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.

47 Comments

  1. Peo­ple who aren’t happy CAN GO HOME!!! I am so sick of peo­ple think­ing that Canada OWES them the right to come here or the per­fect life (hell my fam­ily came here in the 1600s and my life here is NOT per­fect either!).

    When there was the Lebanon-Israel cri­sis a few years ago Canada woke up and real­ized who easy it was for for­eign­ers to get Cana­dian cit­i­zen­ship. A bunch of peo­ple in Lebanon had got­ten Can cit­i­zen­ship decades prior and decided to return home to Lebanon and never came back to Canada — yet when the $h!t hit the fan they took out their cana­dian pass­port to escape the bomb­ings — then went back when every­thing set­tled down leav­ing me and my fel­low Cana­di­ans with around a 100 mil­lion $ bill for their evac­u­a­tion — they are called “Cana­di­ans of con­ve­nience”. The sys­tem is NOT per­fect but it has to be strict and weed out the unde­sir­ables. There is also talk to elim­i­nate the “anchor baby” prob­lem we have.

    I am in the process of spon­sor­ing my French spouse and it is a night­mare, but I under­stand WHY it is and I respect it — he too respects it. He is dis­gusted with how easy it is for peo­ple to immi­grate to France (and there are huge prob­lems in Europe with their lax immi­gra­tion rules — France and UK come to mind), and he appre­ci­ates that Canada is becom­ing stricter (he even appre­ci­ates that Que­bec makes you sign a paper stat­ing that you will respect Que­bec laws such as gen­der equal­ity etc).

    It’s funny how most coun­tries in the world won’t allow just any­one to move there (or gain cit­i­zen­ship), yet no one crit­i­cizes, but when it comes to coun­tries like Canada or the USA — they some­how should wel­come every­one with open arms or risk being labelled racist and intolerant.

    Your choices in life are your own — if you can’t make your life bet­ter in Canada then don’t bother. It is not Canada’s fault. But I do feel sorry for those who are gen­uinely here and who are hav­ing trou­bles — not those who com­plain because their utopian vision of Canada does’t mesh with reality.

    My post might come off as anti-immigrant, but it isn’t. I sim­ply believe that no one should get spe­cial treat­ment. When I talk to my husband’s fam­ily about gain­ing French cit­i­zen­ship, they laugh and tell me how easy it will be. Although this would be to my great advan­tage (espe­cially as French Que­be­cer), I don’t want it to be easy, as a for­eigner I should have to put effort into obtain­ing it. Gain­ing French cit­i­zen­ship for for­eign­ers is a priv­i­lege NOT a right — same applies to those try­ing to immi­grate to Canada!

    p.s. to those who com­plain about the weather — it’s a national hobby here too — but come on peo­ple, Canada is known for hockey, maple syrup and COLD weather! Peo­ple who know NOTHING about Canada KNOW at least that it is freez­ing in the win­ter (which is why some avoid it). Not sure why this comes as a big sur­prise to any­one — espe­cially in the age of google! The cold is out of our control.

    • Hi,

      I don’t think your com­ment comes off as racist or anti-immigrants, but with all due respect I think you may not fully appre­ci­ate the situation :-)

      Win­ter… yes, every body knows that win­ter are long and harsh. Expe­ri­enc­ing it is a whole dif­fer­ent story. And many immi­grants don’t real­ize how much the weather can make things dif­fi­cult here. Imag­ine a fam­ily who has just arrived in Canada, who doesn’t have a car and must rely on pub­lic trans­porta­tion. In major cities, it’s fine, but dur­ing win­ter, it can be very tough, espe­cially if you have small chil­dren. No one is blam­ing Cana­di­ans for minus-way-too-cold tem­per­a­tures, but yes, it can be tougher than many peo­ple think.

      I think for most immi­grants, going home doesn’t mean “gosh, I hate Canada, I just wanted a Cana­dian pass­port!” Immi­grat­ing takes time and money, frankly, those who go through that just to gain cit­i­zen­ship often have no ides what they are talk­ing about and don’t go far into the process. But yes, some immi­grants go home, for so many rea­sons that it’s impos­si­ble to describe them all. It’s not a black-and-white sit­u­a­tion, i.e. love it and stay or hate it and go.

