Rules for maintaining your Canadian permanent resident status

As a permanent resident, you’re one step closer to becoming a Canadian citizen. You can enjoy almost all of the same rights and freedoms, and you can come and go as you please. However, you’re not home free just yet: there are still certain rules you need to follow in order to maintain your status.

How much time can I spend outside Canada?

The main requirement that every permanent resident must fulfil is cumulatively spending 730 days in Canada in the 5-year period following their acceptance into the PR program (and every 5-year period thereafter, on a rolling basis). That’s equivalent to exactly 2 years, meaning that PRs can spend a maximum of 3 years in total outside of Canada for every 5-year period.

In some situations, PRs can still accumulate residency days while they are abroad if they are:

  • Traveling with a spouse or common-law partner who is a Canadian citizen
  • Working full-time for a Canadian business or public service that has relocated you temporarily
  • Accompanying a spouse or common-law partner (who is a PR) on foreign assignment while working full-time for a Canadian business or public service 
  • A child under 19 years of age who is accompanying a parent abroad

What happens if I don’t meet the requirements?

If you are in Canada and an immigration officer decides you have not fulfilled your PR requirements, they may issue a departure order that requires you to leave the country. If you are outside Canada, you may receive a letter stating that you have lost your status. In both cases, you will have the option to file an appeal within 60 days of being notified about the change in your status.

Do the same rules apply for Canadian citizenship?

Foreign nationals who are working towards their Canadian citizenship are required to remain in Canada for 1,095 days within a 5-year period – the equivalent of 3 years – in order to qualify for citizenship. As is the case with permanent residency, this requirement can be fulfilled with a consecutive stay or otherwise. But the good news is that once you are a Canadian citizen, you are no longer tied by any of these rules and you can come and go to and from Canada as you please. There are no minimum stay requirements for Canadian citizens.

Best practices to keep in mind

In order to avoid any confusion regarding your PR status, we recommend informing Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) if you are planning to spend an extended period of time outside Canada. Keep in mind that due to the sensitive nature of these communications, it is also important to consult with an immigration lawyer before planning an extended stay to avoid bad surprises.

It is best to wait until you have your Permanent Resident Card before you travel outside Canada, since this is the best proof of status you can provide to a border agent. If that isn’t possible, you will need to apply for a Permanent Resident Abroad document before you return.

Leave no stone unturned

The best way to ensure a smooth, simple, and error-free immigration process is to partner up with an experienced lawyer. The attorneys at Exeo know the Canadian immigration landscape inside and out, making us perfectly positioned to provide expert advice and guidance at every stage of your permanent residency application. Get in touch today to get the ball rolling on your application, or to learn more about your options.

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