Green Card [Public Domain]
Frequently the terms "green card" and "PR card" are used interchangeably. While the two documents are similar, they are not exactly the same thing.
A green card is the slang term for an identification card issued by the United States to immigrants who have been granted permanent status but who are not yet citizens. The name green card comes from the fact that the document itself was green between 1946 – 1964, and is now green again since 2010.
In Canada, a permanent resident card is issued for the same purpose – as identification for immigrants who can live in Canada permanently but who are not citizens.
The main difference between these two documents boils down to the way permanent residence is acquired and the obligations of permanent residents in each country. Besides the usual methods of immigration such as employment and family sponsorship, the United States famously employs a diversity visa lottery, better known as the "green card lottery." There is no such process in Canada for people to become permanent residents.
While permanent residents in both countries must meet certain obligations in order to maintain this status, the obligations themselves differ. In the United States, permanent residents must pay taxes to the US government on any money earned worldwide, just like US citizens. Whereas in Canada, permanent residents are not under any such obligation if they earn money outside Canada.
Permanent residents in the United States who are 18 years of age or older are also legally obligated to carry their permanent resident card on their person at all times, and must keep their card valid. In Canada, permanent residents do not need to carry their PR card at all unless they leave Canada in order to show it as proof of residence upon their return. In fact, it is not compulsory to maintain a valid PR card at all if they do not plan on leaving Canada.
Both the US and Canada oblige permanent residents to actually live in their respective country of permanent residence without being outside the country in order to maintain their status. However, these requirements are much more strict in the US, where permanent residents are expected not to leave the country for more than 12 months without applying for special documentation. Conversely, PR cards in the US are valid for 10 years while Canadian PR cards are valid for a maximum of 5 years.
Permanent residence is the final step before becoming a citizen of either Canada or the United States, and must be understood for the responsibility it is. For more information on permanent residence in Canada, visit our pr card page.