Maintaining Permanent Resident Status in Canada
You finally signed your Confirmation of Permanent Residence and received your permanent resident card in the mail. Congratulations!
Obtaining this status, which you have worked hard to get, marks the beginning of your new life in Canada. In order to keep it, however, there are certain requirements you need to meet.
What is a Permanent Resident (PR)
A PR is a person who has been granted permanent status in Canada but is not yet a Canadian Citizen. PRs are still citizens of other countries or they can be stateless. This means that a PR still needs a visa to travel to countries that require one. For example, a PR who is a citizen of the Philippines must obtain a visa to go to the USA, since the USA requires a visa for Filipino citizens to enter their country.
There are two documents that you will receive as a PR. The PR card serves as your official proof of status. It is usually valid for five years. PRs need to show a valid PR card whenever they travel as it is needed to re-enter Canada. The Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) is a record of obtaining PR status and does not expire. It is needed when you apply for Canadian citizenship and retirement pension, so it must be kept forever.
What PRs Can and Cannot Do
Although permanent residents enjoy similar privileges and benefits as Canadian Citizens, there are specific distinctions.
Permanent residents can:
- Live, work, and/or study anywhere in Canada
- Have protection under Canadian laws and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
- Receive government benefits (e.g. health care, pension, tax benefits/credits)
- Apply for Canadian citizenship
Permanent residents cannot:
- Vote or run for political office
- Hold some jobs that need a high-level of security clearance
Another important distinction is that PRs must meet residency obligations to maintain their status. PRs must be physically present in Canada for at least two years (730 days) within a five-year period.
Physical presence does not need to be continuous. Breaks are allowed, such as vacations outside Canada. There is also no specific limit on how long you can be out of Canada at a time. For example, a PR can be out of Canada continuously for 1,094 days (three years less one day) and keep their PR status if they remain in Canada for the remaining 730 days within their five-year period.
It would be good to point out here that the residency obligation to maintain your PR status is different from the residency requirement to become a Canadian citizen. You can remain as a PR even if you do not meet the requirement for citizenship. It is possible for a person to be a PR for many years without being eligible for Canadian citizenship. For example, a PR who is only in Canada for a total of 730 days at any five-year period can continue to be a PR but cannot apply to be a Canadian citizen.
The government can check if you meet the residency obligation whenever you enter Canada. They also check it when you apply to renew or replace your PR card. If you have been a PR for less than five years, you must show that you met or will meet the residency requirement for the five-year period after the date you became a PR. If you have been a PR for more than five years, then you must show that you met the residency requirement in the five-year period immediately before the date you are being examined (i.e. the date you came back to Canada or the date you applied for a PR card renewal).
There are several exemptions where a PR can count time spent outside Canada toward the residency obligation:
- You are accompanying your Canadian citizen spouse or common-law partner
- You are a child (under 19) and accompanying your Canadian citizen parent
- You are a full-time and ongoing employee of, or under contract to, a Canadian business or the federal/provincial government (there are specific definitions of a Canadian business)
- You are accompanying your spouse or parent who is a PR and is employed full-time by a Canadian business or the federal/provincial government
Loss of PR Status
PR status can be lost due to the following reasons:
- Did not meet residency obligations
- Committed a serious crime, or security, human, or international rights violations
- Misrepresented at any stage of one’s immigration or refugee process
It is important to note that PR status is not automatically lost. You also do not lose your PR status if your PR card expires (although it can cause complications if you are travelling with an expired PR card). PR status can only be lost after going through an official process, either through a tribunal hearing or by voluntary renunciation.
A tribunal hearing is where you will get an opportunity to present your case to an “adjudicator.” You are also allowed to put forward any humanitarian and compassionate factors, such as ties to Canada and best interest of children affected, that may justify keeping your PR status. The adjudicator will then decide on whether you can keep your PR status or not. If the decision is that you do not meet the residency obligation or that you are inadmissible, you will be given a removal order. In other words, your PR status is taken away and you need to leave Canada since you no longer have any status.
Voluntary renunciation, on the other hand, is a paper or online process. You can submit an application stating that you are giving up your PR status willingly. You can renunciate your status when: you are sure that you do not meet the residency obligations; you have no desire or intention to continue being a PR or live in Canada permanently; and you would now like to go to Canada temporarily. If your PR status has not been taken away or renounced formally, Canada will not be able to issue a temporary visa or eTA to you. You are still a PR, albeit one who does not meet the requirements to keep your status.
As each situation is different, I highly recommended seeking advice from an authorized and licensed immigration consultant if you have any questions regarding your PR status. The matters discussed here are for general information only and do not constitute legal advice.