If you are wondering whether you can leave Canada while your application for citizenship is being processed, the answer is yes. You are permitted to leave while the application is processed, but there are a number of requirements you should be aware of. Failing to meet these requirements while your application is being processed, could result in your application being delayed or cancelled. You should be aware of what these requirements are, in order not to place your application for citizenship at risk.
Step 1: Maintaining Permanent Resident Status
Between the date you file your application for Canadian citizenship and the ceremony date when you take your Oath of Citizenship, you must maintain your permanent resident status. If for whatever reason, you lose your PR status before the date you are to take your Oath of Citizenship, then you cannot become a citizen. To maintain PR status, you must have met the following minimum residence obligations:
- If you have been a permanent resident of Canada for 5 or more years, you must have been physically present in Canada for a minimum of 730 days (2 years) out of the past 5 years.
- If you have been a permanent resident of Canada for less than 5 years, you will have to show that you will have been physically present in Canada for at least 730 days by the time the 5 years have been completed from the date you became a permanent resident.
*For the purposes of determining if your time spent outside of Canada is valid under immigration law, the definition of “child” changed on August 1, 2014. Before that date, it meant a person under 22 years. For anyone who spends time outside Canada under the permanent resident obligations, after August 1, 2014, “child” means a person under the age of 19 years.
Your time spent outside Canada may be counted as irrelevant in terms of your permanent residence obligations – that is, every day will count towards your minimum total of 730 days spent in Canada – if you meet certain conditions:
- Option I: If you accompanied a Canadian citizen who is your:
- Common law partner
- Parent: if you are under the age of 19 and the time spent occurred on or after August 1st, 2014.
- You will have to provide supporting documents that show:
- The person you that you are accompanying is a Canadian citizen, and
- You are the spouse, common law partner, or child of that person.
- Some examples of supporting documents you can use:
- Marriage license (mandatory)
- Evidence of common law partnership (mandatory)
- Child’s birth certificate, baptismal document, adoption papers or legal guardian papers (mandatory)
- All passports or other travel documents used by the person you are accompanying in the 5 years previous to your citizenship application (mandatory)
- Documents that show the Canadian citizenship of the person you are accompanying, including the date they became a Canadian citizen (mandatory)
- Evidence of the residential address of the person you are accompanying in the 5 years previous to your citizenship application (mandatory)
- School records, Employment records, Association or Club memberships, and any other documents you feel help prove your case
- Option II: you were employed outside Canada if, in your employment:
- You are an employee of, or under contract to: a Canadian business, or the Public Service of Canada, a Province or a Territory of Canada, and
- As part of your employment you are assigned full-time to: a position outside Canada, an affiliated enterprise outside Canada, or a client of the Canadian business or public service outside Canada.
- As supporting documentation you must provide a letter signed by an official of the Canadian business or public service stating:
- Position and title of the official signing the letter
- Nature of the business of the company or public service
- Details of your assignment abroad
- Confirmation that the business entity and your assignment were not created specifically to allow you to travel abroad and still fulfil your permanent resident requirements
- Other supporting documentation can include:
- Articles of incorporation
- Partnership agreements
- Canadian corporate notices of Income Tax Assessment
- Employee contracts
- Contracts between the Canadian business and any clients abroad involved in your assignment abroad
- Pay statements
- Canadian notice of Income Tax Assessment
- T4 Slips
- Option III: you accompanied a Permanent Resident outside of Canada, as long as:
- The person you accompanied is your; spouse, common law partner, or parent (as long as you are under 19 years of age) and
- During the period abroad that you accompanied them they were: an employee of a Canadian business or of a Canadian, provincial, or territorial public service
- Supporting documents must prove that:
- The person who is accompanying you is a permanent resident
- You are; the spouse, common law partner, or child of that person
- The permanent resident you are accompanying meets their own residency requirements
- Supporting documents include:
- Marriage licences, or evidence of common law partnership (mandatory)
- Child’s birth certificate, baptismal document, adoption papers or legal guardian documents (mandatory)
- Passports or other travel documents used by the person you are accompanying for the 5 years previous to your citizenship application (mandatory)
- Documents showing the person you are accompanying meets their own residency obligations
PLEASE NOTE: Maintaining your permanent resident status in Canada is not enough to qualify for citizenship. If you barely qualify for citizenship on the residence requirement, DO NOT TRAVEL while the application is processing.
Step 2: Ensuring your PR card does not expire while abroad
If your PR card expires while you are abroad it does not mean you lose PR status. You will, however, have to apply for a travel document. This is because permanent residents returning to Canada by airplane, boat, train, or bus, must show a valid, non-expired, PR card. If your PR card expires while you are abroad, IRCC will only mail a replacement card to a Canadian address. You will instead have to apply for a travel document. Go here for further information on how to apply.
In order to avoid having to apply for a travel document, you should check the expiry date on your PR card. If it is less than 6 months away, you can apply for a new card before leaving Canada. You will have to:
- Get the application package for a new PR card. Be sure to include clear photocopies of your passport or travel documents, as well as copies of the travel documents you were using when you became a permanent resident. Please note the photo requirements are not the same as passport photos. Include any other documents required in your document checklist that accompanies the package.
- Pay your application fees online or at a financial institution in Canada. If paying at a Canadian financial institution you will need Form IMM 5401.
- Mail the application to the address given in the application package you receive. Go here for more information on the application procedure for a new PR card.
- You may qualify for Urgent Processing of a PR card application if: you are travelling within the next 3 months, and you will be returning to Canada in a commercial vehicle like an airplane, boat or bus. Go here for more information.
If you will be returning to Canada by private vehicle by land (in your personal car from the United States), you do not need to show a PR card at the border in order to enter Canada. You must have one of the following documents however:
- Record of Landing (IMM 1000)
- Confirmation of Permanent Residence (IMM 5292, or IMM 5688)
- You will have been given these documents if:
- You applied from overseas at the same time as your visa
- You applied from within Canada, when you landed at your local visa office
- You will be interviewed by an immigration official at the border to make sure you meet all the residency requirements.
Step 3: Handling Letters, Notices and Events
IRCC only mails letters, notices, and other material to addresses in Canada. If they require a response within a certain period of time, and you do not respond within that required period, then your application for citizenship will be cancelled by the immigration authorities. You should try to leave a Canadian address in order to receive any correspondence from IRCC and have a person who can forward you the correspondence from that address, or some similar arrangement that allows you to respond in time.
If you hire a representative, their office can be your mailing address in Canada.
If you cannot attend an event like an interview, or a citizenship test, or a ceremony date, you must reschedule these events to enable you to attend them. If you miss an event, you must contact the IRCC Call Centre to reschedule the event as soon as possible. You must also have a reasonable excuse for missing one of these events. This excuse must be deemed reasonable by IRCC, or else your file can be closed. For example, a vacation is not usually considered a reasonable excuse for missing your citizenship test, interview, or oath. The number is:
- 1 888 242 2100
- Call Centre agents are available from Monday to Friday 8 AM – 4 PM local Canadian time