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Thursday, September 4, 2003

Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada


Newcomers to Canada are developing a strong attachment to the country, and 98% of them said it was the only destination they applied to when they chose to leave their homeland, according to the first data from the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada (LSIC).

Many people emigrated for economic reasons; some came to Canada to reunite with their family; others chose to leave their homeland for political or other personal reasons. However, most immigrants had the same plan in mind: they would make Canada their new home. The vast majority (91%) of these new arrivals expressed their intention to settle here permanently and become Canadian citizens.

Note to readers

The Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada (LSIC), conducted by Statistics Canada and Citizenship and Immigration Canada under the Policy Research Initiative, is a comprehensive survey designed to study the process by which new immigrants adapt to Canadian society. This release is based on a new report, Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada: Process, progress and prospects.

About 12,000 of the roughly 164,200 immigrants aged 15 and older who arrived from abroad in Canada between October 2000 and September 2001 were interviewed in the first wave of this longitudinal study. The first wave of interviews was conducted between April 2001 and June 2002, about six months after their arrival. This same group of individuals is currently being interviewed once again, (two years after their arrival), and will be interviewed for a third time about four years after their arrival.

Information collected in this first wave of interviews will serve as a benchmark for tracking the subsequent settlement experiences of these newcomers. By late 2005, when all three waves of interviews have been completed, the survey will provide a better understanding of how the settlement process unfolds for new arrivals.

A more detailed publication of the results from the first wave of the LSIC is planned for release in early 2004. The publication will cover the following themes: profiling the LSIC sample, motivations for immigrating to Canada, early outcomes related to the economic and social well-being of newcomers, as well as an examination of the barriers newcomers face.

In general, immigrants enter Canada under three main classes: the economic class, the family class and the refugee class. Economic-class immigrants made up 67% of those included in the LSIC, the largest proportion. Within the economic class, principal applicants made up 56% and their spouses and dependents made up the remaining 44%. Family-class immigrants represented about 27%; only 6% were admitted under the refugee class. The LSIC population excludes those under age 15 and people who landed from within Canada (particularly those granted asylum).

Economic-class principal applicants are assessed on the basis of their suitability for the Canadian labour force. The selection criteria are based on a system that assigns points for the applicant's adaptability, age, education, work experience, intended occupation and knowledge of Canadian languages. Additional points may be given if the principal applicant has pre-arranged employment in Canada. The principal applicant may be accompanied to Canada by a spouse and dependents.

Between October 2000 and September 2001, an estimated 164,200 immigrants aged 15 years and older arrived in Canada as permanent residents. About 12,000 individuals were interviewed roughly six months after their arrival for the first wave of the LSIC.

The survey was designed to study how newly arrived immigrants adjust over time to living in Canada. According to the data, newcomers are making progress in building their new lives in Canada. Seven in 10 immigrants reported that they were satisfied with their new lives in Canada.

Most immigrants (85%) had made new friends since coming to Canada, especially with people from the same cultural background as themselves. In fact, 63% reported that all or most of their new friends were from the same ethnic group. As well, 47% of the immigrants reported that they wanted to bring their relatives to Canada by sponsoring their immigration.

Starting a new life in Canada was not without obstacles, however. Finding employment was the area where most immigrants reported some difficulties: 70% of newcomers who tried to enter the labour force identified at least one problem with the process, such as transferability of foreign qualifications, lack of contacts, and language barriers.

In comparison, 38% of immigrants who tried to find suitable housing and 40% of those who tried to pursue further education or training encountered at least one problem. For example, high costs and lack of guarantors or cosigners were the most common problems cited by newcomers trying to find suitable housing. Language barriers and financing were hurdles faced by immigrants seeking further education and training. Accessing health care services was the area where the fewest immigrants (only 23%) reported problems. However, those problems that were reported included long waiting lists, high costs of dental care or prescription medication and language barriers.

Kin, friendship network key to initial settlement

A large proportion of immigrants (87%) already had some form of social support system in Canada. Over half (54%) of newcomers already had relatives and friends living in the country; another third (33%) had only friends. Most newcomers (78%) settled in areas where their network of friends and relatives lived. As well, they often turned to their family and friends when they encountered difficulties in settlement and needed help.

Between October 2000 and September 2001, Canada's three largest census metropolitan areas (CMAs) -Toronto, Vancouver and Montréal-attracted three-quarters of the new immigrants. This settlement pattern is consistent with long-term trends from the census and other survey data.

Data from the LSIC clearly show that the network of family and friends had at least as much impact as economic factors on an immigrant's choice of destination, although other major reasons (for example, climate, language or existence of ethnic community) varied from city to city.

