The difference between Canadian permanent residence, or PR, and Canadian citizenship may appear subtle, but in reality these much-coveted statuses differ in significant ways.

Canadian citizenship means that you are fully Canadian. As a Canadian citizen, you are entitled to vote and to stand for political office. You are able to obtain a Canadian passport and receive diplomatic support from embassies and consulates abroad, if necessary. You are able to leave Canada for as long as you wish and to re-enter Canada freely, no matter how long you have been away.

These are just a few of the privileges enjoyed by Canadian citizens, whether they were born citizens of Canada or became citizens of Canada later in life (a process known as naturalization).

Permanent residents, on the other hand, are people who have immigrated to Canada but who are not Canadian citizens — at least, not yet. Like citizens, permanent residents of Canada can avail of publicly-funded healthcare and education, among other privileges.

And, while permanent residents enjoy many other benefits similar to Canadian citizens, these come with some restrictions. For example, though permanent residents can live and work anywhere in Canada, some top public jobs — Prime Minister being one example, but there are others in the public service, including in intelligence — are restricted to Canadian citizens only.

Moreover, to keep your permanent resident status you must have been in Canada for at least two years, or 730 days, during the last five years. In some circumstances, some permanent residents can count time outside Canada towards this 730-day requirement, but this generally requires you to be working abroad for a Canadian business or government, or living with a spouse or partner who is themselves a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

This restriction sometimes places a dilemma on permanent residents who suddenly want or need to live outside Canada, for example to take up a job opportunity or provide care for a family member. Unless they ultimately satisfy the two-years-in-five requirement, they could lose their permanent resident status.

The good news for permanent residents who would like to become Canadian citizens is that Canada offers one of the most generous citizenship naturalization processes in the world. We have a whole guide on obtaining Canadian citizenship here.

And if you’re not yet a permanent resident, don’t worry, we’ve a whole guide on immigration to Canada here. You may need to obtain temporary status in Canada, such as being a foreign worker or international student, before becoming a permanent resident.

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