts.

Federal Subsidies

Benefits given to an individual, business or institution in the form of grants or contributions.

Immigration category

The ‘immigration category’ uses a mix of official IRCC landed immigrant categories in combination with broader terms that are used widely in practice. As a result, some admissions categories overlap. 


Persons described as citizens under the Citizenship Act. This means a person who:

  • is Canadian by birth (either born in Canada or born outside Canada to a Canadian citizen who was themselves either born in Canada or granted citizenship) or
  • has applied for a grant of citizenship and has received Canadian citizenship (naturalization).
Economic migrants

those who have been selected for their ability to contribute to Canada’s economy through their ability to meet labour market needs, to own and manage or to build a business, to make a substantial investment, to create their own employment or to meet specific provincial or territorial labour market needs. It includes worker programs, business programs and provincial and territorial nominee programs.

Family class (reunification)

officially ‘Immigrant sponsored by family’, this category includes immigrants who were sponsored by a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and were granted permanent resident status on the basis of their relationship either as the spouse, partner, parent, grand-parent, child or other relative of this sponsor. The terms “family class” or “family reunification” are often used to refer to this category in communications.

International Students

also referred to as ‘foreign students’. This category refers to a temporary resident who is legally authorized to study in Canada on a temporary basis. With a few exceptions, international students must get a study permit if they are taking a course of studies that will last for more than six months. International students may work part time in Canada while studying and full time for a period of time after graduation.

Parties to IRB proceedings

foreign nationals involved with the adjudication of a diverse range of immigration and refugee related matters through the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. This can include refugee claims, removal orders and residency obligations. 

Permanent Residents

a person who has legally immigrated to Canada but is not yet a Canadian citizen. For a more detailed definition, see the legal definition of permanent resident.

Prospective Immigrants

an informal category used to capture all temporary residents already in Canada in the process of seeking permanent resident status and those outside of Canada in the process of immigrating to Canada (often referred to as ‘applicants’ by IRCC).

Refugee Claimant

a person who has applied for refugee protection status at the border or from within Canada and is waiting for a decision on his/her claim from the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.


immigrants who were granted permanent resident status on the basis of a well-founded fear of returning to their home country. This category includes persons who had a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in particular social group or for political opinion (Geneva Convention on refugees) as well as persons who had been seriously and personally affected by civil war or armed conflict, or have suffered a massive violation of human rights. Protected refugees are those who are determined to be refugees by the Immigration and Refugee Board in Canada. This determination applies to themselves and their family members (either with them in Canada or abroad). Resettled refugees are those who are outside of their country and were referred for resettlement to Canada by the United Nations Refugee Agency, another designated referral organization or private sponsors.

Registered Indians

the legal status of a person who is registered as an Indian under the Indian Act. Under the Indian Act, status Indians, also known as registered Indians, may be eligible for a range of benefits, rights, programs and services offered by the federal and provincial or territorial governments.

Temporary foreign workers

workers admitted under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program or the International Mobility program. These programs allow employers to hire workers from abroad to fill short-term labour and skill shortages when no domestic workers are available to do the job. A Labour Market Impact Assessment is normally needed to hire through the Temporary Foreign Worker program, but not the International Mobility Program. Foreign workers hired as part of these programs are referred to as temporary foreign workers.

Temporary residents

foreign nationals who are in Canada legally for a limited period. Temporary residents include students, foreign workers and visitors, such as tourists.


informal term used to capture all foreign nationals entering Canada for both discretionary (optional) and non-discretionary (non–optional) purposes.

About CERC Migration

The Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Migration and Integration is the first ever CERC awarded to Toronto Metropolitan University, building on the university’s strengths and commitments in the area of immigration and settlement studies.

The CERC in Migration and Integration is led by Professor Anna Triandafyllidou. The program is producing innovative and usable knowledge on the links between migration and post-migration processes, forced and voluntary mobility, internal and international migration, and the role of countries of origin and transit. CERC Migration pays special attention to Canadian realities while also engaging in comparative research with and among other countries in various global regions.

The Covid-19 Immigration Policy Tracker project was led by Maggie Perzyna. The project was also supported by research assistance from Kazi Alam and Krista Robinson.