Library and Archives Canada holds immigration records, up to and including 1935 for arrivals at ocean and border ports. There are no comprehensive nominal lists of immigrants arriving in Canada before 1865.
From 1865 onwards, passenger lists and border entry lists were the official record of immigration; no immigrant applications or files exist. For a period of five years, from 1919 to 1924, an individual form was used instead of passenger lists and border entry lists. The Form 30A was used for ocean arrivals while Form 30 replaced the border entry lists. The use of passenger lists and border entry lists resumed in 1925.
These immigration records were microfilmed in the 1940s and 1950s and were not produced to archival standards. As a result, the quality of some microfilm reels is poor. Also, on some pages, the ink had faded before the records were filmed. Unfortunately, the original records were not retained after they were filmed.
The passenger lists and border entry lists and the individual forms contain information such as name, age, country of origin, occupation and intended destination of the immigrant. The Government of Canada did not keep records of people leaving the country; there are no passenger lists for departures from Canadian ports.
Most of the records have been digitized and are indexed by name. Over the coming years, more digital images and nominal indexes will be available on the Library and Archives Canada website. The Search Help pages for databases and for the collections of digitized microforms explain how the records are arranged, how to search the records and how to obtain copies.
Some Provincial Archives hold records relating to immigration.
Library and Archives Canada does not hold copies of post-1935 records. Records of immigrants arriving at Canadian land and seaports from January 1, 1936 onwards remain in the custody of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. To request a copy of another person's immigration record, you must mail a signed request to the under-noted office:
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)
Access to Information and Privacy Division
Ottawa, ON K1A 1L1
- The request should include the full name at time of entry into Canada, date of birth and year of entry. Additional information is helpful, such as country of birth, port of entry and names of accompanying family members.
- The application for copies of records should indicate that it is being requested under Access to Information. It must be submitted by a Canadian citizen or an individual residing in Canada. For non-citizens, you can hire a free-lance researcher to make the request on your behalf. The request must be accompanied by a signed consent from the person concerned or proof that he or she has been deceased for 20 years. Please note that IRCC requires proof of death regardless of the person’s year of birth.
- Fee: $5.00 (by cheque or money order made payable to the Receiver General for Canada)
Important Note: To obtain a copy of your own landing record, you must submit an Application for a Verification of Status (VOS) or Replacement of an Immigration Document to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Alternatively, you can apply for a Permanent Resident Card.
Very few files have survived relating to individual deportees.
See our guide for more information about the records, including a list of file titles relating to deportation, some of which include names: Thematic Guide - Deportation from Canada, 1893-1977
When Did Your Ancestor Arrive in Canada?
If you do not know the approximate year of your ancestor's arrival, we suggest you search other records for clues:
- The 1901, 1906, 1911, 1916 and 1921 Census indicate year of arrival for immigrants.
- Land Records are helpful because immigrants often applied for land shortly after arrival.
- The annual City Directories can sometimes help. For example, if an individual's name first appears in the directory in 1910, it is possible that he or she arrived in 1909.
- Death Records sometimes indicate how many years the deceased had resided in Canada.
- The National Registration of 1940 asked year of arrival.