Why are Immigrants Leaving Canada?

Why do things go wrong?
Why do things go wrong?
Written By
MTC Media inc
Published on
December 4, 2023

Before we begin, we’d like to mention that the goal of the article is not to discourage you from moving to Canada, but instead, to highlight the challenges and tradeoffs you'll have to make so that you are prepared to maximize the chance of your success when you move to Canada.

Canada is famous for its generous immigration programs, welcoming over 300,000 permanent residents on a yearly basis. Every 4th employee in Canada is an immigrant. Immigration accounts for 80% of all population growth in Canada. 

A study by Statistics Canada indicated that one-third of immigrants left Canada within 20 years after arrival. More than half of those who left did so within the first year of arrival. 

Why is it that immigrants arrive in Canada, but decide to leave back to their home country despite it being rather immigrant-friendly?

They can't find a job

The challenge with most Canadian employers is that many look for Canadian experience specifically. Canadian employers recognize differences in work cultures and mentality of different countries, and therefore they like seeing some Canadian experience as proof that you are a good coworker. If you don't have Canadian experience, employers may also exploit that and offer you a lower wage than they would have paid otherwise.

References are also huge in Canada, want to get a job - show me your former colleague and manager references. Want to rent a home - show me references from previous landlords etc. Your country's reference won't work because no one is going to make or trust a foreign call like that.

By looking at the list of professions that Canada states it's in need of - looking at the category A and B, you see doctors, engineers and architects. The thing is, for you to be employable in these professions, you must first receive a Canadian license that allows you to practice your craft here. In order to get the license, you have to pass exams, get local experience and sometimes even have to go back to school, just so that you can practice the craft of your life in a new country. In order to be able to get away with just a few exams, you also have to make sure that you graduated from a university that's been recognized and accredited by Canada, and you have to make sure the year it was recognized was dated before you graduated.

What to do to mitigate that? 

Be prepared about the state of jobs in your profession, understand the job market and come up with a plan of what tradeoffs you're willing to make. Be humble and ready to do a lower-paid job just to practice English or French and make connections. It will pay off in the future. For some, it’s worth taking a step down for a couple of years in order to study, take exams, gain experience and get a license. But others might realize they had enough in their field and would even switch careers, which is a great step too, especially in a new country, new environment and society. Our advice would be - just to be prepared and flexible at the same time, and keep an open mind and positivity.

Starting from scratch

Because it may be challenging to find a job, some immigrants realize that they would have to start from scratch. We personally know a doctor from Russia - even though her specialty was on the list of Canada's in-demand jobs, she's learned that she would have to redo at least 4 years of school in order for her to pass the necessary exams and be able to practice. This woman had over 10 years of experience in her field back in Russia. Imagine how it might feel if you were told you have to start a challenging medical degree all over again. 

There are tons of examples like that, and depending on which field you're in it may or may not be easy to get licensed and keep practicing. In most cases, you still have to start your career over - not just to prove yourself as a professional, but also to understand the work ethic and culture in Canada. You'll likely get a pay cut. We know a lot of experienced professionals in aviation, engineering and business, whose first job was at a coffee shop serving coffee.

Some people may not have the appetite for that - it's a lot easier to go back to your country and take it from where you left it.

Some people have a well-established business back home and for them to start this business from scratch in a new country seems like an insurmountable task to accomplish, or it’s just not worth the hassle.

Our pro tip - think about your future - 5 - 10 years ahead. What life do you see for yourself and your family and in which country are you more likely to achieve that? Do you have kids and what future do you envision for them? How do you see yourself when you retire? 

If you were to achieve the same results in the new country as compared to your home country, would it be a step up in terms of quality of life? If yes - is it worth the extra work and hassle? Make your choices and tradeoffs accordingly.

Different culture/mentality

Each country has its' own culture - Latinos are warm and friendly, Russians are cold and direct, Europeans are reserved, and Asians have very strong family ties and traditions. While Canada is very similar to the United States in terms of the overall culture, it is important to recognize that since Canada is an immigrant country, you encounter a lot of very different cultures at once with very different beliefs and customs, and different ways of living, socializing and working. 

Political correctness is sometimes treated as dishonesty and conflict avoidance - people would rather complain about you behind your back than have a transparent conversation with you, and friendliness is looked at as something superficial. 