      By the way, get­ting French cit­i­zen­ship is dif­fi­cult. I’m sorry but your husband’s fam­ily has no idea what they are talk­ing about. I’m a French cit­i­zen (and a Cana­dian cit­i­zen :-)) and my Cana­dian hus­band doesn’t have French citizenship–we briefly con­sid­ered going through the process but quickly gave up con­sid­er­ing he doesn’t “need” it and the process is dif­fi­cult and long. Bot­tom line, it’s a myth, get­ting French cit­i­zen­ship is difficult.

  2. First off, amaz­ing blog! My wife, daugh­ter and I were just recently accepted as Per­ma­nent Res­i­dents and we are plan­ning to do our land­ing on March of 2015. This blog has been an amaz­ing help; the tips you pro­vide are great.

    Sec­ondly, and more to the point of this post. I think there is a myth out there that becom­ing a cit­i­zen is always “easy”. Nor­mally it comes from peo­ple that are native-born to the coun­try and it hap­pens to peo­ple in every coun­try. I come from Venezuela and peo­ple over there are con­vinced that peo­ple just have to go to the coun­try and receive a pass­port at the cus­toms check­point. Yet they don’t know the real­i­ties that immi­grants face when going there. I have been liv­ing in Bel­gium for three years now and peo­ple still don’t believe me when I tell them that, although my daugh­ter was born here, she doesn’t have the Bel­gian nation­al­ity. They are con­vinced that becom­ing a Bel­gian is just a mat­ter of com­ing to Bel­gium and just sign­ing a paper at City Hall. The same thing hap­pens in Canada. I have been able to make Canadian-born friends that, at first, though that Canada was basi­cally giv­ing pass­ports in cereal boxes. They were shocked when they learned that our process took 4 years, even when my wife and I have PhD’s and speak both Eng­lish and French.

    With that being said, I do believe that immi­grat­ing is a priv­i­lege and not a right. I also agree a 100% that we, as immi­grants, have to make our share of the effort to adapt to the real­i­ties of Canada, that includes the polit­i­cal, his­tor­i­cal, cul­tural and weather realities.

    Also, I do know immi­grants that go to a new coun­try with some very utopic ideas of what they are going to face. I’ve even heard peo­ple say­ing that –40 degree weather is just like the inside of your com­mon refrig­er­a­tor. Then they are shocked when they see that the water froze over. Peo­ple also fail to see that even in the most wel­com­ing soci­ety there are going to be peo­ple that doesn’t want you there or that can’t see beyond their own big­otry, we as immi­grants have to cre­ate our space in this soci­ety and find ways to inte­grate and adapt to it.

    When we first started this adven­ture into Canada I asked a friend that had already immi­grated there before us: “Have you ever been dis­crim­i­nated in Canada? Are peo­ple nice?” Her answer then has helped me to also make a life in Bel­gium these past three years. “There are a@#$holes every­where in the world. They exist back home and they exist here as well. You do with them the same you did with the ones you met back home: you ignore them and focus on the ones that like you” Thanks to this men­tal­ity we have been able to make great friends here (Cana­di­ans of all places! and Bel­gians as well) and ignore the dumb big­ots. Of course it’s not as easy as it sounds, but you just take it one day at a time and keep on mak­ing your life.

    Con­grats again for your blog!

    • Hi Alex and family,

      First of all, let me say “bien­v­enue au Canada/Welcome to Canada”! I hope you will enjoy life in your new coun­try, and I’m sure the end of the immi­gra­tion process was a relief for you. Bilin­gual, Phds holder? My, I think we are lucky to have you. So come over and have some maple syrup!

      Indeed, EU cit­i­zen­ships are very hard to get. My hus­band never got French cit­i­zen­ship through me, despite what many peo­ple assume (he was not inter­ested any­way…). And I still had to go through the immi­gra­tion, despite mar­ry­ing a Cana­dian. My Cana­dian pass­port didn’t come with the wed­ding ring ;-)

      There are some… ahem, peo­ple with ques­tion­able judg­ment in Canada as well. But as long as you never read The Sun (and awful tabloid-like “news­pa­per”), you won’t notice them too much.

      I wish you a happy life in Canada. Stay in touch!

  3. PhD hold­ers– why cant you get a job in your nation? Seems odd. M y brother is born here– a Phd holder, it took him 7 years to obtain a job in his field. That was 20 years ago. He was paint­ing houses in hal­i­fax for a few years as he was overqual­i­fied in his own birth nation.

    • It seems that PhD hold­ers face a strange sit­u­a­tion when they enter the job mar­ket, after so many years in academia–they are often too qual­i­fied, or so think employ­ers, and they may lack prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence. That’s what I’ve heard any­way, no mat­ter where the Phds were from.

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