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Vancouver, Toronto and Edmonton have the highest immigrant retention rates: StatsCan

Vancouver, Toronto and Edmonton have the highest immigration retention rates in the country, according to data released by Statistics Canada.

The agency looked at immigrants who landed in Canada in 2014 and filed tax returns in 2019.

Five years after landing in Canada, 86.1% of first-time immigrants stayed in Vancouver, which had the highest retention rate of any metropolitan area, followed by Toronto (85 , 5%) and Edmonton (84.6%).

Metropolitan areas, as defined by StatsCan, have at least 100,000 residents, of which at least 50,000 live in the core.

Vancouver also had the highest retention rate for family-sponsored immigrants and refugees, while Edmonton had the highest rate for economic immigrants.

The data show that most immigrant tax filers stay in the province where they landed. Over 85% of immigrants who arrived in Canada in 2014 remained in the same province or territory of admission five years later.

Provincially, Ontario had the highest retention rate (93.7%), followed by British Columbia (89.7%) and Alberta (89%). The provinces of Atlantic Canada had the lowest rates. Only 28.1 percent of immigrants stayed in Prince Edward Island.

Cities with the highest overall retention recorded high rates for all three immigration categories, but the rates for some other cities were less consistent.

Montreal had a high retention rate for family-sponsored immigrants and refugees, but much lower for economic immigrants, and although Winnipeg retained 82 percent of family-sponsored immigrants, its retention rate for refugees was about 40 percent.

Employment, an important factor

Marshia Akbar, a researcher at Ryerson University in Toronto, says social, economic and cultural factors influence migrants’ mobility decisions, but employment and work experience are seen as the most important factor.

Data shows that immigrants admitted in 2014 with a work permit were more likely to stay in their province or territory than those with a study permit.

“They work there, they create a feeling of belonging and because they already have work experience, it helps them find another job so that they don’t necessarily feel pressured to go to another province”, said Akbar, Senior Research Associate at Ryerson Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration.

Nathan Po, an immigration lawyer with McCuaig Desrochers in Edmonton, said he was not surprised to see retention rates above 80 percent for Edmonton and Calgary. Calgary’s rate was 82.9 percent.

“A large majority of my clients are looking to build a house here, and for the most part, they are still there,” he said.

He added that Alberta tends to have a higher percentage of foreign workers than some other provinces, which could influence retention rates.

Statistics Canada used data from the Longitudinal Immigration Database, which does not explain why people stay put. But Akbar and his colleagues are studying this question, examining why some migrants stayed for more than 10 years in small towns and villages in Ontario and Saskatchewan.

This type of data, Akbar said, can inform successful immigrant retention strategies.

“Community friendliness is one of the things we would say is a way to keep people sticking around,” said Josephine Allard, education program manager at Changing Together, a nonprofit that helps immigrant women in Edmonton.

Allard, who immigrated to Canada from the Philippines over 50 years ago, said some of the people she serves moved back to Edmonton after a few months, saying they feel more accepted in the city.

Although most immigrants stay in Edmonton, she said the main reason for leaving is that foreign credentials are not recognized in Alberta.

“This is the only obstacle that we have noticed in the customers who come here,” she said.