More newcomers are choosing to settle long-term in Atlantic Canada

Edana Robitaille
Published: December 19, 2022

A recent Statistics Canada study shows that high immigrant retention rates in Atlantic Canada can be credited to the success of the Atlantic Immigration Program (AIP). 

Under the AIP, launched in 2017 as a pilot program, governments, employers, communities, and settlement agencies work together to recruit skilled workers and international graduates. Working with settlement service providers, immigrants receive more support in settling and integrating than they might if they arrive in Canada through a different immigration program.  

The study, conducted in part by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC,) concluded that the AIP was more successful in retaining immigrants one year after admission than Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs). The data showed that within the first three years of the AIP, retention rates of immigrants in the Atlantic provinces rose substantially. This contrasts with other provinces where retention rates have declined. 

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The highest increase in retention under the AIP occurred in Nova Scotia. The one-year retention rate of skilled workers and skilled tradespersons admitted under the program stood at 67.6% in 2019. This is more than three times higher than the 21.5% rate in 2016. 

New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador also had high retention rates under the program. Over four years, the rate of immigrants remaining in those provinces rose by 22%. Prince Edward Island had the lowest retention rate in the country but had the largest increase in admissions between 2010-2015. 

Why does the AIP exist? 

Atlantic Canada has the country’s oldest population on average. Adults over 85 represent more than 8% of the population of Newfoundland and Labrador (8.6%), Prince Edward Island (8.1%), Nova Scotia (8.7%) and New Brunswick (8.8%). More than 30% of Newfoundland and Labrador’s population is from the baby boomer generation. 

This has led to a shrinking workforce that puts strain on the economy and makes it more difficult for the provinces to provide services such as healthcare. The AIP was established to remove some of the difficulties of settling in Canada for newcomers. This ensures easier and faster integration and higher rates of retention. 

The success of the AIP  led to the program becoming permanent in 2022 as well as the establishment of other pilot programs such as the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot Program. 

Declining rate of retention in the Prairies 

The study also found that between 2010 and 2015, those who arrived in Ontario, British Columbia or Alberta were the most likely to stay in those provinces five years after arrival.

The retention rates were consistent over time, except in Alberta where the retention rate dropped from 88.9% to 84.5%. 

Manitoba and Saskatchewan also experienced drops in retention rates of more than 10% between 2010-2015. 

The immigration category under which an immigrant arrives in Canada also has been shown to have an impact on where they settle long-term. For example, those who arrive in a province through an economic immigration program are less likely to remain in their province of admission. There was an average drop of 4.3% in provincial retention of economic immigrants between 2010-2015. The largest decrease occurred in Saskatchewan which dropped from 79.3% to 61.7%. 

Those who arrived under family class sponsorship had a 92.3% retention rate in 2015 and refugees had 87.4% 

How does the AIP work? 

The AIP is an employer-driven program that facilitates the hiring of foreign nationals.

Unlike provincial nominee programs, applicants under this program must have a job offer from a designated employer and an individualized settlement plan for themselves and their family.  

Designated employers do not need to obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). However, once an applicant accepts a job offer, the employer must connect them with a designated settlement service provider and help support them long-term in their integration. 

Who is eligible for AIP? 

Candidates for the AIP must have 1,560 hours of work experience over the past five years. There is an education requirement that can vary depending on your National Occupational Codes (NOC) TEER. 

  • If the job offer is at the NOC TEER category 0 or 1, candidates require a one-year post-secondary educational credential or higher, or the equivalent outside of Canada 
  • If the job offer is at the NOC TEER category 2, 3, or 4, candidates require a Canadian high school diploma or the equivalent outside of Canada. 

The language requirements also vary depending on the NOC TEER category of your job offer.  

Those who are applying as international students must have a degree, diploma, certificate, or trade or apprenticeship certification that took at least 2 years of studies and is from a recognized post-secondary institution in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, or Newfoundland and Labrador. Additionally, they must already be in Canada on a study permit and have lived in one of the Atlantic provinces for at least 16 months during the past two years before graduation.

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