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Permanent residents and their travel rights

Permanent residents are defined as those who have come to Canada as either immigrants, refugees (who the Immigration Board has accepted as refugees) or as another eligible class, and have been granted the right to permanently live in Canada.

You must have permanent resident status before you can apply to become a Canadian citizen. However, permanent residents are still citizens of other countries.

In order to become a permanent resident, you have to apply through Immigration and Citizenship Canada.

As a permanent resident you have the right to enter the country and also leave for travel. However, if you are a permanent resident and want to live in another country, there are restrictions placed on you.

Living outside Canada as a permanent resident

Permanent residents can actually live outside of Canada. However, you must live in Canada for no less than two full years in a five year period. Your permanent resident status could well be rescinded if you spend more than two years outside of Canada. Note that the two years do not necessarily have to be continuous.

You need to be aware though that if you are absent from Canada you may be asked why you have been away for a lengthy amount of time.

You will need a permanent resident card, even if you are not living in Canada at the time.

Traveling outside Canada as a permanent resident

Same as with living outside of Canada, you can travel outside of Canada as long as you adhere to the time restrictions.

When you travel outside of Canada, you must have your Permanent Residence Card with you.

If you try to re-enter Canada after traveling, it is required that you show Canadian Border Services your card, otherwise you may not be let back into the country.

If you have lost the card or it has been stolen, you must get a Permanent Resident Travel Document before you can re-enter the country. This document usually is only to be used one time; you may have to explain yourself to immigration authorities if you use it more than once. In general, Immigration Canada wants you to have your card at all times.

Be aware that the following could also be counted towards the two year period spent outside of Canada:

  • If you travel with your husband or wife, who is a Canadian citizen;
  • A child that is travelling with either the mother or father who is a Canadian citizen;
  • If you are employed by, or under contract, to a Canadian company.

Losing permanent resident status

Permanent residents don’t have the same protections as Canadian citizens. If they commit a serious crime or other acts that may make them inadmissible to Canada, they may be asked to leave.

Note the following restrictions:

  • You fail to live in Canada for the two prescribed years within a five year period;
  • You have committed and are convicted of a serious crime and have been ordered to leave Canada; or
  • You have become a Canadian citizen.

If you have questions about how to become a permanent resident or your permanent resident status you should contact an Immigration lawyer.

Read more:

Understand Permanent Resident Status

Travelling with a Permanent Resident Card