Some would say Canada is boring referring to its lack of history and heavy American influence. There is a running joke that fashion in Canada is exactly 10 years behind European fashion - sweatpants in class or in downtown is a common occurrence, while it's a no-no in Europe.

You have to be open-minded and curious to accept and appreciate the little differences cultures have to offer - for some people, it's not their cup of tea. Some are battling to preserve their old country’s conservative traditions and ultimately lose. They are set on their own beliefs and ways of living and struggle to make friends and advance their careers in Canada, specifically because they refuse to adapt to the cultural norms of the country they're in.


With the difficulty to adapt to a different culture and mentality, comes the feeling of loneliness. Most of us immigrants make this decision to move and leave our parents, family and friends behind. Being in a new country surrounded by the new and the unknown and the struggle to start everything over is hard, and not having friends and family to come home to can be depressing. 

Immigrants, especially those with cultures very different from Canadian ones, struggle to find connections and friends because of differences in mentality. What they end up doing is turning to their ethnic communities. It's not uncommon for immigrants to hang out with other immigrants, because they can relate to each other's struggles. Nevertheless, sometimes it's not enough and the homesickness is becoming real and they decide to leave.

It’s understandable that one can miss their friends with whom they have long-lasting backgrounds and strong ties. However, as time goes on, many people become distant from their old friends, because, in the new country, they experience different events and start valuing different things. When you lose your old ties you might feel lost, like you’re standing in the middle of an empty road and it’s time to make a decision - go back to your old place or move forward to new beginnings. For some people it’s easier to go back to the world they understand better and where they have old friends and family and feel comfortable. Others might decide to move forward, partially because they understand they’ve already changed too much and returning home is not an option. And some people move elsewhere.


Climate can be all over the place and at times unpredictable. If you're moving to Ontario, especially southeast of Ontario, you'll face high humidity, occasional winter winds and hot summers.

If you're moving to Calgary, the air there is very dry and cold. Montreal gets lots of snowfall in the winter and temperatures can go very low. Vancouver is always cloudy and it is said to rain all the time in winter. If you're from a warmer or tropical country, this alone can be depressing for you - and it's not just that, Canadians themselves sometimes move out in search of better weather conditions.

Some immigrants wait to get Canadian passports and then travel all around the world freely and escape the seasons they don’t like.

High Taxes

According to the Fraser Institute, 41.3 percent of the salary of an average Canadian goes to the government and you never see it because the money gets automatically withdrawn from your salary by your employer. You also have to make mandatory contributions to Medicare and Social Security.

Canada is known for its social security and free Medicare, but it actually is not so free, all of that is paid for by taxpayers.

Depending on which country you come from, giving away almost half of your income is something ludicrous - average taxes in Latin America, the US, or Asia are hanging around 30%.

The tax impact can be very different depending on the profession you have. We personally know a software engineer who came to Canada, worked here for a year, got shocked with the tax he pays on his salary, and decided he's better off building his wealth back in his country.


To get more advanced services like specialist appointments, medical tests or even dentist procedures - you'd still have to pull out some bucks for that. Just like most countries, Canada also has "paid" insurance that covers a portion of the cost of drugs and procedures. 

In general, your free healthcare barely covers the basics you need. On top of that, there's a known shortage of doctors in Canada which leads to long waiting lists, and frankly, doctors are overworked. In Canada, if your heart hurts you cannot go directly to a cardiologist, you have to visit a General Practitioner first, and only then if they deem your case serious enough, you'll get a referral to the specialist. Waiting for an advanced test to be done can sometimes take months.

All in all healthcare in Canada is strong and modern - if something happens, and if you really are experiencing a life-threatening condition, you will get help and you will get it real fast. We know examples of people who would complain about medicine in Canada but when something serious happened, the Canadian medical system saved that person’s life.

Nevertheless, Some immigrants are very concerned with this topic and choose to go back to their country where the medical system is more familiar, they have connections and money solves everything. As an alternative, they travel to the US, if they’re willing to pay, or to other southern countries to get the treatment they want for cheaper prices.

Having said all that, Canada is a great country, and the grass is always greener on the other side. Each country has its own challenges, and our recommendation for you is to choose the problems you'd like to live with. 

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Why are Immigrants Leaving Canada?

Make That Change is made by immigrants for immigrants.
We create content about career, life, adaptation and education in Canada.