Canada has been one of the top destinations for immigrants (permanent residents) from around the world looking to settle in for better opportunities and a better lifestyle.
On the other hand, a recent study on the retention of immigrants suggests that some newcomers may not find the Canadian dream as expected and move back to their country of citizenship or to another country.
Reverse migration is not new, but the trend has exponentially increased in the last 5–6 years. There has never been a 100% retention rate for immigrants in Canada.
According to recent research by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, immigrants are now leaving Canada at a rate that is 31% higher than the historical average.
Although this September 2023 research studies immigrant retention trends for 2017 and 2019, it is expected that even higher numbers are leaving Canada in the last 2 years.
Approximately 20% of immigrants in each cohort eventually departed Canada, with 67,000 departures documented in 2019.
According to the study, new permanent residents of Canada are most likely to relocate again four to seven years after arrival, implying that their early experiences may be critical in convincing them to stay.
Canada has record targets of welcoming around 1.5 million new permanent residents in the next 3 years, but retention is the least talked about.
The study says, “For Canada to meet its immigration goals, the country must not only attract newcomers but also retain them. Yet few attempts have been made to evaluate Canada’s immigrant retention rate.”
What is causing immigrants to leave Canada?
The ongoing housing crunch, increasing unafforadability, challenges with healthcare, and unfair recognition of foreign credentials are the major reasons forcing immigrants to leave Canada.
Canada directly offers permanent residency to highly skilled individuals from various countries through its flagship immigration program, the Express Entry system.
These are the experienced professionals, such as doctors, engineers, techies, etc., who earn pretty well in their home country but chose Canada in the hope of a better lifestyle and higher earnings.
They move to Canada and try to settle in, but find it difficult to kickstart their career in the same field as their previous jobs.
This is mostly because Canadian provinces would have a difficult credential recognition process for these professionals. As a result, they end up working in ‘odd’ jobs.
Even after dealing with all these barriers, if they get their credentials recognized, it is now hard for these professionals to survive due to the rise in inflation.
Some immigrants would say they are earning more in Canada as compared to their country of citizenship, but saving significantly less after spending and paying taxes.
New immigrants with experience in unregulated professions find it difficult to land their first job since most employers would prefer Canadian experience over foreign experience.
What could be done to increase retention?
The report proposes that multiple levels of government collaborate to monitor the onward migration rate among immigrants and invest in settlement services and other programs that ease the process of immigrating to Canada.
This includes assisting employers in hiring and retaining immigrant workers and investing in infrastructure improvements that improve communities in general.
The report reads, “Initiatives that foster a sense of belonging and attachment to Canada, together with policies that ensure immigrants and their families have opportunities for personal and career growth, could influence more immigrants to decide to stay in Canada.”
Immigration Minister Marc Miller, in an announcement on October 31, said, “Canadians are not closed to immigration, but they want the government and cities to do a better job on coordinating the arrival of immigrants in relation to housing, healthcare, and infrastructure.”
Why are immigrants leaving Canada?
The continuous housing crisis, rising unaffordability, healthcare issues, and unjust recognition of foreign credentials are the primary causes driving newcomers to leave Canada.