Each year, hundreds of thousands of newcomers move to Canada intending to settle here permanently. Some apply for permanent residence (PR) directly, while others come to Canada through temporary pathways, such as on work permits or study permits and then later qualify for PR. Getting permanent residence is your first step towards officially becoming Canadian, and many permanent residents go on to apply for Canadian citizenship.
But what does it mean to be a permanent resident of Canada? In this article, we talk about the difference between temporary residence, permanent residence, and citizenship in Canada. We also explore the rights and responsibilities of Canadian permanent residents and share information about applying for a PR card and maintaining permanent residence status.
In this article:
What is permanent residence in Canada?
A permanent resident (PR) of Canada is a person who has immigrated to Canada and received permanent residence status in the country. This means, you don’t require a visa or temporary residence permit to live (and work) in Canada, and as long as you maintain your PR status, you can stay in Canada permanently.
As a permanent resident, you are still a citizen of another country, but once you meet the physical residence requirement and other eligibility criteria for Canadian citizenship, you may qualify to apply for citizenship. That said, permanent residents enjoy most of the rights and freedoms given to Canadian citizens, with a few exceptions.
Typically, permanent residence status is granted for five years. If you don’t apply for citizenship during that time, you can renew your PR status, provided you’ve lived in Canada for at least two out of the preceding five years.
The difference between temporary and permanent residence in Canada
Although both temporary and permanent residence programs allow newcomers to enter and live in Canada, the particulars of these statuses differ significantly. The most important difference is that temporary residents, including work permit and study permit holders, cannot continue to stay in Canada beyond the validity of their permit and visa. Here’s an overview of how temporary and permanent residence in Canada is different:
|Renewing your status
||Status can be renewed on an ongoing basis, provided you meet the criteria for maintaining your PR status.
||Your status in Canada is valid for the duration of your work or study permit. You must leave Canada after your permit and/or visa expires.
In some cases, you may be able to extend or reapply for temporary residence or qualify for PR.
|Working and studying in Canada
||Permanent residents can freely work for any employer in Canada or enrol in any study program at a Canadian university or college.
PRs pay domestic tuition fee, which is lower than that for international students.
|Temporary residents require a permit to work or study in Canada. These permits may restrict the number of hours you can work, the work you can do, and the employer you can work for.
International students must pay a higher tuition fee compared to domestic students.
||Permanent residents enjoy most rights that apply to citizens, with a few exceptions.
||Temporary residents cannot vote in Canada, they may not be covered by all social benefits, and may face restrictions on their ability to work, study, or relocate.
For instance, in many provinces, international students aren’t covered by provincial healthcare.
Is permanent residence the same as Canadian citizenship?
Permanent residence in Canada is different from Canadian citizenship in several ways, including:
- Citizenship status lasts forever but your permanent residence must be maintained and renewed. For instance, if you’re a permanent resident of Canada and decide to return to your home country for a few years, you may not be able to renew your PR status if you do not meet the physical residency requirement.
- Canadian citizens enjoy certain rights that permanent residents are not eligible for. For instance, unlike PRs, citizens can vote in elections, get a Canadian passport, or stand for public office in Canada.
- A child born abroad to a Canadian citizen is eligible for Canadian citizenship from birth. However, if a Canadian permanent resident gives birth outside Canada, the child does not automatically qualify for citizenship.
As a permanent resident, you can qualify for citizenship once you’ve met the minimum physical residency requirement of 1095 days (or three full years). Note that if you lived in Canada before you became a permanent resident, you may be eligible to partially count that time as well. You must also meet other eligibility criteria such as passing the citizenship test, proving your language ability, filing taxes (usually for three years), and taking the citizenship oath.
What is a Canadian permanent resident card?
A permanent residence card is an identification card that proves your PR status in Canada. You’ll also need your PR card, along with your foreign passport, to re-enter Canada after travelling to a different country.
Your PR card (or your Confirmation of Permanent Residence) can also be shown as proof of your status in Canada when you apply for provincial health insurance, for a Canadian driver’s licence, to register your children in school, or for certain financial products.
How can I get a permanent resident card?
You can only get a PR card if you have been selected for permanent residence in Canada.
To get your permanent resident card, you must first come to Canada with your Confirmation of Permanent Residence (CoPR) and passport. Depending on which country you’re immigrating from, you may also need a visa or an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to enter Canada.
At your port of entry, which can be the airport or the Canadian border, immigration officers will review your documents and conduct a brief interview before processing your PR card application. You’ll need to provide a Canadian address (this can be your temporary accommodation address) and will receive your PR card by mail in a few weeks.
If you’re already living in Canada on a work permit or study permit and have just been approved for permanent residence, you’ll receive email communication from the IRCC to confirm your PR status virtually, through the IRCC portal.
Your rights as a permanent resident of Canada
Once you become a permanent resident of Canada, you will enjoy certain rights and freedoms in the country. These include:
- The freedom to travel and live anywhere in Canada with no restrictions.
- Access to social benefits, including publicly funded healthcare in your province, free public education for children, etc.
