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Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Study: Immigrants who leave Canada

1980 to 2000

Migration to Canada for some immigrants is not a permanent move, according to a new study, which shows that many newcomers subsequently leave Canada. Among young males, those admitted to the country under the business and skilled worker classes were most likely to leave.

The study addresses the behaviour of men who were 25 to 45 years of age at the time they arrived in Canada. The analysis shows that their future profile in Canada is strongly influenced by a variety of measurable factors, such as their country of origin and their economic qualifications

A substantial part of migration to Canada is not necessarily permanent, with about a third of male immigrants (aged 25 to 45 at the time of landing) experiencing out-migration within 20 years after arrival. More than half of those who leave do so within the first year of arrival.

In addition, the business cycle had a strong impact. For example, the groups who arrived when the economy was relatively weak during the recession of 1990/91 had higher departure rates.

Profiles of residence in Canada, as indicated by income tax return filing behaviour, varied across source countries and immigrant classes. Emigration rates were especially high for source countries such as the United States and Hong Kong, and for those admitted under the skilled worker or business classes.

Significant proportion of working age immigrants leave

Most out-migration appears longer term, but there is a temporary component, as some immigrants seem to arrive, leave, and then return again to Canada.

Among male immigrants 25 to 45 years of age who landed in 1981, about one-third are inferred from their tax filing behaviour to have left the country within the first 20 years after arrival. Similar rates are also obtained from Census-based information.


Note to readers

This paper analyzes factors that determine how long immigrants remain in Canada in their first spell in the country, and what happens thereafter.

The paper focuses on males who were aged 25 to 45 at the time of arrival in Canada.

The data set that forms the primary basis of this study is the Longitudinal Immigration Data Base, which provides information on all immigrants admitted in Canada since 1980.

Whether an immigrant has left the country or not is inferred from the tax filing behaviour. Individuals are considered to have left if their tax behaviour follows one of two patterns. In the first case, the individual never files a tax return within the first five years of arrival. In the second case, the individual files a tax return within the first five years of arrival, but goes on to become a non-filer for four or more consecutive years. These two types of absences from tax files are used to infer absence from the country.

The rate of absences from the country derived from tax filing behaviour is also verified through an analysis of Census information.


Similar rates of out-migration have also been reported for the United States.

Their absence from the Canada was not necessarily permanent, however. About one in ten leavers return to Canada within 10 years of first arriving.

Many immigrants leave within the first year of arrival

About 6 out of 10 of those who leave do so within the first year of arrival. This suggests that a large fraction of immigrants who leave choose to do so within a relatively short period of time after arrival.

Accounting for other factors, the departure rates were higher for those landing during business cycle downturns.

The highest out-migration rates occurred among the group that arrived in 1980 at the onset of a business cycle downturn, and those who arrived around the 1990 recession. The groups with the lowest out-migration rates were those who arrived in 1986 and 1993, periods of much more favourable labour market conditions.

Immigrants who arrived in 1990, for example, were about 50% more likely to leave than those who arrived in 1986.

Out-migration rates vary with country of origin, class of immigrant

The study found evidence that younger working age male immigrants admitted from different regions and under different classes had very different profiles of residence in Canada.

Canada's immigration system admits individuals on the basis of family ties, a refugee process, or through a points system that applies to a variety of immigrant classes, each with their own criteria for admission (business class, skilled worker class, and assisted relative class). The out-migration rate varies across these classes.

Controlling for possible differences in age, language, education, marital status, and year of arrival, the study found higher emigration rates among immigrants who were admitted in the business and skilled worker classes. About 4 in 10 of the newcomers who arrived in either of these classes left within 10 years after arrival.

Those in the assisted relative class had a lower departure rate (around 3 in 10).

Refugee claimants had the lowest out-migration rates (about 2 in 10).

Previous studies of newcomers in the United States showed strong differences by source country. This is also apparent for Canada, even after taking other important variables into consideration. Newcomers from the United States and those from Hong Kong had the highest likelihood of leaving Canada, with about half of them leaving within 10 years after arrival, as indicated by their tax filing behaviour. Newcomers from Europe or the Caribbean, in contrast, were about half as likely to leave.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 5057.

The research paper Return and Onward Migration Among Working Age Men (11F0019MIE2006273, free) is now available online. From our home page select Studies, then under Browse periodical and series choose Free and for sale. Under Series select Analytical Studies Branch.

Related studies from the Family and Labour Studies Division can be found online under Update on family and labour studies (89-001-XIE, free).

For further information or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Abdurrahman Aydemir (613) 951-3821, Family and Labour Studies Division.



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