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Many immigrants leaving Canada within years of arriving: StatCan


More than 15 per cent of immigrants decide to leave Canada either to return to their homeland or immigrate to another country within 20 years after admission as permanent residents, according to a new study.

Statistics Canada examined the emigration of immigrants from 1982 to 2017 in the study released Friday.

The study also found that 5.1 per cent of immigrants admitted between 1982 and 2017 emigrated within five years of their admission.

"While some immigrants may have planned to leave Canada at some point, emigration may also attest to the difficulties many immigrants encounter in integrating into the Canadian labour market or society," according to the study.

The study found that recent immigrants are more likely to emigrate than immigrants from older cohorts.

Emigration is slightly more common between three and seven years, StatCan said.

"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 posted to its website. "Some immigrants may also emigrate if they encounter challenges in integrating or because they intended to from the outset."

The study found that emigration is strongly correlated with certain characteristics, such as having children, admission category and country of birth.

The immigrants likely to emigrate

For instance, immigrants born in Taiwan, the United States, France, Hong Kong or Lebanon, and those admitted in the investor and entrepreneur categories, are more likely to emigrate.

More than 25 per cent of immigrants born in these countries emigrated within 20 years of admission to Canada. "These countries can continue to be attractive to their nationals because of a higher standard of living or because settling in Canada was part of a larger migration strategy," StatCan wrote.

Immigrants with higher levels of education are more likely to emigrate than less educated immigrants.

Those admitted in the investor and entrepreneur categories are more likely to emigrate, while those admitted in the caregiver and refugee categories are less likely to emigrate, the study added.

More than 40 per cent of immigrants admitted in the investor category and 30 per cent of those admitted in the entrepreneur category emigrated within 20 years of admission. "These categories include wealthy immigrants who tend to be highly mobile and who may — even when they are admitted — intend to leave Canada in the future," StatCan explained.

Conversely, immigrants born in the Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka or Jamaica are less likely to leave Canada. Twenty years after being admitted to Canada, less than 10 per cent of immigrants born in those countries had left the country, the study found.

Those who never had children were substantially more likely to emigrate than those who had children, according to the report.

Moreover, older immigrants have the highest probability of emigrating. Five years after becoming permanent residents, 10.7 per cent of immigrants admitted at age 65 or older had emigrated.

Twenty years after admission, it rises to more than 25 per cent. Just over 15 per cent of immigrants aged 18 and 24 emigrated within 20 years of admission.

The study found that emigrants have different characteristics from those who chose to remain in Canada.

"For example, because immigrants generally have a higher level of education than the Canadian-born population, the departure of this highly skilled labour can have a certain negative impact on the country's economic growth," the report noted.

'Fairly high retention rates'

Don Drummond, adjunct professor at the School of Policy Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., said Canada has "fairly high retention rates" and considers the findings as showing that Canada has a "success story."

"Looked at from the opposite perspective, 95 per cent stay within the first few years and 83 per cent stay through 20 years," he said in an email to

The number of immigrants Canada welcomes is one of the highest relative to population in the world, Drummond notes.

At the same time, he said the findings show Canada has inadequate economic integration strategies.

"Slowness and in the extreme, failure to recognize foreign credentials is high on the list," he wrote. "But here too, progress is being made, as evidenced in the acceleration of recognition of foreign nursing credentials. Too bad it took so long to make the improvements."

Moreover, he said Canada's housing shortage needs to be addressed. "This is especially the case with the immigrants, the majority, who go to the larger metropolitan areas," he wrote. "Houses and even rent, are very expensive in Canada. With the exception of a few places like California and New York, housing is even expensive relative to the United States. The large numbers of immigrants exacerbate the problem by adding to housing demand."

Study raises 'bigger issue'

Francis Fong, managing director at TD Economics in Toronto, says the StatCan findings don't highlight a problem of Canada not being able to retain immigrants.

"The reality is that immigration and emigration decisions are complex, and a function not just of economic satisfaction, but future decisions about family (and) where one wants to retain connections, which Statistics Canada notes in the report," Fong said in an email to

"This tracks with the data from the report showing the emigration rate over time doesn’t really move – the share of immigrants emigrating after five, 10, 20 years after arrival has remained relatively constant since the mid-1980s and doesn't shift very much with the economic cycle."

However, the StatCan study reveals a problem with communities that need immigrants the most not being able to retain them, according to Fong.

"Many places across the country that have more 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 explained.

Some immigrants sold 'fake dreams'

Sweta Regmi, CEO and founder of career development company Teachndo in Sudbury, Ont., helps immigrants with career strategies. She says she feels some of the emigrants who left Canada may have had unrealistic expectations about coming to Canada. They also had the privilege and option to return to their homeland, she added.

"I think people who are leaving, they had a very high expectation, they were sold a lie -- fake dreams and everything," she said in a phone interview with, noting a problem with some unlicensed recruiters and shady immigration consultants.

But she added the onus is on would-be immigrants to do their research before deciding to move to Canada.

Immigrants may also have a good reason to leave, such as finding a more lucrative career elsewhere, she points out. "Sometimes it's a good thing to leave because it's all about what do they want," she said. 

The study used data from the Longitudinal Immigration Database to analyze the socioeconomic situation of immigrants after their admission to Canada, including employment income and mobility.

The database includes information for all immigrants since 1952 and non-permanent residents since 1980. It also uses tax files since 1982.

StatCan measured immigrant emigration using indirect criteria because it said no national database exists that measures the number of people who leave Canada. The study identifies emigrants through information in T1 tax returns and in the Permanent Resident Landing File from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. "The results of this study were compared with results from other sources and have a high degree of coherence," according to StatCan.

Canada's immigration levels have been rising in recent years while emigration numbers have also been growing since the start of the millennium. The country welcomed a record high of more than 400,000 immigrants in 2022. Top Stories

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