Immigrants in the economic class might have been expected to cite economic factors as their chief reason for settlement choice, but this was not the case. In all three CMAs, 44% of those newcomers who entered as principal applicants in the economic class said they chose their destination because family and friends were already living there. Only 19% said they were influenced by job prospects. Other reasons cited included lifestyle (7%), education prospects (6%) and housing prices in the areas (6%).

Half of the principal applicants in the economic class who settled in Toronto said they did so to join family and friends; less than one-quarter (23%) chose Toronto because of job prospects. Lifestyle, housing and the existence of their own cultural community were also strong reasons for choosing Toronto.

In Vancouver, 41% of the principal applicants in the economic class cited joining family and friends as the most important reason for settling there. Climate, the second most important factor for choosing the area, was cited by one-fifth of these principal applicants. Only a small proportion chose Vancouver because of its job prospects.

In Montréal, as well, joining family and friends was the most popular reason for choosing that destination, with 31% of principal applicants in the economic class citing it. Language was the next most important factor (19%), followed by employment (16%) and education prospects (10%).

About one-fifth (21%) of newcomers settled in CMAs other than Toronto, Vancouver and Montréal. Another 4% chose to live outside a metropolitan area.

The strongest reasons for choosing areas other than the three largest CMAs were joining family and friends (36%) and benefiting from employment opportunities (32%). In fact, these areas had a higher proportion than Toronto, Vancouver or Montréal of economic-class principal applicants who cited job prospects as the most important factor for settlement choice. Education prospects (12%), lifestyle (6%) and business prospects (6%) were the other top reasons for the principal applicants in the economic class to settle in areas other than the three largest CMAs.

The five most important reasons principal applicants in the economic class chose to settle in Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal


Family or friends 49.7
Job prospects 23.4
Lifestyle 4.9
Housing 4.9
Many people from the same ethnic group living there 4.6
Family or friends 41.3
Climate 20.0
Lifestyle 11.7
Education prospects 7.0
Job prospects 6.1E
Family or friends 31.3
Language 18.5
Job prospects 15.8
Education prospects 10.1
Lifestyle 8.3
All other CMAs and non-CMAs  
Family or friends 35.6
Job prospects 32.3
Education prospects 12.1
Lifestyle 5.6
Business prospects 5.5
EUse with caution.

Almost half of newcomers found work six months after arrival

Within a relatively short period of time, 44% (or 72,100) of newcomers had found employment. Of the newcomers who had found jobs, eight in 10 worked full-time and the rest had part-time jobs.

At the time of the interview, about 37% (or 42,200) newcomers who were looking for work had not found jobs yet.

In total, 114,400 new immigrants were in the labour force, representing a 70% participation rate of all newcomers. The rate was even higher among new arrivals aged 25 to 44 years (78%), but slightly lower than the equivalent age group of the total Canadian population recorded in the Labour Force Survey (86%).

Immigrants in the 25 to 44 age group had the highest employment rate. Half the persons in this age group were employed six months after landing, compared with 36% of those aged 15 to 24 years, and 35% of those aged 45 to 64 years.

Similarly, newcomers who were admitted as the principal applicants in the economic class had a higher employment rate (59%) than immigrants admitted in the family class (39%) or those who entered Canada as a spouse or dependent in the economic class (34%).

Official language skills also had an impact on the employment of newcomers. Over one-half (52%) of immigrants aged 25 to 44 years who could converse in English or French were employed at the time of the survey. In comparison, only one-third (33%) of those who had no knowledge of either language were able to find employment.

Six in 10 worked in different occupational fields after immigration

Of the newcomers who were employed at the time of the survey, six in 10 did not work in the same occupational field as they did before coming to Canada.

Men and women who were working some six months after coming to Canada were most often employed in sales and service and in processing and manufacturing occupations. This represented a major distribution shift from the occupational fields worked in before entering Canada. Prior to coming to Canada, the two most common occupational groups for men were natural and applied sciences and management; for women, they were business, finance and administration, as well as social science, education, government services and religious occupations.

For many immigrants, employment during the initial months after moving to Canada may have been transitory. Some immigrants were still in the process of pursuing the type of occupations for which they were trained.

Among newcomers who were employed at the time of the survey, 42% were looking for another job. Those who were employed in a different occupational group from before immigrating were more likely to be looking for another job (52%) than those who worked in the same field before immigration (30%).

