Canada welcomed a record number of immigrants last year, hitting its target of 431,645 new permanent residents and exceeding 2021 numbers, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said Tuesday.

In line with the government’s plans to settle more immigrants to help address labour shortages in various sectors, targets will increase every year for the next three years, according to its 2023-2025 Immigration Levels Plan, tabled Nov. 1, 2022.

The new goals are to bring in 465,000 new permanent residents this year, 485,000 in 2024, and 500,000 in 2025.

“Newcomers play an essential role in filling labour shortages, bringing new perspectives and talents to our communities, and enriching our society as a whole,” wrote Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Sean Fraser in a release Tuesday. “I am excited to see what the future holds and look forward to another historic year in 2023 as we continue to welcome newcomers.”

Meanwhile, delays in processing immigration applications surged last year, with about 1.3 million applications taking longer to process than the government’s service standards, as of the end of July. Fraser told The Canadian Press at the time the Canadian immigration system was seeing unprecedented demand, and he announced his department would hire 1,250 new employees to tackle the backlogs.

According to the release issued Tuesday, IRCC processed about 5.2 million applications — including for permanent residence, temporary residence, and citizenship — in 2022, doubling the number from the previous year.

With files from The Canadian Press