December 6, 2023

How Do I Cross the Border Without a PR Card?

Posted by Michelle Boeriu - Bellissimo Law Group PC

We have had numerous consultations where clients are abroad and desperate that their permanent resident status has expired yet they need to return to Canada. When we ask if they went through a determination of their status, they get confused – they tell us that their permanent resident card (PR card) expired, and thus, their status. This is a common misconception. 

A PR card does not confer status; you can still maintain PR status without having a valid PR card. The PR card facilitates entry into Canada, especially when one boards a plane because it establishes they do not need a visa, as they are permanent residents. Also, PR cards are necessary when you travel by air, but not necessarily required at a land border. 

The law requires that, when outside of Canada and your PR card has expired, you will need to apply for a Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD) to return to Canada. Such an application must be made only from outside of Canada. Time to obtain such a document varies from visa office to visa office, depending on the resources they have and the number of applications in the system. It can take from a week or months. 

Given that we have a land border with the United States of America (USA), people may cross that border without always showing a valid PR card when travelling in a private vehicle. Private vehicle is the one that you own, borrow or rent, and that is not available for public use. Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) does not always require, as the airlines do, to present it at the time of entry. But one has to show other identification documents for the CBSA officer to examine: Confirmation of Permanent Resident (COPR), provincial driving license and/or health card, credit cards, social insurance number (SIN) card / letter, registration for your vehicle (if you travel with your own car), employment letters or cards, etc.  

We have been contacted by our clients, after they had consultations with us, happy that they were let back in the country, by showing a few of the above-mentioned documents. So if you need any help with your PR card, PRTD applications, or challenging negative decisions, please feel free to contact us. 

Thank you.