The Canadian Immigration Taboo: Those Who Go Back Home

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Gatineau, February 2012

Each year, about 250,000 immigrants from all around the world are granted permanent residence in Canada. For most of these newcomers, it’s the beginning of a new life after a several month-long or even several year-long wait.

And each year, an undisclosed number of permanent residents decide to go back home. Each immigrant has its own reason for kissing the “Canadian dream” goodbye, and these reasons are sometimes hard to express. Some immigrants are ashamed of going home, some are bullied into thinking that they didn’t try hard enough, and other are so resentful that nothing constructive comes out of their comments.

All immigrants go through a phase in which they hate Canada. Sometimes it happens during the lengthy immigration process: it’s hard to keep faith when you have to deal with so many administrative requirements, and when your life is pretty much put on hold waiting for someone to take a decision about your future. When I was into the process, I clearly remembered thinking that if my application was sent back to me again, I was heading back to France because I was sick and tired of that nonsense.

The rejection stage can also occur after the “honeymoon period”, when reality kicks in. Yes, Canada is fucking cold (or fucking humid, depending on the season). Yes, some Canadians don’t like immigrants. Yes, some employers are narrow-minded. Yes, the food may have been better back home. But most people eventually overcome this phase and settle down into a routine in their new country, as they become more familiar with it.

But for some immigrants, life Canada doesn’t turn out as good as expected. Life happens.

As a French, I was lucky to be able to spend almost two years in Canada before deciding to apply for permanent residence. During these two years, I “tested out” the country, started working, made friends, etc. But a lot of people from the so-called “developing countries” aren’t that lucky and can’t even get a tourist visa to visit the country they plan to immigrate to.

This can lead to a lot of issues because no matter how much you read about Canada and how prepared you are, you won’t know if the country is right for you until you actually experience it yourself.

So what can you do if you don’t see any other solution but going back home?

  • Take a deep breath and talk to other immigrants. Most will have experienced what you are going through. Try to see whether you are simply going through a “rejection phase” or whether the issues are deeper.
  • Consider moving to another province, or another city. Provinces each have their own culture and “vibe”, and as a permanent resident, you can live anywhere in Canada. Even if you apply for permanent residence through the Quebec program, you do not have to stay in Quebec if it doesn’t work out for you.
  • Remember that you can lose your permanent residence if you do not meet the residency requirements, i.e. being physically present in Canada for at least two years in every five-year period. You may not think much of it if you are sure you don’t want to live in Canada anymore, but I do know immigrants who regretted losing their permanent residence status. And if you do lose it, you have to start the immigration process from scratch.
  • Consider how long you have to wait until being eligible for citizenship. Of course, becoming a Canadian citizen may not be your goal if you do not want to live in Canada anymore. But it’s still a major milestone and can offer you new opportunities. If you are a few months’ short of meeting the requirements, keep that in mind before heading home.
  • Talk about your experience. It may be hard to be objective at first but sharing the “lessons learned” will help other immigrants deciding whether Canada is right for them.

Have you ever considered going back home? Did you go through a “rejection phase” in your new country?

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

87 Comments

  1. Hi.
    I guess 50% of new immigrants to Canada like living here and the rest don’t. I belong to the latter group. I went to Canada for a better future, to earn money to support my family, and to live a safe and happy life. Unfortunately, my Canadian dream got over in just 2 months.
    I left my family and went to Canada alone. I loved it for the first few days. It’s a very beautiful and safe place to live. People follow rules and respect each other’s privacy. The weather is good (In Vancouver). However, once I started to get used to it, everything seemed normal (no more excited to see cleanliness, friendliness, etc).
    The real challenge which I faced was getting a good (or at least an ‘ok’) job. The jobs available here are mostly for people who are not well educated. My profession is regulated in Canada, so I decided to change my sector. I was successful to get an entry level job in my target sector. But soon I realized that this job will take me nowhere because of the minimum wage paid along with part time work. People of all ages were working at the same position for years. In few days, I decided to come back to my family and live with them again.
    I felt cheated, lonely, homesick, and depressed while staying in Canada. It’s hard to make friends there. People don’t care about others. Taxes are high. Employers pay pathetic wages. Transportation is expensive and so is grocery. I regret going there and losing my job, money, and time for this deceiving dream. I wish nobody faces the same problems again.

    • Are you still in Canada or did you go home? Did you know that your profession was regulated before you moved?

      It’s always sad to hear that expectations aren’t meet and indeed, it is hard to start a new life abroad, far from family, in a different culture. Would you be open to living somewhere else in Canada? How do you see your future?

    • Hello Regret and Zhu, I read this blog post and these comments with interest. I am a producer at CBC Radio for a show called Out in the Open, and I’m looking to speak to a Canadian immigrant who decided to go back to their home country. Regret (the person who told their story above), I would love to speak to you if you’re interested. My email is isabelle.gallant@cbc.ca Thank you so much!

  2. I came back to my home country 2 months ago. Yes, I knew that my profession was regulated but I was prepared to change the sector. However, the wages were so low and cost of living so high that it was hard to survive. The employers are very clever. They rarely hire full time workers to save benefits and higher wages.
    I thought of moving to my friend in Calgary(from Vancouver), the province is in recession and my friend is jobless.
    My future: Don’t know. I’m struggling to get a job now in my homeland. Lost half of my savings already.
    What a nightmare Canada was. Ruined my life.

    • This sucks. It’s really the kind of difficult stories many prospective immigrants should know about to weight pros and cons. I hope you find your way back on track!

