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.

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