Permanent Residence Cards
Upon landing, all new immigrants to Canada are issued a Permanent Resident Card (PR Card). The PR Card is valid for five years and to renew it, permanent residents must demonstrate that they have complied with the residency requirements as set out in the Act.
Maintaining Permanent Residency
The law stipulates that the initial period of permanent residency lasts for five years. To maintain residency status thereafter, an individual must have resided in Canada cumulatively for at least two years out of the five year period; 730 days to be exact. This means that a person can travel in and out of Canada as long as they total 730 days spent in Canada by the end of the five year period. Exceptions to the 2 out of 5 rule include individuals who were 1) working overseas for a bona fide Canadian company, 2) were living abroad as spouses or common law partners of Canadian citizens, or 3) were living abroad as spouses or common law partners of permanent residents who were working for a Canadian company.
As can be seen, the residency requirements are in fact quite flexible, allowing newly landed permanent residents to literally turn around and return to their country of origin for a period of up to three years. The purpose behind the system is to allow individuals enough time to wrap up their personal and business affairs before making their final move to Canada.
Upon the expiry of the initial five year period, an application should be made for a new PR Card. If the applicant is in Canada, they should return their expired cards along with the application or, alternatively, hold on to their valid cards and surrender them when called to pick up their new cards. It should be noted that no renewed PR Cards are ever mailed to the applicant. Instead, he or she must show up in person at a local CIC office to pick them up.
If the applicant is residing outside of Canada and their PR Card has expired, an application must be made at the closest Canadian consulate for a Travel Document, which allows the individual to board an airplane to return to Canada (a valid PR Card is required to board any commercial carrier such as a plane, train, boat or bus). However, if the applicant is found to have not met the residency requirements (two years in Canada out of the five year period), the consulate may not only refuse to issue a Travel Document, it may in fact conclude that the applicant has lost their permanent resident status. In such situations, an appeal to the Immigration and Appeal Division can be filed within sixty days.
Individuals who are still in possession of a valid PR Card but are approaching the five year expiry date may also be subjected to an examination of their permanent resident status upon their arrival at a Canadian Port of Entry. If the examination leads the officer to believe that the residency requirements have not been met, he or she will issue an admissibility report, although the holder of a PR Card will still have the right to enter Canada to appeal the residency decision.
An individual who has met their residency requirements and has lived in Canada for three years may qualify for citizenship, although permanent residence status can be renewed indefinitely. Some individuals chose to remain as permanent residents when their country of origin does not allow for dual citizenship. To learn more about applying for Canadian citizenship, click here.