Major occupation groups of immigrants before and after arriving in Canada


  Men Women
  Before arriving After arriving Before arriving After arriving
Immigrants with occupations before and after arriving in Canada 39,700 43,800 22,300 28,300
Management occupations 12.7 4.4 8.0 2.6
Occupations in business, finance and administration 8.1 9.8 25.3 17.9
Natural and applied sciences and related occupations 38.6 18.8 16.8 6.8
Health occupations 3.5 1.8 10.0 4.2
Occupations in social science, education, government service and religion 7.3 4.8 17.6 6.2
Occupations in art, culture, recreation and sport 1.8 1.0E 3.8 1.8E
Sales and service occupations 10.2 24.9 12.1 37.3
Trades, transport and equipment operators and related occupations 9.9 10.4 0.7E 2.7
Occupations unique to primary industry 3.6 1.8 1.3E 2.6
Occupations unique to processing, manufacturing and utilities 4.1 22.3 4.4 17.9
EUse with caution.

Lack of Canadian experience, transferability of foreign credentials critical hurdles

One key to successful entry into the labour force is to have foreign professional credentials or educational qualifications, such as diplomas or degrees, recognized in the new country. Previous studies have found that professionally trained immigrants coming to Canada in the 1990s encountered difficulties in getting their foreign credentials assessed. This was especially true among immigrants who were trained in an education system different from that of Canada.

According to the survey, 76% (or 124,700) of new arrivals had at least one type of foreign credential. (Credentials refer to any formal education higher than a high school diploma which include professional or technical qualifications and any other degrees, diplomas or certificates received outside Canada.)

For these immigrants, the most critical hurdles faced when trying to find employment were lack of experience in the Canadian work force and difficulty in transferring their qualifications. Each of these obstacles was cited by 26% of newcomers who had foreign credentials and reported at least one problem when trying to enter the labour market.

Another 22% identified language barriers, and 9% cited the lack of a job as the most critical problems in entering the job market.

By some six months after arrival, 26% of immigrants with professional credentials had at least one of their qualifications verified by an employer, educational institution or the governing body of their profession in Canada. Another 13% of immigrants had credentials checked by sources outside Canada or by immigration officers, while 61% had not even started the process of having any of their credentials validated.

Of newcomers who had at least one of their credentials validated by an employer, educational institution or professional organization within Canada, five in 10 reported having at least one accreditation agency fully accept their credentials. Of the remaining amount, 22% had an agency partially accept their qualifications, while about 15% were still waiting for the results of the assessment and 13% had at least one of their credentials rejected by an accreditation body.

Language barriers are a major concern for settlement

Upon arrival in Canada, 18% of newcomers stated that they were unable to converse in either of Canada's official languages. This was because of the high proportion of immigrants arriving from non-English and non-French-speaking countries. Immigrants who could not speak either official language on arrival tended to be in older age groups and were usually admitted under the family class and refugee category. As well, immigrant women were less likely than men to have knowledge of one of Canada's official languages.

Overall, 22% of the immigrants who identified at least one problem during the process of finding a job stated that a lack of skills in either official language was their greatest hurdle in seeking employment. Those who could not converse in English or French were more likely than those who had knowledge of at least one official language to cite language barriers as a major concern (69% versus 16%).

Language was also one of the frequently cited barriers that newcomers faced in the other areas of settlement. Fully 15% of immigrants who identified problems in accessing health care cited language barriers as an issue. As well, 27% of those who experienced problems in the pursuit of further training cited this barrier as the most serious hurdle.

Most newcomers wanted to get further training

Many newcomers indicated that further training was important to their future success in Canada. The plan of many new immigrants (67%) was to obtain training once they had arrived in their new country. University-level training, which 40% of newcomers planned to pursue, was the most common type.

Even immigrants who had already acquired a university degree prior to immigration were among those planning to further their postsecondary training at a Canadian university. In fact, two-thirds of the newcomers with a university education indicated an intention to pursue further university-level training after their arrival in Canada.

Some six months after landing, 45% of newcomers had already pursued some kind of training. Since language was a major concern for many newcomers, language courses were the most popular type of training taken during the initial months after their arrival in Canada.

Of the immigrants who had started some type of training, 58% had taken at least one English-language course and one in 10 took some form of French language training. Most newcomers who took English-language training during the initial months after their arrival resided outside Quebec (93%), and the majority of those enrolled in French-language training lived in Quebec (95%).

In addition, 28% of immigrants had taken one or more courses leading to a degree or certificate and 12% had taken job-related courses, workshops or seminars.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 4422.

The publication Highlights of the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada, 2000-2001 (89-611-XIE, free) is now available on Statistics Canada's website (). From the Our products and services page, under Browse our Internet publications, choose Free, then Social conditions. For more information about the analysis contained in this release, contact Statistics Canada's Media Relations Hot Line at 613-951-4636.

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Date Modified: 2003-09-09 Important Notices