Understand permanent resident status
A permanent resident is someone who has been given permanent resident status by immigrating to Canada, but is not a Canadian citizen. Permanent residents are citizens of other countries.
A person in Canada temporarily, like a student or foreign worker, is not a permanent resident.
Refugees who are resettled from overseas become permanent residents through the Government-Assisted Refugee Program or the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program.
Someone who makes a refugee claim in Canada does not become a permanent resident at that time. To become one, the Immigration and Refugee Board must first approve their claim. Then, they must apply for and get permanent resident status.
The permanent resident (PR) card
If you travel outside Canada, the PR card is your proof that you are a permanent resident of Canada. If you leave Canada, you will need this card to re-enter the country on a commercial vehicle, like an airplane, boat, train or bus.
Canadian permanent residents need to show their permanent resident card when travelling to Canada in order to prove their permanent resident status. Permanent residents who do not have a PR card, or who are not carrying their PR card when travelling outside the country, will need to obtain a permanent resident travel document before returning to Canada by air mode in order to comply with eTA requirements.
What permanent residents can do
As a permanent resident, you have the right to:
- get most social benefits that Canadian citizens receive, including health care coverage,
- live, work or study anywhere in Canada,
- apply for Canadian citizenship,
- protection under Canadian law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
You must pay taxes and respect all Canadian laws at the federal, provincial and municipal levels.
What permanent residents cannot do
You are not allowed to:
- vote or run for political office,
- hold some jobs that need a high-level security clearance.
Time spent living in Canada
When you are a permanent resident, you can live outside of Canada, but must live in Canada for at least two years in a five-year period. If you live outside of Canada for longer, you may lose your permanent resident status.
For more information on how long you have to live in Canada, see Appendix A: Residency obligation of the PR card application package.
Losing your permanent resident status
You don’t lose your permanent resident status when your PR card expires. You can only lose your status if you go through an official process.
You can lose your permanent resident status if:
- an adjudicator determines you are no longer a permanent resident after an inquiry or PRTD appeal;
- you voluntarily renounce your permanent resident status;
- a removal order is made against you and comes into force; or
- you become a Canadian citizen.
Even if you don’t meet the residency obligation, you are still a PR until an official decision is made on your status.