India, China trade places and Brazil gains ground as top sources of permanent residents to Metro Vancouver

Julia Moioli and her husband were in search of adventure, access to nature and a better future when they moved to Metro Vancouver from São Paulo, Brazil, last August. 

Moioli, 24, says jobs were plentiful in São Paulo, but political turmoil after Brazil's national elections in 2018 left the young couple feeling uneasy.

"It's very complicated with politics in Brazil right now and doesn't seem to get any better," said Moioli, who now studies tourism at Capilano University. Her husband quickly landed a job as a data analyst shortly after they arrived.

In 2019, about 1,275 Brazilians immigrated to Metro Vancouver and became permanent residents, according to data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada from the past decade.

Julia Moioli

Brazil is now sixth on the list of countries of origin for permanent residents moving to the region — edging out Taiwan, Iraq and Russia from the top 10. Vietnam and Ireland also made their way to the top of the list.

Over that same period, immigrants from India have outpaced those from China to become the top source of permanent residents in Metro Vancouver. 

Immigration experts say myriad factors have contributed to differences in immigration patterns to the region, from political turmoil abroad to changes in Canadian immigration policy.

Daniel Hiebert, professor of geography at the University of British Columbia, says major adjustments made to the Canadian immigration system in 2015, when Express Entry was first implemented, are likely a major contributing factor. 

"It kind of changed the foundations of the system," Hiebert said. 

What is Express Entry?

Express Entry uses a point system based on attributes like education, language and work experience, but immigration officials can skim from the best applicants every two weeks.

Under the old point system, applicants had to meet a minimum point threshold and were then added to an ever-growing wait list.

With Express Entry, those who make the cut are offered an invitation to apply for permanent residency. If they don't get that invitation within six months of their initial application request, they start from scratch and are added to a new pool of applicants.

"The new system is really designed for the computer age right from the get-go," Hiebert said. "It's just a simple little click on a mouse and everything is ranked."

'Model immigrants'

Satwinder Bains, director of the South Asian Studies Institute at the University of the Fraser Valley, says Indian immigrants were poised to benefit from Canada's policy changes. 

Indian immigrants have many of the attributes that gain major points under Express Entry, Bains says — because of India's demographic profile and colonial history, applicants tend to be young, speak English and have benefited from India's public education system. 

"The success for Indian students who come to Canada is almost like a given," Bains said. 

Bains says Canada is an attractive option for many Indians who want to leave behind the corruption and systemic flaws they see in their home country. 

'Integrating well'

Hiebert says political situations abroad are definitely a driving factor for who comes to Canada.

Countries like Brazil — which have recently experienced political turmoil but also have a high percentage of young, skilled applicants like Moioli and her husband — can supply larger numbers of immigrants than they have in the past and edge out other countries from the top 10 list.

Carlos Teixeira, also a geography professor at UBC, agrees that migration patterns in Metro Vancouver and the rest of Canada will continue to evolve, particularly with an increase of immigrants from Latin America.  

But Texeira thinks countries like India and China will likely continue to top Metro Vancouver's immigration list. 

"They have already established communities," he said. "They are well organized, they are integrating well into the tapestry of this country — and particularly Vancouver."