France-Canada Transitions: Why Canada Is A Top Destination for French Immigrants

For individuals all over the world, immigration to Canada is an exciting prospect, but French citizens have been at the forefront of this realization in recent years.

When reflecting upon immigration to Canada, mass immigration from France is rarely the first topic that comes to mind. Canadian immigration tends to conjure up associations with migrants from the Philippines, Mexico, the United States, and China, the four of which have consistently taken the top spots in the issuance of Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) by country since 2006.

Immigration to Canada from France has grown significantly in recent years, particularly since 2008.  While the five year period prior to 2008 saw 25,026 French citizens becoming permanent residents in Canada, an impressive 34,619 French citizens gained permanent residence in Canada between 2008 and 2012, constituting a 38% increase in immigration from France.

Similarly, the number of temporary foreign workers from France in Canada has been growing significantly in recent years. The number of French foreign workers in Canada almost doubled between the 2003-2007 period, with 42,212 French foreign workers, and the 2008-2012 period, with 78,267 French foreign workers.

The number of study permits issued to French citizens has also been steadily growing in recent years, although not increasing at the same rate as temporary foreign workers. Study permits issuance for students from France has increased by 50% between 2003 and 2012.

What makes Canada a desirable option for French citizens?

First, Canada ensures that French citizens are well informed of the benefits of immigrating to Canada. Information about immigrating to Canada is more accessible to French citizens than to citizens of many other countries, as the French benefit from services of the Canadian Embassy in France.  Each year, the Canadian Embassy hosts the “Destination Canada” fair, which provides information about the Canadian immigration process.  At the Destination Canada fairs, Canadian employers seeking French citizens as employees are on hand with job offers, representatives from different parts of Canada make presentations about services for immigrants, and attendees learn about life in Canada. In the past, the Destination Canada fair has also set up shop in other French cities outside of France, including Brussels and Tunis.

While a combination of factors surely caused the surge in French immigration to Canada, the 2008 global financial meltdown likely had a strong impact on the motivations of French citizens. Canada’s strong economy emerged from the global recession nearly unscathed while many of its allies faced significant economic hardships, further increasing Canada’s stature as a desirable destination for immigration.  While Canada’s economic prowess serves encourages immigration to Canada from around the world, French citizens have been quick to take advantage of the opportunity to immigrate.

This economic benefit of moving to Canada influences French citizens to choose Canada as their future home. Canada boasts a low 7% unemployment rate, compared to France’s unemployment rate of 10.4%. Young people in France have an even stronger economic pull to Canada, with the 22.4% youth unemployment rate in France driving them towards Canada’s significantly lower youth unemployment rate of 13.2%.

When deciding whether or not to make the move to Canada, French citizens can also have the benefit of a relatively easy credential assessment process to facilitate entry into their chosen profession once in Canada, depending on where they settle in the country. Immigrants from all over the world are subject to a credential assessment process, whereby the job certification from their home country is assessed to determine its equivalence to the Canadian certification standards. This service often requires long wait times for newcomers to Canada, but French citizens have a major edge that citizens of other countries do not benefit from.

When French citizens settle in Quebec, they benefit from the Quebec-France Agreement on the Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications. Signed in 2008, this agreement expedites the credential assessment of French citizens in Quebec, allowing them to jump the queue and have their credentials assessed in a more timely fashion than their fellow newcomers from other countries can expect. Individuals in a wide variety of occupations can benefit from the expedited recognition of professional competencies, including doctors, lawyers, social workers, and engineers, facilitating a smooth entry into the Canadian labour market after arriving in Canada.

French citizens interested in making the move to Canada can also benefit from significantly reduced fees if attending one of Quebec’s world class post-secondary institutions. Similar to the agreement on credential recognition, Quebec and France have signed a bilateral agreement that allows French citizens to benefit from the Quebec tuition rate instead of the international student tuition rate, saving French students thousands of dollars each year if attending university in Quebec.

Of course, the nature of Canada as a bilingual nation is certainly an impetus for French nationals to chose Canada over other Western nations as well. The ability to preserve their mother tongue and not being required to learn a new language is a major asset when comparing a future in Canada to other countries. The bilingual nature of Canada and the ability to work and communicate in French is not only of benefit for French citizens, but provides an impetus to come to Canada for citizens of any French speaking nation.

In fact, being from any French speaking country will make it easier for an individual to immigrate to Canada due to the French Significant Benefit Program. The program is dedicated to helping French speakers immigrate to Canada in order to “contribute to the vitality, development, and prosperity of Francophone minority communities in Canada.” The program offers a number of perks to French speakers willing to settle outside of Quebec, including easier access to a Temporary Work Permit and possible exemption from the Labour Market Impact Assessment requirement for the employer willing to hire that individual.

Ultimately, the vast majority of French citizens who immigrate to Canada settle in Quebec, Canada’s only province where French is the sole official language. During 2012, a total of 80% of French immigrants to Canada settled in Quebec. In comparison, a mere 305 French immigrants settled in Ottawa, a bilingual city, between 2006 and 2011.

Many French speaking immigrants do not realize that speaking French can be as much of a benefit in other parts of Canada as it is in Quebec. For bilingual immigrants, a knowledge of French will serve as an asset for individuals job searching in provinces where French is not as widely spoken. A total of 29 countries list French as one of their official languages, and in countless other countries (such as Algeria and Morocco) French is widely spoken but not an official language. Individuals from any of these countries can benefit from their knowledge of French after immigrating to Canada, facilitating their entry into the Canadian labour market.

A combination of factors lead French citizens and other French speaking individuals from around the world to make the decision to immigrate and start a new life in Canada, but Canada’s ability to embrace diversity and multiculturalism is the factor that ensures new immigrants feel at home in Canada.

For more information about immigration to Canada and to learn which Canadian immigration programs you qualify for, fill out FWCanada’s free assessment form.

FWCanada is a Montreal-based immigration law firm that provides professional legal services on Canadian immigration. For more tips and updates on Canadian immigration follow FWCanada on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.

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