First Batch of Permanent Resident Cards Soon to Expire

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) recently posted a notice on its website ( reminding permanent residents who landed in July 2002 or shortly thereafter to begin the process of renewing their Permanent Resident (PR) cards. The PR card was introduced with the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), which came into effect in late June 2002. Because PR cards are valid for 5 years, the first group of permanent residents that landed immediately after the implementation of IRPA now have to start renewing their cards if they plan to be traveling internationally in the near future.

The PR card was made valid for 5 years by CIC to encourage permanent residents to become Canadian citizens if they qualify rather than remaining permanent residents indefinitely. At the beginning of the legislative process that lead up to IRPA in the late-90s, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration at the time, Madame Lucienne Robillard, was surprised to learn that so many permanent residents never bothered to apply for citizenship. She encouraged her ministry to create incentives for permanent residents to take out citizenship. The PR card functions in this way because it requires a permanent resident to essentially re-establish their status every 5 years and prove they have met the residency requirements of IRPA.

It is important to keep in mind that permanent residents require PR cards only if they will be traveling internationally. A permanent resident with no plans to leave Canada does not require a valid PR card in the same way a Canadian citizen is not required to keep a valid passport unless they will be traveling. However, many permanent residents use the card as a form of ID and it is probably safe to say that most permanent residents want to have the option of traveling outside of Canada even if they don’t do it all that often.

So for permanent residents who are coming up to their 5-year anniversary of landing, it is an important time. They need to begin the process of applying for a new PR card as well as ensure that they have complied with the residency requirements that exist under IRPA.

The second of these requirements is not an easy thing for many permanent residents who spend a lot of time out of the country. The basic requirement is fairly simple: IRPA requires that permanent residents be in Canada for 2 years (or 730 days) out of any 5-year period.

IRPA does provide for important exceptions to the residency requirement for permanent residents. For example, you can count days you are outside of Canada accompanying your Canadian citizen spouse (or parent if you are a minor) as days in Canada. And if you are employed by a legitimate Canadian business or Canadian or provincial government and required to be outside of Canada as part of your job, these days can also be counted as days in Canada. Spouses of permanent resident employees of Canadian businesses or governments enjoy this exception as well.

But each exception is carefully defined. Anyone planning on being out of Canada for more than 3 years in any 5-year period and relying on one of these exceptions is well advised to fully document their absences from Canada and the reasons for them.

The next year or two will define more precisely the limits of the exceptions to being physically present in Canada for permanent residents. Not only is July 2007 going to bring a lot of applications for extensions of PR cards for the first time, it is also going to see a number of refusals of these applications as individuals are found by CIC to have not met the residency obligations of permanent residence in the 5 years prior to their application. These refusals will then result in appeals to the Immigration Appeal Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board. Only after a number of these appeals have been adjudicated, will the limits of the exceptions to the residency requirements of IRPA be fully defined by the courts.