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Diverse British Columbia: Immigration in Western Canada


B.C. Immigrant

British Columbia is the third largest recipient of immigrants to Canada, welcoming more than 40,000 newcomers each year.

Ontario and B.C. had the largest populations of people born outside the country at the time of the 2011 Census. Around 3,611,400 immigrants lived in Ontario and about 1,191,900 immigrants lived in B.C.

Immigrants tend to move to larger metropolitan centres when they first arrive in Canada. So it comes as no surprise that Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal accounted for 63.4 per cent of the country’s overall immigrant population in 2011.

Vancouver is home to roughly 913,300 immigrants, according to the Census. Vancouver’s immigrant population also accounts for around 40 per cent of the city’s total population.

Most B.C. immigrants arrive in the province through Vancouver International Airport, where they are welcomed by the Community Airport Newcomers Network (CANN). This organization offers newcomer orientations in more than 20 languages.

A large number of B.C. immigrants come from Asia (70 per cent), representing just over two-thirds of new immigrants in the province. In 2010, 21 per cent of those two-thirds came from China.

These numbers are partly explained by the fact that British Columbia is geographically positioned to benefit from international trade with growing economies in the Asia-Pacific region.

B.C. immigrants are of all ages and come from different immigration classes and backgrounds. They also move to B.C for various reasons: from studying and working to simply looking for better lives.

In 2013, 46.9 per cent of B.C. immigrants were between the ages of 25 and 44, and 43 per cent had at least one university degree, according to immigration data.

Statistics also showed that most immigrants living in B.C. moved to the province to start new lives or to further their educations.

B.C. is a particularly popular destination for international students who come to study in the province for three main reasons: quality of education, safety and security.

International students study at B.C.’s private and public post-secondary institutions, community colleges and technical institutes. Others choose to come to B.C. to study English as a second language.

While most international students move to Canada on a temporary basis – under valid study permits from the federal government – more than half express an interest in working in B.C. after finishing their studies.

International students contribute significantly to B.C.’s economy. For example, in 2010, they spent more than $1.8 billion in the province.

B.C. immigrants also contribute to the workforce, representing 27.3 per cent of the province’s overall labour force.

Immigrant workers are classified into three categories: very recent immigrants (residing in B.C. for less than five years), recent immigrants (residing in B.C. between five and 10 years) and established immigrants (residing in the province for more than 10 years). Data shows that 64 per cent of B.C. immigrant workers belong to the last category.

B.C. was second only to Alberta in terms of population growth as of the 2011 Census and international migration accounted for 66 per cent of that gain. But Alberta’s growth was evenly split between natural growth and international migration.

Most communities in B.C. offer services to help immigrants settle. Many organizations work with newcomers to help them find employment, places to live, schools for children, language classes and much more.

There are several options available to individuals who are interested in immigrating to B.C. These include the B.C. Provincial Nominee Program, the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Worker Program, the Canadian Experience Class, the Self-Employed Persons Program, and the Family Class Sponsorship.

Individuals interested in immigrating should visit the province’s WelcomeBC website, which provides information on how to live, work and study in the province.