- Financial and tax benefits and credits for eligible permanent residents, including registration to programs such as Old Age Security (OAS), Canadian Pension Plan/Quebec Pension Plan (based on your employment status), Canada Child Benefit (CCB), and more.
- The right to purchase a home in Canada. Effective January 1, 2023, the federal government placed a two-year ban on the purchase of property in Canada by non-residents and temporary residents (with some exceptions).
- The freedom to work for any employer in Canada. You must, of course, go through the employer’s recruitment process and get a job offer first. However, Canadian employers don’t need a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to hire PRs.
- The freedom to study at any university or college in Canada. Educational institutions have different eligibility criteria and you must first get accepted into a study program & pay domestic tuition fees. However, fees for domestic students are usually much lower than what international students pay.
- The opportunity to qualify for Canadian citizenship after meeting physical residency and other requirements.
- Freedom and protection under Canadian law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Your responsibilities as a permanent resident of Canada
Permanent residence in Canada also comes with certain responsibilities, such as:
- Paying income tax and other indirect taxes, including Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Harmonized Sales Tax (HST).
- Respecting all federal, provincial, and municipal laws.
- Maintaining your PR status. In order to do so, you must be physically present in Canada for at least 730 days during the five-year validity of your PR card.
Restrictions for permanent residents in Canada
Some restrictions apply to permanent residents in Canada. These are things that only Canadian citizens are entitled to do, but not permanent residents, such as:
- You cannot vote in federal, provincial, or municipal elections.
- You cannot run for political office.
- You cannot get a Canadian passport.
- You cannot qualify for jobs that require high-level security clearance.
- You cannot be called for jury duty.
How to maintain your permanent residence status in Canada
Unlike citizenship, your status as a permanent resident of Canada has to be maintained. To maintain your PR status, you must be physically present in Canada for at least 730 days (two years) during the last five years. The 730 days don’t need to be continuous.
In some cases, time spent outside Canada may also count towards your physical residency requirement to maintain your PR status, such as:
- If you were working abroad full-time for a Canadian organization or government.
- If you travelled abroad with your spouse or partner who is a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident working abroad full-time for a Canadian company or government.
- If you are a dependent child travelling abroad with a parent who is a Canadian citizen or a PR working abroad full-time for a Canadian company or government.
How to renew your PR card in Canada
Your PR card is typically valid for five years, and many newcomers will apply for and receive Canadian citizenship during this time. However, if you do not qualify for, or plan to apply for citizenship, you may need to get your PR card renewed.
You can only renew your PR card if you meet all of the following criteria:
- You maintained physical residence in Canada for at least 730 days in the preceding five-year period.
- Your PR card has expired or is about to expire in the next nine months.
- You have not lost or relinquished your PR status or become a Canadian citizen.
- You are currently in Canada.
To renew your PR card, you’ll need to submit an application online through the IRCC portal and pay a $50 processing fee.
Travelling outside Canada without your PR card
As a permanent resident of Canada, there may be certain situations where you find yourself travelling abroad and returning to Canada without your PR card. For instance, you may need to leave Canada before your PR card arrives in the mail, or might forget your PR card at home or misplace it while travelling.
Although re-entering Canada is significantly easier if you have your PR card with you, you can also prove your permanent residence status at the Canadian border or port of entry using a Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD).
You can get a PRTD if you meet all of the following conditions:
- You are a permanent resident of Canada and can confirm your status.
- You are currently outside Canada.
- You are not in possession of a valid Canadian PR card.
- You have met (or will meet) the physical residency requirement to maintain your PR status.
- You haven’t lost your PR status and are not planning to give it up.
- You are not a Canadian citizen yet.
- You have submitted an application and paid the $50 application fee to get a PRTD.
Do you lose your permanent residence status if your PR card expires?
One question many newcomers ask is what happens if your PR card expires. You do not automatically lose your PR status when your PR card expires or if you don’t maintain your status.
You can only lose your status as a permanent resident of Canada if:
- There’s an inquiry on your status or a Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD) appeal, and an adjudicator determines that you no longer qualify as a permanent resident. This may happen if you travel outside the country and attempt to return to Canada on an expired PR card or apply for a PRTD after your PR card has expired.
- You voluntarily give up your permanent residence status.
- You are subject to a removal order or deportation order. This typically only happens if someone is found inadmissible to Canada on grounds of criminality, human rights violations, or if the government finds errors or misrepresentation in their PR application.
- You become a Canadian citizen.
In all of these cases, you’ll go through a formal process to lose or give up your status as a permanent resident of Canada.
Does Canada allow dual citizenship?
Although Canada allows dual citizenship, that may not be the case for your country of origin. Depending on the rules in your home country, you may have to give up your original citizenship when you become a Canadian citizen. For newcomers from countries such as India and China, becoming a Canadian citizen means giving up your other citizenship.
As you settle down and restart your life in Canada, your permanent residence status will give you nearly all the rights that come with citizenship, plus a pathway to qualify for citizenship in just a few years.