How to Travel Without a Valid PR Card

Permanent Residents of Canada require a valid PR card in order to board a commercial airline, train or bus that is travelling to Canada. What do you do if you suddenly need to travel even though you don’t have a valid PR card?

Travel without a valid PR card in Canada

Once you become a Permanent Resident of Canada, you will automatically receive a PR card that is valid for 5 years. Before it expires, or if you lose that card, you need to apply for a new one so that you can travel outside of Canada and return home again without any problem. What do you do if you suddenly need to travel even though you don’t have a valid PR card? While there is no problem if you want to leave Canada anytime, you won’t be able to return by commercial airline, train or bus unless you can produce a valid PR card.

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, you used to be able to travel to Canada with only your passport and there were no issues. With the introduction of the eTA, if you are from a visa exempt country, you must now have a valid eTA that is linked to your passport before you will be able to board a commercial carrier for a trip to Canada. This is where your issue lies. As a Permanent Resident of Canada, you cannot obtain an eTA. 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.

Apply for a Travel Document to Canada

The official process for Permanent Residents who are outside of Canada and need to return without a valid PR card is to apply for a Permanent Resident travel document. You will have to submit the application to the Visa Application Center responsible for the Canadian visa office that is nearest to where you are. These applications are usually processed on an expedited basis, but even so they could take a week or two to be issued. It’s a good idea to apply as soon as you arrive overseas so that you don’t encounter any delay with your return travel plans.

In order to be successful with your application for a Travel Document, you will need to meet your residency requirement, which means you must be able to demonstrate that you have lived in Canada for at least 2 years within the past 5 year period. If you became a PR 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 documentation includes pay stubs, bank statements, Canadian tax returns or any other documents that show you had your feet on the ground in Canada.

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 more option available to you.

Travel to the United States and drive into Canada

The PR card is not required in order to enter Canada, it is only required in order to board a commercial transport carrier that is travelling to Canada. Therefore, it is possible for Permanent Residents of Canada to enter the country by driving 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. 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. Once at the border, you should inform the officer that you are a Permanent Resident and they will look up your information in the computer system. Permanent Residents are guaranteed entry into Canada, so although you might encounter some additional questions about your travel, in the end you should be allowed to enter.

It’s important to remember that a Permanent Resident must meet residency obligations in order to maintain PR 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 circumstances. If you do not meet this requirement, then travel outside of Canada is definitely not recommended, as you will likely be refused a travel document or receive a notice that your PR status will be revoked unless you appeal. The safest option is to remain inside Canada until you do meet the residency requirement, and then apply for a new PR card before you leave the country.

The Way Immigration has assisted many stressed-out travelers 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.



Fran Wipf is an expert in Canadian immigration matters. She was licensed as an immigration consultant in 2008, and since that time, she has assisted thousands of individuals, families and businesses to find Canadian immigration success. You can learn more about Fran, and the services she offers, at


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