January 19, 2024

Provincial Nominee Program Retention Rates: Do Immigrants Stay in Their Chosen Province?

Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP) are popular pathways for skilled workers seeking permanent residence in Canada. Each province and territory in Canada, except for Quebec, operates its own PNP, inviting and nominating immigrants who align with their specific labor market needs and economic development goals. A key objective of the PNP is to encourage a more balanced distribution of new immigrants throughout the country, steering them away from the three major urban centers – Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal – and towards smaller towns and less populated regions. Alongside this goal, the PNP aims to foster the retention and integration of newcomers within their nominating province or territory.

While provincial nominees are expected to express a genuine intention to reside in their nominated province, there are no restrictions on their mobility once they obtain permanent residency status. This raises a crucial question: Do newcomers typically remain in their province of landing?

Key Findings

A recent study conducted by Statistics Canada examined this question, analyzing the retention rates of PNP immigrants in their chosen province of landing. The study utilized data from the Immigrant Landing File and tax records, employing three indicators of retention:

  1. One-year retention rate: The proportion of PNP immigrants who remained in their nominated province one year after landing.
  2. Five-year retention rate: The proportion of PNP immigrants who remained in their nominated province five years after landing.
  3. Ten-year retention rate: The proportion of PNP immigrants who remained in their nominated province ten years after landing.

The study's findings revealed that the retention rates of PNP immigrants in their nominating province or territory were generally high. The majority (89%) of provincial nominees who settled in 2019 stayed in their intended provinces or territories by the end of the year after landing. However, there was considerable variation across provinces and territories, ranging from 69% in Prince Edward Island to 97% in Ontario. British Columbia and Alberta also exhibited high retention rates, at 95% and 92%, respectively. Manitoba and Saskatchewan had retention rates of 88% and 78%, respectively.

The study further examined the retention rates of those nominees who remained in their province at the end of the first year. A significant proportion, in the mid-80% range, remained in that province five years later. However, the longer immigrants remained in Canada, the less likely they were to remain in their initial province of residence. For immigrants who landed in 2010, the one-year provincial retention rate was 95.8% among provincial nominees, the five-year rate was 88.7%, and the ten-year rate was 84.4%.

Provincial Retention Rates

The retention rates of PNP immigrants varied considerably across provinces and territories, influenced by several factors, including:

  1. Provincial economic opportunities and conditions: Provinces with stronger economies and more diverse employment opportunities tended to have higher retention rates.
  2. Province size: Larger provinces offered more locational choices for immigrants to seek economic opportunities within the province, reducing the need to move out of the province.
  3. City size: Retention rates tended to be higher in larger cities, such as Toronto and Vancouver, due to their diverse economies, cultural attractions, and established immigrant communities.

Among Canadian provinces, Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia consistently demonstrated the highest retention rates for Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) immigrants, while Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick exhibited the lowest retention rates. This retention gap widened over time, becoming more pronounced with each passing year since immigration.

Secondary Migration of Provincial Nominees

Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) immigrants contribute to the growth and development of provinces not only by settling there initially but also by migrating there from other parts of the country. This phenomenon, known as secondary migration, plays a significant role in shaping provincial demographics and economies.

Ontario stands out as a primary destination for the secondary migration of PNP immigrants. Within a year of landing, Ontario's PNP immigrant population grew by 23%, and by the fifth year, this increase reached 56%. Ontario's attractiveness stems from its diverse economy, vibrant cultural scene, and established immigrant communities.

Interestingly, Ontario was the only province to experience a net gain from secondary migration, surpassing the number of PNP immigrants leaving the province. This influx of skilled workers further fueled Ontario's economic and demographic expansion.


The Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) plays a pivotal role in Canada's immigration landscape, steering skilled workers towards smaller towns and less populated regions while addressing labor shortages. Understanding PNP retention and secondary migration patterns is crucial for informed immigration policies and provincial planning.

By tailoring recruitment strategies, investing in integration programming, and fostering interprovincial collaboration, provinces can optimize the PNP's effectiveness and maximize the benefits of immigration for both newcomers and the provinces that welcome them.

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