Increasing Numbers of Immigrants Are Leaving Canada for Other Countries, Study Reveals

Increasing Numbers of Immigrants Are Leaving Canada for Other Countries, Study Reveals
Canada immigration free assessment

Onward immigration (immigrants leaving Canada) has been persistent for several decades, with a “severe spike” in the number of outbound newcomers in recent years., a recent study on immigrant retention trends reveals.

The research conducted by The Conference Board of Canada is rooted in the increasingly tense discussion around whether Canada has sufficient capacity – particularly in housing and healthcare – to accommodate the growing number of immigrants coming to the country every year.

However, contrary to popular belief, immigration is not a one-way door. There is a lack of information around immigrant retention rates in Canada, and The Conference Board of Canada’s research was commissioned to rectify that gap in knowledge.

The findings from the report suggest that while onward migration has been on a steady uptick since the late 1980s, the surge in 2017 and 2019 reached the historically unprecedented level of 31 percent.

If the willingness to leave among newcomers remains as consistently high as it has in the recent past, reads the paper, “it could undermine Canada’s strategy to use immigration to drive population and economic growth.”

Read More Canada Immigration News

Marc Miller Says Canada’s Immigration System Dealing With Changing Realities
Canada’s Economy Could Be Hurt By Downturn In Temporary Residents
Saskatchewan PNP Draw: Province Issues 99 Canada Immigration Invitations

Moreover, because onward migration peaks four to seven years after an immigrant’s arrival, immigrant retention can be maximized by ensuring that newcomers are provided with a positive early experience in the country.

“Canada’s Future Prosperity Depends on Immigration,” Reads the Report

The paper outsets by highlighting the various benefits immigration offers to the Canadian economy, labor market, socio-cultural makeup, and worker-to-retiree ratio.

Offering major contributions to Canada’s multiculturalism, immigration has been consistently supported by major political parties and most members of the public until of late.

Moreover, there is a positive correlation between length of time spent in Canada and benefits provided to Canada; the paper writes that “admitting newcomers is only the beginning of an immigration-oriented growth strategy.”

“The benefits of immigration are realized over the time that immigrants spend in Canada—the longer they stay, the more they benefit and contribute. Immigrants who thrive are more likely to stay.”

Therefore, it suggests that retention should be a key performance indicator for the Canadian immigration strategy, owing to the central role immigration is supposed to play in supporting population and economic growth.

Some Immigrants Are Dissatisfied with Career Prospects

Despite immigrants’ positive effects on Canada, they themselves often face challenges such as unaffordable housing, a lack of critical services, and strained infrastructure capacity in the country. All of these are problems shared by their Canadian-born counterparts.

Yet immigrants also face extra issues on virtue of their “newcomer” status. For example – despite being professional experts in their field – they often face major career setbacks because of a lack of Canadian work experience and qualifications.

These patterns are leading to dissatisfaction with Canada among immigrants. A 2022 survey showed that that younger newcomers’ life experience in the country is mixed, with 30 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds feeling that they are likely to move to another country in the following two years.

Explaining Onward Migration

The aforementioned reasons may explain the results of a study released by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, as per which the proportion of permanent residents who acquire Canadian citizenship within 10 years of arrival dropped by 40 percent between 2001 and 2021.

Studies by Canada and the European Union on onward migration suggest these factors shape it:

  • reception in Canada, like economic integration, sense of belonging, racism
  • commitment variables, like homeownership
  • individual and family preferences
  • source-country characteristics
  • immigration and economic opportunities in other countries

Watch video: 

The Conference Board of Canada report asserts that while many of these are beyond Canadian policy-makers’ control, they can still influence immigrants’ experiences in Canada.

Collaboration across levels of government and community sectors can help address immigrants’ needs, making Canada an appealing long-term home for them.

0.9 percent of people who were granted PR in or after 1982 leave Canada every year, which can lead to attrition of 20 percent or greater of an arrival cohort over 25 years.

Long-Term Retention is Declining

While short-term immigrant retention is observable, long-term retention is even more apparent. The average onward migration rate was 18 percent for cohorts who arrived in 1980s.

For cohorts granted PR in the first half of the 1990s, long-term onward migration touched 21 percent – a 16.6 percent increase in comparison to earlier cohorts.

The highest cumulative onward migration rate was for the cohort that gained PR in 1994.

There Was a Spike in Onward Migration in 2017 and 2019

The onward migration rate boosted 43 percent between 2016 and 2017, from 0.8 percent in 2016 to 1.15 percent in 2017.

It eased in 2018, but remained high in comparison to recent trends. Next year – in 2019 – it spiked again to 1.18 percent, which is a 31 percent higher rate than the historical average of 0.9 percent.

“Immigration levels are an important way to measure the performance of Canada’s immigration system. But ambitious immigration levels alone cannot meet Canada’s policy goals,” reads the report.

“Retention is ultimately what drives population and economic growth.”


  • Continue to monitor the onward migration rate among immigrants
  • Invest in settlement services and other programs that make immigration to Canada rewarding and enjoyable, with a focus on the first 10 years after arrival
  • Support employers to recruit, hire, and retain immigrant workers
  • Invest in infrastructure

Marc Miller Announcing His 2024-2026 Immigration Levels Plan

The report came in the midst of Ottawa preparing to unveil its 2024-2026 immigration levels plan.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) Minister Marc Miller announced his plan to transform Canada’s immigration system, titled “An Immigration System for Canada’s Future.”

He announced key details of his strategy on Tuesday, which includes the incorporation of housing, healthcare and infrastructure planning, along with other important services, into the immigration levels plan.

It is important for IRCC to keep The Conference Board of Canada report in mind when proceeding with achieving the target numbers for Canada’s immigration future.

Canada immigration free assessment
Previous articleAnnual Report to Parliament on Immigration 2023 Released By IRCC
Next articleUnemployment Rises As Canada Jobs Increase In Construction And Tech
Colin Singer
Colin Singer is an international acclaimed Canadian immigration lawyer and founder of featured on Wikipedia. Colin Singer is also founding director of the Canadian Citizenship & Immigration Resource Center (CCIRC) Inc. He served as an Associate Editor of ‘Immigration Law Reporter’, the pre-eminent immigration law publication in Canada. He previously served as an executive member of the Canadian Bar Association’s Quebec and National Immigration Law Sections and is currently a member of the Canadian Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Colin has twice appeared as an expert witness before Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. He is frequently recognized as a recommended authority at national conferences sponsored by government and non-government organizations on matters affecting Canada’s immigration and human resource industries. Since 2009, Colin has been a Governor of the Quebec Bar Foundation a non-profit organization committed to the advancement of the profession, and became a lifetime member in 2018.