What if I don't want to move to Canada after obtaining my permanent residency?

November 2019

At long last, you have received your Confirmation of Permanent resident document, and possibly also a permanent resident visa. The document you must sign before a border official upon entering Canada has an expiry date, and the letter accompanying the document states you must enter Canada by that date. What if you’re not ready to move to Canada by then?


There are a few considerations this brings up:


  1. What is the law on this issue?


The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act states the following:


Obligation on entry


20 (1) Every foreign national… who seeks to enter or remain in Canada must establish,


(a) to become a permanent resident, that they hold the visa or other document required under the regulations and have come to Canada in order to establish permanent residence


So, what if you are not coming to Canada to establish permanent residence?


The policy manual used by border officials states the following:


POEs [border officials at ports-of-entry, such as land borders and international airports] confirm that the applicant intends to establish permanent residence in Canada in accordance with paragraph A20(1)(a). Persons unable to satisfy an officer of the obligations under this section may have valid reasons for not establishing immediately and may not be in a position to provide an address at the time.


ENF 27 - Permanent resident card, 7.4 Procedures at ports of entry


Accordingly, so long as you intend to reside in Canada once you’ve sold your home, or obtained employment, or once your children have completed their academic year, or any other valid reason, then you should be fine.


One caution, however. Individuals who are sponsored by Canadian citizen spouses who are residing outside of Canada are required to provide proof they will live in Canada after their spouse obtains their permanent residency. Applications can be denied if insufficient proof is provided. In addition, all permanent resident applicants sign the following declaration in their Generic Application form for Canada:

I understand that any false statement of concealment of a materials fact may result in my exclusion from Canada and may be grounds for my prosecution or removal. I also understand that should I be found to be inadmissible for misrepresentation under section 127 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, I may be barred from entering Canada for a period of two years [this is actually five, the form needs updating] following a final determination of my inadmissibility…


  1. How will you receive your permanent resident card?


ENF 27 continues to state the following:


On occasion, it may be appropriate for clients to provide the address of a third party (friend, relative, service provider or a paid representative) in Canada in order to facilitate processing and issuance of the PR card following their arrival in Canada, as new immigrants may not have a permanent address.


However, where there are clear indications that the initial entry into Canada is only of short duration and the client provided a third-party address for the purpose of forwarding the PR card outside of Canada, these cases should be flagged with an info-alert indicating that the client is outside Canada.


If the client plans to leave Canada prior to receiving the PR card, the officer should counsel the client with respect to the requirements under subsection A31(3) for a travel document issued at a visa office abroad.


Basically, this is saying that when you do not intend to take up residence in Canada, your permanent resident card will not be issued, and instead, you are instructed to apply for a Permanent Resident Travel Document prior to entering Canada the next time. You can then apply for a permanent resident card, once settled in Canada.


How this works in practice is a different story. Earlier this year, we had a family come to Canada to confirm their permanent residency. They said they were staying for a brief visit, then would be moving here permanently next year. The border official advised that they would not receive their permanent resident cards until they had a residential address in Canada. Two weeks later, their cards arrived at my office. We were then able to courier them to their address in the USA. It was quite confusing for all involved.


  1. When must you move by?

Permanent residents must live in Canada for 730 days (2 years) in every 5-year period. You must move to Canada with enough time to meet that obligation within the five-year period after you become a permanent resident, keeping in mind that you may want to travel after moving to Canada.


If you attempt to enter Canada without enough time to meet the residency obligation, the border official may issue a report against you. This report will initiate proceedings to remove your status in Canada, see ENF 23 Loss of permanent resident status, 7.8 Examining permanent residents at a POE.