Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship and Canada seems to be having problem processing Permanent Resident Cards (aka PR Cards). Processing times have shot up in the last month or so. While they are not giving out any specific reasons, we can speculate on why this is happening. But first, the facts:

Example PR Card Copyright Government of Canada

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada's sample PR Card via Cahk / Wimedia Commons

Let’s review processing times over the past several years to understand what’s been happening with PR cards:

date New pr cards renewals
July 2013 CIC 71 days 114 days
June 2014 CIC 94 days 105 days
June 2015 CIC 83 days 101 days
January 2016 CIC 100 days 191 days
February 2016 CIC 105 days 180 days

Woah! PR card renewals have almost doubled in terms of processing time in the last 6 months. What the heck could be causing this dramatic increase? And why is it mostly affecting renewals rather than new PR card processing times, which have also increased but relatively modestly?

 

Here are some possible reasons for the sudden increase in PR card renewal processing times – as well as the steady increase in New PR card processing times:

  • Not enough staff. As noted here, there seems to be a shortage of staff to process all these PR card applications – whether new or renewals. That means a very weak link in the chain that forces those waiting endlessly for their renewed PR cards to request special travel documents if a family emergency or a business trip comes up forcing them to travel abroad.
  • New PR Card specifications. Are the changes to the PR Card causing processing problems?
  • Is it also all about Residency Requirements? It may be that immigration officials in Canada are being doubly careful to see whether you have fulfilled your residency requirements as a permanent resident, seeing they are measured retroactively from the date you apply. 

 

Is the Residence Obligation the Issue?

Say that you have barely fulfilled the 2-of-the-last-5 years requirement, and then have left Canada for family or business reasons. You may have to apply for a new PR card from abroad if your card expires while you are overseas. (Something you are not supposed to do.) In that case, the 2 year residency requirement will be measured from the date you apply overseas, and you may no longer fulfill the 2 year requirement. For example:

Days physically present in Canada Status of residency requirement Minimum requirement to maintain pr status
737 days in the last 5 years as of March 1, 2016 Valid 730 days in the last 5 years
727 days in the last 5 years as of March 11, 2016 No longer valid 730 days in the last 5 years

In this example, the permanent resident left Canada on March 1, 2016 to travel abroad for a family emergency a week after she fulfilled her residency requirements. While abroad her PR card expired and, because it is a rolling date, when she applies for a new PR card or for a Permanent Resident Travel Document to be able to fly back to Canada, on March 11, 2016 she discovers that she no longer meets the residency requirements.

 

Whether residency requirements are a cause or an effect of increasing PR card processing times can be argued, but the point is that if you have PR status you should continually monitor your residency requirements and always ensure you have, at the very least, a 2 to 4 week cushion (in other words, at least 730 + 15 to 30 days = 745 to 760 days total). As well, given the long processing times you should renew your PR card 6 months in advance if you can. (Note that you may receive the Residency Determination even if you meet the Residency Obligation.)

 

The problem of course, is that in a hyper connected world with family and even work spread out across the globe, you can never be sure when you will have to travel suddenly and unexpectedly. This creates a direct conflict with Canada’s residency requirements for permanent residents. Try to over-fulfill your residency days by as many as possible, and get expert advice if your card has expired or you have to travel having barely been present in Canada the required 730 days.

And then, apply for citizenship as soon as you are able

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