When you first arrive in Canada as a Canadian temporary resident, the rules and regulations on what you can and can’t do can be quite overwhelming. It’s easy, therefore, to think that when you finally become a permanent resident, after years of planning, you can sit back and relax and enjoy your new status and all it brings with it.
While this is very true and yes, you can finally remain in Canada and work without worrying if you are still in status, what you must remember is that it brings a whole new set of rules and regulations that must be adhered to.
One of the most common mistakes made by newly landed immigrants is that they make their official landing, then immediately leave, either to go on a holiday or, more often, return to their country of birth, either to finalize their move to Canada or to return to a job they are not yet ready to leave.
There is no law that says you must remain in Canada and never leave! Of course, everybody is free to leave whenever they wish; however, once you are officially a landed immigrant, you fall under a new category of resident in Canada, and that comes with new requirements.
The second you become a landed immigrant, you cannot return to Canada without your valid Permanent Resident Card. If you are returning via a land border, there are slightly different requirements, but if you fly, sail, or travel by train (any commercial means), then you need a valid PR card to enter. There are absolutely no exceptions to this rule.
Common misconceptions about this rule are:
- I still have a valid TRV in my passport so I’ll just use that
- I will just explain to the officer that my PR card is in process
- I will use my COPR (confirmation of permanent residence)
- The officer will have me in the system. I’ll be fine
None of the above will work. The only thing that will work is having your actual valid PR card and the only way to get this is to wait until you receive it from IRCC. This can take a few months, but it is highly advisable that you do it. Waiting for your first Canadian PR card after landing can be a frustrating process as it varies between 1 – 6 months, but it is imperative that you do this unless you absolutely cannot and have no other option.
If you choose not to wait, then you have 3 options available to you:
- Leave Canada and have a family member who you trust courier your PR card to you once it has been delivered to your house.
- Apply for a Permanent Resident Travel Document in the country you will be visiting.
- Return to Canada through a land border using your landing document. Please note that this option is only available to people who can:
- a) Enter the USA without a visa
- b) Have a visa to enter the USA
Most people will wait for their PR, but there are always the intrepid few who will take that risk and leave Canada without it. The people who do tend to have someone at home who can send the card, or they decide to re-enter through the USA at a land border without issue.
For everybody else, this is where the fun begins!
The Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD) is the elusive ticket back to Canada for all those people who didn’t wait for their Canadian PR card before leaving or if their PR card has expired while they have been out of Canada. There are various things you must do before applying for your PRTD:
- Create an application in the online PRTD portal system and start to fill out your information
- Gather your supporting documents (these can vary depending on how much time you spent in Canada before leaving) and save them as PDFs to upload to the online portal
- Pay your PRTD government fee
You cannot submit the application online until you are outside of Canada, but you can have it prepared.
The online system can be very temperamental and does not tell you or guide you to where you have not completed the form correctly. It will simply not allow you to move on to the next stage until you complete it correctly.
This is the same when trying to submit the application. If there is a problem with something that has been filled out correctly or the incorrect documents have been uploaded, it will not tell you why; it will just not allow you to submit the application.
Once you have submitted the application online, you must wait to receive an email from the IRCC requesting that you send your passport to the nearest VAC (Visa Application Centre). This can take anything from 1 week to 6 months or longer, depending on the country and whether you submitted an urgent request for the PRTD. (If you have applied for urgent processing, this can be complicated due to the additional documents that are required.
You will be given a link to search for your nearest VAC and follow the instructions for that particular office. These can vary depending which country you are in.
- Search online for your local VAC (visa application centre)
- Download the VAC consent form to fill and sign
- Pay your transmission fees in the local currency with a money order or bank transfer once you check what the fees are on the VAC website
- Choose whether you will use a 1-way or 2-way courier to send your package and receive it back. Some VAC sites request that you organize this directly with Fedex, but they do not always tell you how to do it.
- Pack up your documents with your original passport. They need it to put the travel document inside. If you already have return travel tickets booked, this can cause issues when waiting to receive your passport back
If the above seems daunting, that’s because it is. If you are in your country of birth, then things may not seem quite as scary. You speak the language and can most probably navigate through the process fairly easily by calling the VAC and speaking to someone, but if you decide to leave Canada for a short break to somewhere like Cuba before waiting for your PR card, you will not be so lucky. Some VAC centres may not be operating, and some countries may not even have a VAC centre in them. You may have to send your documents to a neighbouring country.
The most important thing to remember in all of this is that you will not be able to board the plane to fly to Canada without your PRTD. People believe that they will run into difficulties when they land in Canada, but that is not the case. You will be stuck in that country until you obtain a PRTD. The processing times can vary from days to weeks to months in some countries. If you are employed and you are expected back to continue work, then you may well have jeopardized that by leaving Canada without a PR card.
There are obviously situations that cannot be avoided, and there are times when people have to leave Canada before receiving their first PR card due to family bereavement or illness. These are exceptional situations, and Doherty Fultz Immigration is always able to assist people in these difficult circumstances, but our initial advice to all newly landed immigrants and any Permanent Resident is don’t leave home without it.