Help! My PR has expired!
When a person obtains Permanent Resident status in Canada, they are issued a Permanent Resident (PR) card that is valid for 5 years. It seems those first 5 years can go by quickly because, on quite a regular basis, I receive emails from folks who are panicked to suddenly realize that their Permanent Resident card expired. They are afraid they have somehow lost their permanent residence in Canada.
The good news is that your PR card is not the same as your PR status. Just because your PR card has expired, doesn’t mean that you have lost your status. You may want to apply for a new PR card, but you are still a permanent resident until you do.
Understanding Permanent Resident (PR) Status – Does Permanent Residency Expire?
Once you become a Permanent Resident of Canada, you will remain a Permanent Resident of Canada until someone takes away your status. You will know that this has happened, as it’s a formal process with a number of different steps involved. It ends with a letter from the government officially advising you that you are no longer a Permanent Resident of Canada. Unlike temporary status, your PR status is not something that just disappears without any warning because you forgot an expiry date.
Can I lose my Permanent Resident Status?
This is not likely to happen for most people. The most common reasons to have your PR status revoked are for committing a crime, or for not spending the necessary 2 years inside Canada in any 5 year period of time. If you have been quietly minding your own business inside Canada for the past 5 years and simply forgot the expiry date for your PR card, you have nothing to worry about. There is no danger of you losing permanent resident status inside Canada when your PR card expires unless you are in trouble with the law.
The main purpose of the Permanent Resident (PR) Card
Valid PR cards allow you to travel back to Canada from abroad. Because you don’t have a Canadian passport yet as a PR, Canada provides the PR card as proof that those coming from outside Canada will be welcomed into Canada upon arrival. Commercial airlines are given significant fines if they allow someone to board an aircraft to Canada when that person doesn’t have the documents required.
So the PR card serves as your proof to the airline that you can return to Canada. Although a PR card may be a useful form of photo identification for other purposes inside Canada, its primary purpose is to enable you to return to Canada from abroad.
What happens if my PR card expires while I am inside Canada?
If you are inside Canada, you really don’t need a valid PR card for immigration purposes. As long as you are inside Canada, you are presumed to have PR status, and it’s not really that important to have a valid PR card. A valid card is only necessary if you plan to travel outside of Canada and intend to return. In that case, you should renew your PR card before you leave, and your new one will arrive in the mail. Canada also has an urgent processing system to allow people to renew their PR card quickly if they meet the residency requirements and require urgent travel.
How to re-enter Canada with an expired PR card
If you have to leave Canada and you don’t have a valid PR card, you cannot obtain a new card while outside Canada. Nor can you return to Canada with just your COPR, valid passport or other identity documents. But you have a couple of other options.
You can apply for a Permanent Resident Travel Document at the nearest Canadian visa office, once you are outside Canada. These applications are normally processed quickly, and you will be issued a one-time travel document to enable you to return to Canada.
The second option is to travel to the United States and then travel by car to a Canadian land border. Because you are a Permanent Resident, you are entitled to enter Canada at any border. The border officers will need to verify your other ID documents and confirm that you still are a Permanent Resident of Canada – do you meet your residency obligations? Once they are satisfied that you are a Permanent Resident, you will be allowed back into the country even without a valid PR card.
Can I work in Canada if my PR card has expired?
Yes, as mentioned above, the PR card itself does not determine your status. If you are inside Canada and your permanent resident card has expired (0r perhaps was lost or stolen), and no one has officially taken away your PR status – then you are presumed to be a Permanent Resident of Canada and it is legal for you to work inside Canada. It is probably still a good idea to renew in case you need to travel in future, as the processing time can be several months, longer in complex cases where it is not clear you met the residency obligations.
Your SIN number does not expire when your PR card expires. When you became a Permanent resident, you were issued a permanent SIN number, and you can continue to use that SIN number even without a valid PR card.
A professional immigration consultant can advise you to avoid problems when travelling. The Way Immigration is happy to help you understand your status in Canada, and assist you to obtain the necessary documents to prove your immigration status. We encourage this even when doing your own process, or we can prepare your application package for you. Arrange an appointment today with one of our Canadian immigration experts, and gain the peace of mind that comes from understanding exactly what’s important for your specific situation.