Filipino Immigrants: To Stay or to Return?

posted on July 24, 2014

By Asian Pacific Post | Link to Article

By Asian Pacific Post | Link to Article

The Canadian government forecasts that there will be one million Filipino immigrants in Canada by 2025, marking a 50 per cent increase from today. If immigration to Canada is a horse race between competing nations, China, India, the Philippines and Pakistan have the inside track, with Filipinos being the current “favourites.”
New Canadian Media (NCM) partnered with the Asian Pacific Post (APP) and The Filipino Post to go behind the numbers and see how newcomer Filipinos are doing. We also spoke to three academic researchers who study migration from the Philippines to understand this movement of people and what it means for Canada. Our main finding, based on a random interviews is: While most Filipino immigrants have stayed and embraced Canada as their new home, some of them have gone back to practice their professions.
This reverse migration is no different from trends for other nationalities, reported by Statscan as far back as 2006.

Case Studies

Philippine dentist Mike Muin was a university dentist in the southern Philippines when he applied for a family immigrant visa. His family landed in Ontario as immigrants in 2013, but Mike’s credentials as a dentist were not recognized in Ontario unless he took a Dental Challenge Exam. For a year, he never practised dentistry and so he decided to fly back to the Philippines with their youngest son. According to Mike, he is happy working as an associate dentist in a Philippine city. Muin told NCM-APP that he is still in a quandary whether or not to return to Ontario, where his wife, Rose, and their eldest son still reside. Rose says that for her the Philippines is still an ideal place to raise her children because parents have more time to monitor their children as they grow up. “If I were to choose between Canada and Philippines, I would still choose the Philippines to raise my children where families can spend more time together,” Rose said.
In another case, an assistant professor from the Philippines, who requested anonymity, saw Canada as a potential place for a social sciences academic to flourish. He landed as an immigrant in Vancouver in October 2011 and submitted his credentials to the University of British Columbia, Douglas College, Vancouver Community College and Simon Fraser University. Not one of the schools recognized his credentials. He was advised to take bridging courses. The graduate school professor ended up as a labourer for two months in a logistics company on Annacis Island.
Feeling demoralized, he flew back to the Philippines and went back to the university he used to teach at. He wrote scholarly publications and his internationally published publications were cited by North American university journals like the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut and other best-selling books on security. Canada would have had that honour if the professor was absorbed by one of the schools he had applied to.
When asked if he was willing to return to Canada, the graduate school lecturer said, “Probably, if most universities will start to recognize our credentials.”

Expert immigration advice

Vancouver-based Filipino immigration analyst Manny Noel Abuel observed that Filipino immigrants return to the Philippines when they don’t find jobs similar to work they had before moving. “You must be willing to start a new life — like a baby — where you need to learn how to walk your way to success no matter how challenging the road is.
“When I came to Canada in 1988, I only have $1,000 (U.S.) in my pocket, with three children, but I had to face reality and was determined to succeed in this country,” Abuel said. She is head of the media bureau of the Filipino Advent Believers in British Columbia and is a practising communications consultant.
The same advice was shared by Evelyn Yadao, an immigration consultant of Grand Migration Canada. She countered that skilled Filipino immigrants who have gone back to the Philippines should consider returning to Canada because in the long run they will appreciate what this country will do for them. Yadao is also the National Convenor of PLS (Progressive Learning Space) for Kids program, a Canada-based program helping educate displaced Filipino children caught in the war in the Southern Philippines.

Immigrants who stayed

While some Filipino immigrants returned to the Philippines, most Filipino immigrants have decided to stick it out. They have embraced Canada as their new home and have decided to pledge allegiance to Canada’s citizenship once they meet their residency requirements.
Working in the Middle East for years, Filipino Edwin Nodora landed in Canada with his family in 2011 and started working as a maintenance crew in a mall in Richmond. But three years later, he now works in a job where he can use his engineering background. In his first year, he was tempted to return to the Middle East, but he resisted and eventually got the job he wanted.
Edilberto Javier landed the same year with his family and got employed as a cleaner at Lowe’s, a hardware store, but after three years, he was promoted to Product Service Associate.
Jeanette Co- Lim faced a tough challenge when she landed in Canada in the same year, because she could not find the job she wanted, but in her third year, she finally found the right job as an assistant accountant.
“The toughest challenge is when employers here doubt your credentials, so we have to prove to them that we can do the job, and from there the employer will assign you the job that rightfully belongs to you,” Co-Lim said.

