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2020 IRCC National Essay Challenge

The Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has launched its 2020 National Essay Challenge (NEC) to support emerging scholars across Canada in policy-relevant research. Eligible participants are invited to submit research papers on subject matter related to the Department’s mandate. 

The NEC is open to all disciplines and research methodologies. For students wishing to use data in the RDC for their essay, IRCC has partnered with Statistics Canada and the Canadian Research Data Centre Network (CRDCN) to provide access through the RDCs. To learn more about the data in the RDCs, please click here. Datasets related to immigration can be found under "Ethnic diversity and immigration" on the "By Subject" tab of our search tool.

More information about the NEC can be found on the 2020 IRCC NEC GCcollab group. To access this group, students should contact IRCC with a request to join GCCollab for the national essay challenge. The group allows students to ask questions about the NEC and it also includes information about IRCC’s mandate, research priorities, and available research and data on the Statistics Canada site. 


-   $500 towards attendance at a conference of their choice

-   A paid trip to Ottawa to present the paper at IRCC head office and a certificate of achievement.


- Applicants must be a graduate student enrolled part-time/full-time in a M.A. or Ph.D. program at an accredited Canadian university for the 2019-2020 academic year.

- Final submissions must be empirical research papers using quantitative or qualitative methodologies. 

- Papers cannot be co-authored.

- Applicants must have the support of their academic supervisor.

- Government of Canada employees are not eligible to participate.

Important Dates:

November 6, 2019 11:59 pm (PST): Deadline to submit a proposal (using the application form below) for a new RDC project.

January 6, 2019 11:59pm (PST): Deadline for existing RDC projects to submit a proposal (using the application form below).

January 31, 2019 11:59pm (PST): Deadline to send an expression of interest to IRCC (here) with the following information: Name, paper title, abstract, university, academic program, degree level, and supporting professor's name/email.

May 4, 2020 11:59 pm (PST): Deadline to submit final paper to IRCC ([email protected]).

June 1, 2020: Participants receive final results by email.

June 2020: Presentation to IRCC officials at Research Matters Event.

Essay requirements:

- Essays should be in the official language of your choice (French or English)

- Essays must not have previously been published

- Essays should include a cover page (title, name, program, department and affiliation)

- A 250 word abstract must accompany the essay

- Formatting: double spaced with one inch margins in 12 point Times New Roman font type; citations consistent with disciplinary norms. (Please submit your essay in pdf format)

- Essays must not exceed 15 pages (excluding abstract, images, charts, references and appendices)

Essays will be evaluated based on the folllowing criteria:

Analysis & methodology - 50%

IRCC policy relevance - 30%

Quality of writing - 20%

Selected students will

- Be invited to present their essay at IRCC National Headquarters in Ottawa at a Research Matters Event to public servants/policymakers, with round-trip travel paid by IRCC

- Be awarded $500 towards attending an academic conference of their choice (before Feb 28, 2021)

- Receive a certificate of achievement from the department.

How to apply:

To apply to the contest using RDC data click here Registration for the NEC is now closed.

Researchers who want to write an essay not using data from the RDC should contact IRCC for more information.


For general inquiries about the essay challenge, please contact IRCC.

For questions about the Research Data Centres, or the web application, please contact Grant Gibson.