There are three main immigration categories:
Economic immigrants - Citizenship and Immigration Canada uses several sub-categories of economic immigrants. The high-profile Skilled worker principal applicants group comprised 19.8% of all immigration in 2005.
In 2001 (the date of the last immigrant employment study) Skilled worker principal applicant landed immigrants had a 34% unemployment rate.
Spouses and children of Skilled workers comprised an even larger percentage of the Economic immigrant category at 29.3% of all immigration.
Family class - Under a government program, both citizens and permanent residents can sponsor family members to immigrate to Canada. While this program has proven to be popular with recent immigrants, it has also been criticized by some for being too open-ended (i.e., a never-ending cycle of people related to yet more people which ultimately extends well beyond the original sponsor), a non-citizen can be a sponsor, and it allows retirees to immigrate who have not contributed significantly to the funding of the Canadian infrastructure, medical or social services system (the free rider problem). This category of immigrants also has a much lower labour force participation rate than economic immigrants.
Refugees - Immigration of refugees and those in need of protection. This immigrant population has a high unemployment record (51% in 2001) of an already small labour participation rate (44%), resulting in extended financial dependence on government assistance for the vast majority of refugees.
Under Canadian nationality law an immigrant can apply for citizenship after living in Canada for three years.
Population growth through immigration tends to boost GDP, but not necessarily per capita income depending on whether immigrants have an income above or below the national average, and whether the skills they bring have impacts that multiply benefits throughout the economy. Analysis of census data as of 2000 shows that immigrant incomes were at 80% of the national average after 10 years of residing in Canada.
Some observers note that almost all Canadians are either immigrants or descendants of immigrants and that the Canadian standard of living is one of the highest in the world. Therefore, based on this simple logic, these observers argue that immigration must have been beneficial to the Canadian economy, at least at some point in the past. In 1991, the Economic Council of Canada concluded that "A historical perspective gives little or no support to the view that immigration is needed for economic prosperity. In the 19th and and early 20th centuries, the fastest growth in per capita real incomes occurred at times with net immigration was nil or negative. Later in the 20th century, the opposite linkage is seen but, clearly, there is no long-term correlation." A University of Montreal study published in 2002 by professor Marc Termote used different methods and studied different countries and concluded that immigration has no statistical impact to the per capita income of a country.
The economic impact of immigration differs by immigration category. For example, according to Statistics Canada, there are significant differences in the labour force participation rates. 2001 labour force participation rates by category:
Economic immigrants: 91%
Economic immigrant spouses: 63%
Family class immigrants: 59%
Average of all immigrants: 70%
In 2001, the overall unemployment rate of immigrants was 37%. Combined with the overall participation rate of 70%, this means that only 44% of all immigrants (15 years of age and older) were working in 2001. Federal and provincial government social programs can experience greater expense without corresponding tax revenue due to the low employment rate of immigrants. The Fraser Institute claims that the immigrants who arrived between 1990 and 2002 cost governments $18.3 billion (net of taxes raised from those immigrants) relating to universal social services.