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Every new permanent resident of Canada is issued a Permanent Resident card, or PR card, that they can use to prove their status in Canada.

Your Canada PR card is an important document. Here’s why.

Permanent residents of Canada must show their PR card when checking in for a flight to Canada, or they will not be allowed to board the plane. Even if a permanent resident is from a country which is considered visa-exempt, they have to show their PR card to fly to Canada.

(OK, it may be possible to travel to Canada without a PR card by applying for a Permanent Resident Travel Document, but this process should be avoided if at all possible, as it entails more documents, forms, fees, and deadlines. As a new permanent resident of Canada, you’ve probably had enough of all that!)

Permanent residents of Canada are also expected to show their PR card at the land border if entering from the United States. However, permanent residents may be allowed to enter Canada via the land port of entry (i.e. border crossing) from the US even if they do not have a valid PR card – but it’s always simpler to have your PR card with you.


Read more: You may hear about the “Canadian Green Card”. Make sure you know the difference between a Permanent Resident card and a Green Card.

Keeping your PR status in Canada

In order to keep their PR status, a permanent resident must demonstrate that they have been physically present in Canada for at least 730 days (i.e. two years) during the five years prior to applying for a new Canada PR card. These 730 days don’t need to be continuous. Some of your time abroad may count towards the 730 days (see below for more).

Current Processing times for PR card applications are approximately 4 – 6 weeks. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) does accept requests for urgent processing in limited situations, such as:

  • Death or illness of a family member
  • Travel for work or business
  • Meeting employer requirements to remain employed

Travel for vacations, no matter how much money has already been paid, or any other non-essential travel will not be considered for urgent processing.

PR card applications with requests for urgent processing have to include a formal request for urgency as well as documentation of the circumstances.

Can time outside Canada count towards renewal of PR status?

If a Canadian permanent resident has been outside Canada more than they are allowed, they may still fall under one of the legal exemptions that allow permanent residents to maintain their status in Canada, such as:

  • Spending time or living outside Canada with a spouse or common-law partner who is a Canadian citizen
  • Working full time for a Canadian company or government that has sent you outside Canada as part of your work
  • Being married to another permanent resident who works outside Canada for a Canadian business or government
  • Being a child under 18 spending time or living outside Canada with a parent who is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident as described above

While permanent residents in any of the above situations are legally able to apply for a new PR card using one of these exemptions, their PR card application has to contain a lot more additional evidence and supporting documents than a normal PR card application.

Applying for a Canadian PR card on Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds

Even if you do not fall under one of these exemptions to the residency obligation to maintain PR status, you may still be able to apply to renew your PR card on Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds. If an applicant for a PR card is found to have sufficient Humanitarian and Compassionate considerations, then this will overcome any breach of the residency obligation – even if they have been outside Canada for the entire five years preceding their application.

Factors that officers consider when deciding whether to grant relief on Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds include:

  • How long an applicant has been outside Canada
  • The reason that they left Canada
  • The applicant’s level of social and economic establishment outside Canada
  • The best interest of a child directly affected by the decision

PR card applications submitted on Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds must include substantial documentation of why the applicant meets the requirements for consideration, as well as evidence of their circumstances.

PR card applications with H&C considerations have no guaranteed processing time or service standard – they take as long as they take, and processing times can even approach two years.

Cassandra Fultz is Managing Partner at Doherty Fultz Immigration, a Toronto-based regulated Canadian immigration consultancy. You can book a consultation with Doherty Fultz Immigration here.

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