Your PR Card is not the same as Your PR Status

If you do not renew your Permanent Resident (PR) Card, your status as a permanent resident is not affected. If you were a permanent resident on the day before your PR Card expires (every 5 years), then you are still one on the day it expires. This does not mean that permanent residence is unconditional. It is a conditional status with obligations. You must meet these obligations as a permanent resident, or your status will no longer be valid. Do not confuse these two issues: they are separate. Let’s examine them both.


What is a PR Card?

Permanent Resident Card

In the same way that a Canadian passport is proof of Canadian citizenship and thus used when travelling to and from Canada; a PR Card is proof of your status as a permanent resident of Canada. If a Canadian citizen loses or damages his or her passport, it does not mean they are no longer Canadian citizens. It does mean that if they want to travel to most places in the world and to return hassle-free to Canada, they need to replace their lost, stolen, or damaged passport. Likewise, if you lose or fail to renew your PR Card, your status as a permanent resident of Canada is unaffected. What it does mean is that if you wish to travel to and from Canada, you should apply for a new PR Card as proof of your status as a permanent resident. 


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Residency requirements and PR Cards

This brings up the issue of travel to and from Canada if you are a permanent resident. Travel abroad is what connects your status to your expired PR Card, if only indirectly. That’s because of the residency requirements in order to maintain your permanent residence status. 


Residency Obligation:

  • You must have lived in Canada for at least 730 days (2 years) out of the last 5 years if you have been a permanent resident for 5 years or more. OR
  • You must show you will meet the 730 days of physical presence in Canada during the 5 years from the date you became a permanent resident, if you have been a permanent resident for less than 5 years


Exceptions to the Residency Requirements:

These are special cases when days spent abroad can continue to count towards your residency requirements:

  • Accompanying a Canadian citizen outside of Canada: the Canadian citizen must be your spouse, common-law partner, or parent, if you are under 19 years old. You will need supporting documentation to show that they are a Canadian citizen and that you are the spouse, common-law partner, or child.
  • Employment abroad: you must be an employee, or under contract, of a Canadian business or the Public Service of the federal government, or a province or territory. The job must be full-time and can be with an affiliated enterprise outside Canada or a client of your Canadian employer or Public Service. You must provide extensive documentation about your position, the nature of your work and/or contract, and confirmation that the position abroad is not a make-work project primarily to allow you to continue to count days abroad towards your residency.
  • Accompanying a Permanent Resident abroad: the Permanent resident must be your spouse, common-law partner, or parent if you are under 19 years old. And must have been employed by a Canadian business, or Public Service of Canada or a province or territory while abroad. You must provide documentation proving that the person you are accompanying is a permanent resident, that you are the spouse, common-law partner, or child, and that the person you are accompanying has fulfilled their own residency requirements.
  • Humanitarian & Compassionate grounds: Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will consider compelling humanitarian and compassionate grounds for your not fulfilling your residency requirements. You will be notified if this additional assessment is required by CIC.

This means that if you travel extensively to and from Canada and spend considerable time abroad while a permanent resident, you run the risk of not fulfilling your residency requirements. This can call into question your status as a permanent resident of Canada, which can make returning to Canada more complicated. 

  • For example, if your PR Card expires while you are abroad and you are unsure if you have met your residency requirements, you will have to prove to immigration authorities on returning to Canada that you still have status as a permanent resident. In this case you must apply for a Permanent Resident Travel Document (IMM5524) from your local visa office abroad.
  • As of March 15, 2016, you will need a PR Card or PR travel document to board a flight to Canada if you are from a visa-free country; OR a PR Card and your foreign passport if you are from a visa-required country.

In other words, if travelling abroad as a permanent resident, you should ensure your PR Card is valid. As well, remember to update it within 9 months of the expiry date. This is to ensure that you have proof of status when returning to Canada.


If I stay in Canada do I lose any rights when my PR Card expires?

No, you do not lose anything when your PR Card expires. However, remember that a permanent resident is someone who has been granted permanent resident status through immigrating to Canada, but is not a Citizen of Canada. It is a conditional status, renewable every 5 years as long as you fulfill your residency and other requirements. Your rights as a permanent resident are:

  • Receive most of the government benefits Canadian citizens do, including Health Care;
  • Live, work and study anywhere in Canada;
  • Have protection under Canadian Law, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
  • Apply for Canadian citizenship.

In other words, you have most of the rights of a Canadian citizen – aside from voting and holding political office and doing high-security-clearance work – as a permanent resident.


How do I lose my PR status?

Notice that not renewing your PR Card is not on this list. However, you do have to prove to immigration authorities that you are maintaining your status, and a PR Card is the best proof of status you can have. In other words, it is not legally necessary, but it is very convenient to have a PR Card to ensure that immigration authorities (as well as provincial authorities such as health care regulators) remain convinced of your status as a permanent resident.

Also notice that if you do not meet your residency requirements, your loss of PR status is NOT automatic. Rather, there is a process that you must you go through before your status as a permanent resident is lost. As CIC states, unless you have gone through an official process, you have not lost your permanent resident status. You may not be eligible to return to Canada as a permanent resident, however, if you are living abroad when you fail to meet your residency requirements.

The process involves a consideration of humanitarian grounds as mentioned above, and will include the possibility of appealing to the Immigration Appeal Division. Only after the Immigration Appeal Division rules against your appeal, or you fail to file an appeal with them, is it the case that you lose your permanent resident status.

In other words, you might not meet the residency requirements, but still have valid PR status until your appeal is denied. The moral of the story: do not confuse PR status with your PR Card. They are not the same, even if they are linked to each other.

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