It is important to remember that even if your permanent resident (PR) card has expired, it does not mean you have lost your permanent resident status. You can only lose your status if the Immigration Department makes a decision that you have lost your status. For example, if you apply for a new PR Card or a PR Travel Document, the immigration authorities could refuse the application, and decide that you have lost your PR status.
This letter will still allow the recipient to appeal the decision and will also explain potential travel options to help you come to Canada for purposes of an appeal. In this scenario, appealing allows you to keep your PR status until a decision is made on your appeal at the Immigration Appeal Division (IAD) of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.
So, although your card has expired, your permanent resident status is still valid until an official decision is made. Your PR card is only really used to show that you have permanent resident status in Canada when you are travelling back into Canada on a commercial vehicle like an airplane, bus, train, or ferry. Normally, permanent residents travelling outside of Canada with an expired PR card will need to apply for a PRTD before returning to Canada.
You will only be able to apply to renew your PR card or apply for a PRTD if you have met the residency requirement of living in Canada for at least 730 days (two years) during the last five years. There are some exceptions where your time abroad may count towards your time spent in Canada. In addition, in some cases the Government will allow an application on Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds when there are compelling reasons as to why they were unable to meet the residency requirement.
What are your options if you are outside of Canada?
If your PR card is expiring and you have not met the residency requirement, you are still allowed to travel back to Canada. The PR card holder can enter Canada and then wait in Canada until they have met the two-out-of-five year residency requirement before applying for a new card. Even if your card has expired when you are in Canada, this does not mean that you have to leave Canada or have to stop working. You are still a PR and have the right to live, work, and study in Canada. Having an expired card simply means that the holder will not be able to easily return to Canada if they leave because they will not be able to prove their PR status to get on a commercial vehicle. Additionally, as a PR, you will not be able to get an eTA or visitor visa.
Returning to Canada before your card expires, the waiting until you meet the residency requirement before you apply for a new card, avoids the difficulty of having to make an application to renew the PR card on humanitarian grounds, which is discretionary, takes a long time, is and often refused.
Entering Canada with an Expired PR Card
If your PR card has expired while you were outside of Canada then you still have options to help you enter Canada. The usual method of returning to Canada in this scenario is to apply for a Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD). This is a kind of one-way visa to enable a permanent resident to return to Canada. They are issued from visa offices abroad and can be obtained fairy rapidly, depending on the urgency of the application.
There are some alternatives to applying for a PRTD. If you are from a country that does not need a visitor visa to enter Canada, then you can enter the United States and drive across the border using your expired PR documents. You can also do this if you are not from a visa exempt country and have a US visa. However, there is a risk of being reported as having lost your PR status. If this happens then you will be allowed to enter Canada in order to appeal.
Returning to Canada using the land border with the United States and a private vehicle avoids having to apply for a PRTD. Once in Canada, you can then wait for two years to meet your residency requirement and then apply for a new PR Card. In the meantime, you continue to be a PR and have all the benefits of being PR including working and accessing social services like medical care.
How We Can Help
As a permanent resident, you have the right to enter Canada. However, if you experience a problem trying to re-enter Canada as a permanent resident, please contact our office for assistance.
The Immigration Law Office of Matthew Jeffery specializes in PR card renewals. With over 20 years of experience, we specialize in complex cases and have an excellent success rate. If you are looking to renew your PR card or want to apply for a PRTD, please fill out our free PR Card Renewal Assessment form to see if we can help you right away.