October 26, 2020

Three Myths and Facts About Canadian Permanent Residence That May Surprise You!

Posted by Legal Team - Bellissimo Law Group PC

Becoming a permanent resident of Canada is a huge immigration milestone. It means one can live, work or study anywhere in Canada and take advantage of most social benefits that Canadian citizens enjoy. It is also a step towards Canadian citizenship.[1] Being a Canadian permanent resident (“PR”) also comes with certain obligations. In general, PRs are required to be physically present in Canada for a total of 730 days (2 years) in the last 5 years.[2] There are exceptions for certain people, such as PRs who are outside Canada accompanying their Canadian spouses or common-law partners, or employed full-time by a Canadian business, among others.[3] However, the language used to describe these obligations can get confusing. Below are three common misunderstandings, or “myths”, about the requirements to fulfill to keep one’s PR status and the facts to dispel them.

Myth #1: You automatically lose your PR if you do not meet your residency obligation.

Fact: No. It is true that permanent residents of Canada must comply with their residency obligation.[4] However, a permanent resident does not lose their status unless the government informs them so at the end of an official process, which includes appeal routes.[5] As such, if you are a permanent resident and are concerned that you have not met your residency obligation, it is important to try and resolve your status, instead of assuming that you are no longer a permanent resident.

Myth #2: Your PR status expires when your PR card expires.

Fact: No. A PR card is just that – a card. It allows a permanent resident to prove their immigration status upon entering Canada.[6] PR cards are typically valid for 5 years, at the end of which they can be renewed. It is important to maintain a valid PR card to ensure one can prove their PR status when returning to Canada from abroad. However, it is only the card that expires at the end of 5 years, not one’s PR status.[7] A person’s PR status does not have an expiry date. This distinction is important: some permanent residents take the misguided step of applying to renew their PR cards, thinking that they would otherwise lose their PR status, even though they have not yet met their residency obligations discussed above. For many people, applying to renew their PR card before accumulating the necessary number of days in Canada to meet their residency obligation may lead to an investigation into their PR status, at the end of which they may indeed lose their PR status. It is therefore important to keep track of the number of days one spends in Canada before deciding to renew their PR card.

Myth #3: You lose your PR if you leave Canada and do not return within 6 months.

Fact: No, there is no obligation to return to Canada every 6 months to maintain one’s PR status. Perhaps this misunderstanding stems from a now-outdated law that required applicants to be present in Canada for at least 6 months for a certain number of years to be eligible for Canadian citizenship.[8] However, there was never a similar requirement for keeping one’s PR status. As noted above, the general requirement is to be physically present in Canada for a total of 730 days in the last 5 years. These days do not need to be accumulated consecutively. There is no law that automatically causes one to lose their PR status for being outside of Canada for more than six months.

If you have questions about maintaining your PR status, feel free to contact our office to schedule a consultation.