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Leaving Canada? International student explains why he's considering it

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Despite long being touted as a nation rife with opportunity for new arrivals, a pair of studies is sparking concern that Canada is struggling to retain immigrants and highlighting affordability concerns within the country.

In 2023, findings from the Institute for Canadian Citizenship and the Conference Board of Canada warned that immigrants are increasingly departing for better opportunities.

Then, earlier in the month, Statistics Canada research found over 15 per cent of immigrants are deciding to leave the country within 20 years after getting permanent resident status.

"This period may reflect the length of time that immigrants try to integrate into Canada by attempting to find a job and a place to live and adapting to life in Canada," StatCan said in a statement.

It's a feeling that Justinas Stankus, an international student from Lithuania and PhD candidate at the University of Toronto, knows well.

"I feel it's very easy to make Canada your home," he told CTV Your Morning on Wednesday. "But not necessarily… in terms of housing."

In November, dozens of immigrants who spoke with CTVNews.ca said the high cost of living and competition for jobs and affordable housing have driven them to look beyond Canada's borders – and it's a sentiment reiterated by Stankus.

"Opportunities don't come up as often," he said. "So, it just doesn't make much sense” to shell out for Toronto’s high cost of living.

The international student told CTV's Anne-Marie Mediwake after he's finished his studies, he may move abroad while looking an opportunity to break into Canada's job market. He'll also look at the United States.

Housing a key struggle

Canada is dealing with a crushing housing stock shortage and new data shows that, even as inflation in the country decelerates, rental prices are skyrocketing.

"It's immediately clear that the prices are very high," Stankus says. "There's just not too much that is affordable."

Along with the high prices, the increasingly tight market makes finding shelter, even a rental, an increasingly time-consuming task. Stankus says "you need to spend a lot of time just walking around" to even find something available.

"It's above a grad student’s budget," he said.

'Bigger issue' raised by studies

Francis Fong, managing director at TD Economics in Toronto, says the StatCan data reveals communities that need immigrants the most are not able to retain them.

"Many places across the country that have dire need for new immigrants, such as Atlantic Canada, have seen both lower retention rates of immigrants and a loss of population from interprovincial migration, namely young people moving to other provinces for economic opportunities," he told CTVNews.ca.

Despite these challenges, Fong thinks Canada remains an attractive destination for immigrants and says the decision to leave is "complex."

Stankus agreed, saying that once he "goes beyond" real estate prices and shelter costs, Canada has "exceeded" his expectations.

"It's very welcoming, the infrastructure is great and the health-care system, obviously, is great."

With files from CTV News' Christl Dabu and Meghan DeLaire.

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