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To Stay or Return: Migration Intentions of Students from People’s Republic of China in Saskatchewan, Canada


There is a growing policy concern in Canada regarding the facilitation of foreign students’ transition from temporary residents to permanent residents. Interestingly, academic attention to the issue is somewhat lacking. By focusing on the Chinese undergraduate student at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, this study attempts to identify the factors which influence their migration intentions. The findings confirm the important effects of students’ demographic characteristics, premove traits, Canadian experiences, parental expectations, as well as related aspiration factors. In addition, we find that female and male students are different from each other in terms of the factors that determine their intentions to stay in Canada. In light of the findings, we suggest that, in spite of gender differences, social and emotional adaptations are as critical as economic adaptation in facilitating temporary residents’ intentions to stay. Furthermore, we contend that changes in immigration policy to attract foreign students to stay do motivate their immigration intention to some extent, but we also recommend that extended research needs to be done to examine the effects of most recent policy changes on foreign students’ intended or actual migration.


Une préoccupation en matière de politique prend de l’importance au Canada; elle porte sur la facilitation de la transition du statut des étudiants étrangers, de résidents temporaires à résidents permanents. Fait digne de remarque, cette question n’attire pas beaucoup d’attention de la part du monde académique. Cette étude tente d’identifier les facteurs qui influencent les projets de migration des étudiants asiatiques du premier cycle à la University of Saskatchewan, au Canada. Les résultats confirment le rôle important des traits démographiques des étudiants, des caractéristiques de leurs vies avant leur arrivée au Canada, de leurs expériences au Canada, des attentes de la part des parents, ainsi que des facteurs liés aux souhaits pour l’avenir. De plus, nous avons trouvé que les facteurs qui influencent le désir de rester au Canada ne sont pas les mêmes pour les étudiants que pour les étudiantes. Compte tenu des résultats, nous proposons que, malgré les différences entre les hommes et les femmes, l’adaptation sociale et émotive est aussi critique que l’adaptation économique comme facteur qui contribue à faciliter la décision des résidents temporaires de rester. Nous affirmons également que les changements apportés aux politiques en matière d’immigration pour motiver les étudiants étrangers à rester ont, dans une certaine mesure, l’impact voulu. Toutefois, nous recommandons des recherches plus poussées pour déterminer l’effet qu’ont la plupart des changements de politiques sur les intentions de migration des étudiants.

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  1. Stocks—the number of persons, identified as foreign students, present in the CIC system on a specific date in each year of observation. The date chosen was December 1st. For a foreign student to be counted as present in the foreign student stock, he or she must have a valid student authorization on that date (Citizenship and Immigration Canada 2009).

  2. Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP) began in January 2005; it allows the Province of Saskatchewan to nominate applicants who are qualified to be landed immigrants under the criteria established by the province. The program can provide immigrant applicants with experiences or ties in Saskatchewan an alternate and quicker means of entry into Canada (Government of Saskatchewan 2005).

  3. The Off-Campus Work Permit Program was officially launched in April, 2006. It allows certain foreign students to work off campus while completing their studies (Citizenship and Immigration Canada 2006)

  4. The measurement of “English proficiency in China” combines two indicators: whether a student needed language training before entering University in Canada and their grades of entrance exam when getting into language training program in Canada (English-as-Second-Language program). The students who were able to enter University without language training are considered as achieving university’s requirement, and the students who needed language training program in order to get into university are classified into two levels based on their grades of entrance exam: relatively high grades are labeled as the intermediate level, and relatively low grades are labeled as the basic level.

  5. The Off-Campus Work Permit Program was officially launched in April 2006, but this policy was already well-known by the general public when this survey was conducted in the fall of 2005.


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Thanks to the voluntary participants in this study, we are able to complete this research based on such valuable data. We would also like to extend our appreciation to Peter Li and the three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions.

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Correspondence to Yixi Lu.

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Lu, Y., Zong, L. & Schissel, B. To Stay or Return: Migration Intentions of Students from People’s Republic of China in Saskatchewan, Canada. Int. Migration & Integration 10, 283–310 (2009).

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