Overview of Secondary Migration of Immigrants to Canada

Canada has admitted upwards of 200,000 permanent residents per year since the early 2000s. Their distribution within Canada is of major interest to academics, policy makers, settlement service organizations, and municipalities that take into consideration the number of annual arrivals to make operational and budget decisions. Where does this information come from?

Official statistics on immigrant flows to various parts of the country are published by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and are useful in determining how many newcomers arrive in each province or city on an annual basis. However, immigrants are not bound to their initial landing communities, nor are they bound to report their subsequent relocations (only intended initial destination information is asked at time of landing). Consequently, it is difficult to assess the size of immigrant communities beyond even the first few months after arrival using publicly available information.

Secondary migration redistributes immigrants across Canada in ways that are not yet fully explored. How long do immigrants stay in their initial landing community? Are there some provinces or cities that retain immigrants longer or in higher numbers than others? Do immigrants move mostly to nearby locations or are they prone to make cross-country moves? Are there ‘magnet destinations’ that draw immigrants from all over the country?

This comprehensive analysis sheds light on the trends in the subsequent relocation patterns of permanent residents to Canada. Using data from the Longitudinal Immigrant Database, an administrative dataset stored at Statistics Canada, we cover the timing of secondary migration, both nationally and provincially, the destinations of secondary migrants, and over-time immigrant retention in provinces, cities, and census subdivisions.