  3. I was in Montreal on a Study Permit- dealing with immigration was an absolute nightmare; i went through a very deep depression due to bureaucratic disorganization (papers being sent late or with mistakes). Because of this depression i would be 3 months late to graduate: i applied for an extension with documents from a doctor proving my depression then guess what? They revoked my permit. I had to break up with my boyfriend, sell all my things and leave after spending over $100,000 and being so close to getting my degree. It almost ruined my life. My experience immigrating to Canada was awful, painful, tedious, and a complete waste of time and money. When i think about it, my heart falls into my stomach. I think everyone thinking of going is better off staying where they are.

    • Hello Nada, I read this blog post and these comments with interest. I am a producer at CBC Radio in Toronto for a national show called Out in the Open, and I’m looking to speak to a Canadian immigrant who decided to go back to their home country. Nada, I would love to speak to you if you’re interested. My email is isabelle.gallant@cbc.ca Thank you so much!

  4. I had an awful start when i came to Canada in April 2013, initially in Calgary and then in Edmonton. Even coming with two Master’s Degree in Computer Science with Management, I started working in Edmonton as a Business Analyst, 2.5 months after landing in the country. Eventually I was laid off in March 2016. Since then I came to Toronto to pursue my Master’s (now completed) and till date, I have got a lot of interview opportunities, but no job in sight. However I had considered going back to Canada in May, but want to wait to apply for my citizenship. But the lessons I have learnt so far.

    1. The situation has been worse since April 2016, and since I was not getting a job anywhere despite having Canadian experience, I had to improve on my profile (with another Master’s)

    2. Taking Education in Canada is important. The Employers value your worth based on investment you make

    3. it is important to be aware of market trends, employment services in Canada, before you come.

    4. it takes time and money to invest and reap the fruits from Volunteering and networking / coffee chats. They didn’t work for me, but for most of Canadian – it works.

    • I’m really sorry you had a hard time and that you were laid off. That’s an awful experience, and unfortunately, a common one in North America. I’ve seen many people being laid off and it has nothing to do with their value or skills.

      I completely agree, it takes a lot of time to enjoy the benefit of having a network and volunteer experience. These are all excellent points.

      You sound like a smart person, very practical and logical. I’d be surprised if you don’t get your chance soon. What would be your dream position?

  5. Well there is a 10 years mark where you have to make a balance and cut your loses short. As nothing will work for you unless you brown nose somebody and even if you did it there won’t be an end to it.

    Got Canadian experience, did volunteering and did my citizen diligence and none of that mattered. Always was overlooked for promotions, got a closet for an office only to give recent graduates offices with Windows and so on.

    Got to pay up my house as never had vacations or owned a car but neighbors filed false complains against me to the point I got swatted because they thought I was growing pot in my house or something for that matter.

    Changed my line of work and got overlooked by working permit holders only because they had more experience. Ironic as my foreing experience was always ignored and ended up in a Jr position.

    The only way I am Canadian is to pay taxes to cover for those who are able to exploit the wellfare system. On my part I never get a cent from the welfare system, even when I was unemployed for 3 years.

    So I’m putting everything in order to go back to my country. I’m basically going back with the same stuff I came in sans my dignity.

    • I’m sorry you went through so much trouble during this decade in Canada. And you still have your dignity! Maybe it will take time to realize it, but I’m sure you learned something or gained something in Canada.

      Where are you heading to?

  6. I am also beginning to regret my move to Canada. Well, I think I am regretting it. I have been here for 12 years with my family. My husband moved back home a few years ago and I decided to stick it out because my children are still here. I came here with a Degree in Communications, albeit from an American University, and over 15 years of banking experience and still only managed to get minimum wage jobs. I have lived in London Ontario and now live in Halifax, and you know what, all the same! Applied to so many places I can’t even count and still the only places that called for an interview were minimum wage jobs. Thinking seriously about heading home! As for the people…some are nice…majority not so much!

    • Would you have better chances at home? It seems to me that many, many jobs in North America (and in Europe) pay minimum wage these days. Obviously, I hate this as well.. I’m just wondering if there’s a country somewhere where work conditions are generally better. As a former French, I know that worker rights are better protected in France (and benefits are better too, like paid time off) but then getting hired is very difficult and unemployment rate is high. Where are you from, originally?

      I’m not defending Canada, just wondering out loud 🙂

  7. Dear Zhu

    Thank you for the informative article which is an eye opener. I’m a professional accountant from south Asia currently working in the middle east and enjoying a good quality of life. However, since the middle eastern countries do not grant citizenship easily nor are they socially and politically mature when compared to many western countries, It’s is one of my goals to obtain citizenship of Canada to try to preserve the future for my family. For this, I am ready to face the challenges and start a new life in Canada. Obviously, after I have settled, I would love to meet and build relationships with realistic people like you.. 🙂

    • I understand your mindset, knowing that one day I would have the same rights and duties as Canadian was also important to me and that’s part of the reason why I applied for permanent residence and then, eventually became a Canadian citizen. Best of luck with your project!

  8. I too came to Canada with my wife with some expectations. I was a HR manager and a lecturer in my home country and my wife an accountant. I want3d to study further and applied doe graduate studies. All 3 universities thati applied rejected me. My wife’s CPA application was rejected too eventhough she had what it takes. I am thoroughly dissapointed and thinking of heading back home. The canadian immigration system is not well synced with the private sector. Most qualified immigrants end up doing low paying menial jobs. Its a loss of talent for canada. PR should be given based on the job market situation. If qualifications and experience is not recognized by the employers there is something wrong in the system. Why give points for these criteria when the private sector doesnt recognizes these. Dont bring professionals by doing bogus marketing about Canada and leave them stranded. Im really frustrated.

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