The Canadian Immigration Taboo: Those Who Go Back Home


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?


About Author

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


  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.

  4. Hi Zhu,

    It is an inter­est­ing blog. Every­one has their own expe­ri­ence and opin­ion about liv­ing in Canada. I have lived in Toronto for 5.5+ years now and I feel I have got­ten older, poorer bit­ter, depressed and lonely. I am not going to go into the details of my jour­ney because it may be bor­ing and is per­sonal. I am here with a depen­dent and for a while I have been think­ing that I should go back to my coun­try in South Amer­ica. The rea­son I am writ­ing is to ask if you or any­one else knows any inter­na­tional or local insti­tu­tion that may help immi­grants who feel “stuck” in a for­eign coun­try for finan­cial or other reasons.

    Thanks and good luck to all with your decisions.


    • Hola Gis­sela,

      First of all, accept a vir­tual hug. I’m sorry you are feel­ing lonely and depressed and I feel your pain. Feb­ru­ary is a tough month too, and I’m sure the weather doesn’t help. I’m sure your jour­ney is not bor­ing, feel free to share if you want. I’m not going to be that per­son who will con­vince you Canada is the best place on earth, and I’m not going to say it’s a shit hole either. It’s… Canada. Not every immi­grant likes life here, and not every Cana­dian wor­ship his coun­try. I’m neutral :-)

      I can’t think of a spe­cific insti­tu­tion, or rather, I can think of too many of them, it really depends on what you need. There are orga­ni­za­tions who help immi­grants with job issues, cul­tural adjust­ment, etc. The pub­lic library usu­ally has tons of groups who meet reg­u­larly. You may want to check this out as well: If you are reli­gious, your place of wor­ship could help as well.

      The hard­est part is to reach out.

      If you need a friend, , I’m here. We are here :-)

      • Hi again Zhu,

        Thank you so much for your thought­ful and friendly response and for your vir­tual hug, here is one or more for you too! You are a very nice and cre­ative woman; this site is very well put together and has very inter­est­ing sto­ries, advice and infor­ma­tion. I have checked the link you gave me, thank you, I still need to re-read some parts to think who I should con­tact as I am not a new­comer any­more or have immi­gra­tion mat­ters pend­ing. I do have set­tle­ment issues, but they are mainly finan­cial. I arrived in 2009 as a skilled worker and since then I have had like 8–9 dif­fer­ent jobs but none a good prospect for a per­ma­nent self suf­fi­cient income; have stud­ied to obtain a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion I did get;applied to a provin­cial license I didn’t get; sued a lawyer in the small claims court and won; met peo­ple; met and lost good friends to removal orders; vis­ited a few cities and towns; divorced, dated 7 guys, Cana­dian and other nation­al­i­ties; attended work­shops at employ­ment agen­cies; been and not on social assis­tance; guided other peo­ple in their set­tle­ment issues; vol­un­teered in 3 or 4 orga­ni­za­tions; involved in some pol­i­tics includ­ing can­vass­ing and being a scru­ti­nier; joined and stopped going to a church; claimed refugee sta­tus and con­ducted an H&C for a fam­ily mem­ber; tried dif­fer­ent foods; been ok in all weath­ers and sea­sons (except for sum­mer before buy­ing an A/C!), learned a lot of the local cus­toms and habits, etc.…However, as many oth­ers, I guess, I don’t feel part of any­thing here; I am just exhausted; I think I should go back to my coun­try, espe­cially because I was bet­ter off there, had a social life, not so bad work sit­u­a­tion, and above all, an iden­tity. The thing is I feel stuck; with­out money one can’t leave. My only sis­ter relo­cated 3 years ago to another city in Ontario also and I can’t even move there to live near…I might as well go back to my coun­try, but –this for those who say ” If you don’t like it here, just go”, it’s nei­ther easy to stay, nor to go. I will keep read­ing the peo­ple posts and maybe some­thing helps me come out of this strange limbo where I don’t any­more know where I should be and doing what…:-(. Thanks again for your com­fort­ing mes­sage Zhu. Hugs for you and the other mem­bers includ­ing those who are tired of the immi­grants. I am tired myself of feel­ing out of place or home-less, so to speak.

        • First of all, a huge abrazo. Sounds like you need one!

          You’ve been through a lot. Set­tling in a new coun­try is tough, regard­less of what peo­ple say. You have to make sure your finances are okay because no one can come over and help out if money becomes an issue, you have to adapt to many new rules, for­mal or not, start a new career even if you stay in your field, build a net­work… And it seems like you did every­thing you should and could do.

          Money is prob­a­bly the first issue you need to address. Yes, I know, I’m stat­ing the obvi­ous, sorry. But if I were to ask for help, I would start with that, the finan­cial issue. It sounds to me that you tried hard, and that you are exhausted because unfor­tu­nately, things turned out to be harder than they should have been.

          No mat­ter what peo­ple say, in Canada and in your coun­try, you did NOT fail. Some­one who did so much clearly has a good head on her shoul­ders and you tried, tried hard. Luck wasn’t with you, I’m sorry about that.

          Do you have Cana­dian cit­i­zen­ship? Would you be able to go to your home coun­try for a lit­tle while to get your energy back? Would it help?

          Please, feel free to send me an email. I can try to con­nect you with people.

          Mean­while, take care of your­self. Just do one nice thing for you… a small treat, just to cheer you up even if it’s temporary.

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