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. I immigrated exactly 3 years ago and in the beginning, it was hard. The cold weather, different culture. I was lonely and in a big city that overwhelmed me. People from my (ethnic) community who had struggled for years warned me that I should lower my expectation and wouldn’t amount to much. I did the opposite. I embraced my fears, made new friends from different races/ethnicities as long as our values matched. I volunteered even when feeling sorry for myself. I asked for help. I made mistakes (lots).I forced myself out of my comfort zone. I chose to be grateful for small victories. I was under utilized in my first job changed jobs after 2 years(went back to school). My first boss sucked but I am now blessed with a wonderful boss. I like my colleagues and what I do. I have hard to push myself really hard these 3 years but it has paid off. I just recently bought a small town home and have hosted a new comer. Canada is becoming home. When I visited my home country recently, I got homesick for Canada. Its been a journey and still is. I miss my extended family that’s the challenge of being a first generation immigrant. I still hate the crazy winters but so do most Canadians. When I stopped complaining (or to be more accurate, significantly cut back on complaining), I found opportunities. And not just me. I have immigrant friends who have been here about 5 years that are doing ok. But I also know some who have been here for 10 years and are convinced you can’t make it

    • Thank you for sharing your experience! I’m glad to hear that, despite struggles, you are making it here. Out of curiosity, where are you from? Is there anything you would have done differently looking back?

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