October 2, 2017
Permanent Residents Who Work Frequently Outside of Canada: How to Calculate Physical Presence For Citizenship Purposes
Despite living in an increasingly globalized world, most of us live no further than a train commute from work. Our jobs don’t take us far outside of our home cities except for the odd business trip. For a small segment of the population, however, travel is the rule rather than the exception. This can present issues in the immigration context, including when counting of days physically presence in Canada for the purposes of citizenship.
First, let’s look at the law in the Citizenship Act. Section 5 of the Act requires that a permanent resident who applies for citizenship must have been physically present in Canada for at least: i) 1,460 days during the six years immediately before the date of his or her application; and ii) 183 days during each of four calendar years that are fully or partially within the six years immediately before the date of his or her application. (There are other requirements that do not involve permanent residence. The full text of the section can be found here.) If you became a permanent resident within the past 6 years, you begin counting from the day you became a permanent resident, even if you spent time in Canada before receiving that status.
For most permanent residents, the counting is simple as they spend the vast majority of their time in Canada and generally only need to remember when they left Canada for vacations, for example. As, well the physical residence counting rules for citizenship purposes do not apply to those employed outside of Canada by the armed forces, a provincial public service, or those accompanying these individuals, such as spouses, common-law partners, and children. But what about those whose work takes them outside of Canada’s borders frequently, like airline crew, truck drivers, and those who commute for business to financial centres like New York?
According to IRCC, any part of a day spent in Canada is considered a full day of physical presence in Canada and therefore cannot be considered an absence. Consider the following: Maria leaves Canada on Monday afternoon, stays overnight in Philadelphia, and returns to Canada 24 hours later on Tuesday afternoon. In terms of hours, Maria might think that she was absent from Canada for one day. However, since she was physically present in Canada for parts of both Monday and Tuesday, she actually accrued zero absences from Canada. If on the other hand, Maria still left on Monday but spent all of Tuesday in Philadelphia and returned to Canada on Wednesday, she would be required to declare one day of absence as they spent no part of Wednesday in Canada.
What this policy means is that even if a permanent resident spends much of their time outside of Canada—this is often the case with regards to pilots and flight attendants—as long as they return to Canada for some part of every day, it is as if they never left!
It is very important to declare all trips outside of Canada, even if they result in zero absences. Applicants should always use IRCC’s citizenship physical presence calculator and should seek legal assistance if they are unsure whether they have counted correctly.