Need to leave Canada while waiting for your Permanent Resident card? You need the card as proof of your PR status to board a commercial airline, train or bus that is travelling to Canada. What do you do if you suddenly need to travel outside of Canada and you don’t have a valid PR card ?
Once you become a Permanent Resident of Canada, you will automatically receive a PR card that is valid for 5 years. You may renew it up until you become a Canadian citizen. Before the card expires, or if you lose your card, you need to apply for a new one so you can travel outside Canada and return to Canada without any problem.
But what do you do if you suddenly need to travel outside of Canada and you do not have a valid PR card? Although travelling outside Canada without a valid PR card is never advisable, it will sometimes be necessary. For instance, there be a medical emergency in your family and there is simply no time to make a PR card application, even the type of PR card application that can be requested for urgent travel.
While there is no problem leaving Canada any time, you won’t be able to return by commercial airline, train or bus unless you can produce a valid PR card or you take the time to obtain a permanent resident travel document from an overseas Canadian visa office.
Why can’t I just use my passport like I used to when travelling to Canada?
It’s true that if you are from a visa exempt country, travel outside of Canada used to be easier. You were able to return to Canada with your passport only, and there were no issues. With the introduction of the eTA, those from a visa exempt country must now have a valid eTA that is linked to your passport before you can board a commercial carrier to travel to Canada. This is where your issue lies. As a Permanent Resident, you cannot obtain an eTA to travel to Canada. The eTA is only available for foreign nationals, not permanent residents. If you try to obtain an eTA by stating that you are not a Permanent Resident, you can get yourself into some serious trouble for misrepresentation.
Permanent residents outside the country need the permanent resident card to travel to Canada on a commercial carrier. Without it your options are very limited, as below.
Apply for a Permanent Resident Travel Document to Canada
Canada Immigration has an official process for Permanent Residents who are outside Canada without a valid PR card. They must apply to a visa office abroad for a Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD). These are considered travel documents and are accepted by airlines and other commercial carriers around the world to allow you to board.
The process to apply for a Permanent Resident Travel Document is only available from outside Canada. It is not possible to submit the application to apply for a PRTD before you leave.
You will need to submit the PRTD form, the $50 fee and your identification documents to the Visa Application Centre abroad that is nearest to you. You can find information about the forms and process to obtain this document on the website of the Visa Application Centre.
When you apply for a PRTD, you can expect in most cases it will be processed on an expedited basis. Even so, the processing time can be a week or two before the travel document will be issued. This is an estimate – the processing time can be considerably longer in some cases. It is a very good idea to submit your application for yourself and your family members as soon as you arrive overseas so that you don’t encounter any delays with your return trip.
To be successful in obtaining the Travel Document, you must be able to prove you are a Permanent Resident and that you have met your residency obligation. This is them ain concern of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) t – that you have met the residency requirement to maintain your Canadian PR status. This means you can demonstrate that you have lived in Canada for at least 2 years within the past 5 years immediately before applying for the travel document. If you became a permanent resident less than 5 years ago, then you must demonstrate that you will be able to live in Canada for at least 2 years before the initial 5 year period expires.
Acceptable documents to show this include pay stubs, bank statements, Canadian tax returns or any other documents that show you had your feet on the ground in Canada. If approved, you will be issued a one-time travel document to return to Canada.
For those who have not met the residency obligation, it it possible to try and show this was for reasons outside your control, and request the PRTD on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. This is risky, as your Canadian permanent residence can be revoked if they disagree.
If you don’t have enough time to apply for a Travel Document while you are overseas, but you have permission to travel to the United States, there is one other option available to you.
Travel to the United States and drive into Canada
The PR card is not required as proof of your PR status to enter Canada once you are at a Canadian border. It is only required to board a commercial transport carrier, not a private vehicle, that is travelling to Canada. Therefore, it is possible for Permanent Residents of Canada to enter the country by driving in a private vehicle through a land border with the United States. The catch is that you first have to be eligible to travel to the United States, with a valid entry visa or ESTA, and of course your passport,
You will also need a ride from wherever your travel takes you to the Canadian border – which can be obtained by renting a car, taking a taxi or Uber, or asking a friend to pick you up in their private vehicle. Once at the border, you should inform the officer of your status, namely that you are a Permanent Resident and you wish to re-enter Canada. They will look up your information in the computer system. You do not need a valid permanent resident card.
As long as your permanent resident status was never officially taken away (for example, through serious crime or not having enough days of physical presence in Canada) then all Permanent Residents are guaranteed entry into Canada. You may encounter some additional questions from Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) about your travel, but in the end you should be granted entry.
You must meet the Residency Requirement before you travel
It’s important to remember that every Permanent Resident must meet the residency requirements in order to maintain their permanent resident status. This means you must have your feet on the ground in Canada for 2 years out of every five-year period, except in very specific cases. If you do not meet this requirement, then travel outside Canada is definitely not recommended, as re-entry cannot be certain.
If you apply for a PRTD, and have not met the residency obligation, you will likely be refused. As well, you may receive a notice that your permanent residence will be revoked unless you appeal (an appeal is possible on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, but this is very lengthy process, and there must be exceptional circumstances).
The safest option for those who have not yet met the residency obligation is to not exit Canada at all. Simply remain inside Canada until you have accumulated enough days that you were physically present in Canada to meet the residency requirement. Then make your travel plans when your re-entry to Canada will be assured.
You never want to travel outside of Canada without a valid PR card if you can help it. If your PR card is about to expire soon, you should apply to renew it before the expiry date.
The Way Immigration has assisted many stressed-out travellers to return to Canada even without a valid PR card. If your travel plans cannot wait until you receive a new PR card, contact our office to discuss the travel option that will work best for your situation.