Top ranking for migration

The Philippines became the largest source of immigrants in 2010 when Citizenship and Immigration Canada figures show 36,000 Filipino immigrants came to Canada. The next two years have brought 35,000 and 33,000, respectively.
While young Filipino immigrants are helping to replace Canada’s ageing workforce, the Philippine economy in turn also gets over $2 billion (U.S.) in remittances every year.
Further, Tagalog is the fastest growing language in Canada and is the fifth most common non-official language spoken in Canadian households. Statistics show nearly 279,000 people reported speaking Tagalog most often in 2011, up from 170,000 five years earlier.
Canada has also remitted more than $20 million (U.S.) to help rebuild two major cities in the Philippines — Tacloban and Zamboanga – after they were devastated by a super typhoon and attacked by rebel separatists in 2013.
Noel T. Tarrazona is a Filipino immigrant of Vancouver and is completing his Doctor of Pubic Administration in the Philippines. He can be reached at (with additional input from editors in the New Canadian Media Newsroom).

Experts weigh in on Filipino immigration trends

The Phillippines was the number one source country for immigrants to Canada in 2010 and 2011, but by 2012 it had fallen back to second place behind China.
There are two reasons for the recent prominence of the Philippines. One is that the numbers arriving in the Live-In Caregiver category spiked quite dramatically around 2010, reflecting an expansion in demand for the program around 2007-2008. Caregivers have to spend two years as temporary foreign workers before they can apply for PR (Permanent Resident) status, hence the time lag.
The other reason is that the Provincial Nominee Program has expanded hugely in recent years, mainly in Western Canada. This has been a major channel for new arrivals from the Philippines, especially to Manitoba, which has a very large Filipino community.
The other factor that might be added is that language and educational requirements have been increased, which would favour applicants from countries such as the Philippines, where English is widely spoken and tertiary education is geared towards the needs of the global labour market. That said, the expansion in Filipino migration hasn’t been in the federal skilled worker category, where such factors are most important, so it’s probably not the most significant explanation.
– Dr Philip Kelly, Director, York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR), Professor, Department of Geography, York University

Philippines is quite complex to compare with China and India. India has historical ties with Canada as a former British colony. China is also different as it has historical roots with racialized labour prior to the institution of the points system. Philippines is a postwar (WWII) immigrant source nation for Canada, but has historical ties to US as a former colony. Restrictions faced by those initially planning to go to the US find immigration streams to Canada favourable at some point.
Chain migration is also a feature of Filipino permanent migration in Canada. As well, Filipinos are family-oriented and sponsor family members when they can to the country. By family, it means an extended family and sponsorship implicates many things: direct sponsorship for parents and qualified siblings, or indirect sponsorship thru offering housing arrangements for relatives and fictive relations. When the path for those extended family members are clear, then another family chain of sponsorship begins. All source countries display similar patterns of chain migration.
Aside from this, Filipinos are highly educated and highly skilled that they most often comply with the independent skilled migration to Canada. They have higher adaptability of integration into Canada since English is the language of education and business in the Philippines, with no need for them to take language classes like other immigrants in Canada. In other words, Filipinos are ready workforce upon entry into Canada. As well, Filipinos are western-oriented into democracy and shared liberal values as coming from the ‘showcase’ country of U.S. imperialism. In short, Filipinos have higher adaptability to western lifestyle (including shared beliefs in western Christianity, women’s empowerment) that enable them to maximize the opportunities in Canada.
– Glenda Lynna Anne Tibe Bonifacio, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Women and Gender Studies, Research Affiliate, Prentice Institute for Global Population and Economy, University of Lethbridge.

Labour migration has been regarded as vital to the Philippine economy for decades, relieving pressure on un- and under-employment in the country and contributing to the economy through the receipt of remittances from overseas workers. The Philippine government has developed a highly sophisticated state apparatus whose aim is to facilitate labour migration. Among its activities, state agencies engage in ongoing surveillance of the global economy to determine emerging markets and to identify the types of skills that will be in demand in order to prepare Filipino labour migrants for overseas deployment.
Furthermore, the state regulates labour recruitment agencies who “sell” Philippine labour abroad and broker employment contracts across international borders. For their part, employers may express a preference for Filipino workers because of their facility in English and their generally high level of education.
– Denise L. Spitzer, Ph.D., Canada Research Chair in Gender, Migration and Health, Associate Professor, University of Ottawa