Delays in Permanent Resident Card Issuance may Scuttle Holiday Plans for New Immigrants

by Ronalee Carey Law

November 2021

Pandemic-related processing delays continue to plague Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC.)  With the holidays fast approaching and international travel opening up, the delays in issuing permanent resident cards for new immigrants are becoming a huge problem.

Permanent residents can only fly into Canada with a permanent resident card or permanent resident travel document. (A PRTD is inserted into a passport like a visa.)  Once permanent resident status is confirmed, either upon entry to Canada or through the new permanent resident confirmation portal, individuals can no longer use their visa or electronic travel authorization to enter Canada. 

According to the IRCC website, the current processing time for issuing permanent resident cards for new immigrants is 75 days.  Unfortunately, this is inaccurate for many applicants.  We have applicants who have been waiting eight months for their permanent resident cards to arrive.  Further, it may be accurate for one member of a family and not others.  I have a husband waiting for a permanent resident card despite his wife receiving hers in early October. 

Unfortunately, we can do little to help individuals without a permanent resident card who want to travel.  It is almost impossible to get through to IRCC’s client service centre by telephone. Webforms receive an auto-reply stating that unless the inquiry is considered a ‘priority,’ no reply will be sent.  Applicants can contact their Members of Parliament.  Constituent assistants have access to a dedicated telephone number for IRCC and might find out whether there are issues with the photos provided or if the card was mailed out. 

We advise clients that if they can enter the USA, they may consider leaving their vehicle at the airport and then driving back to Canada after their trip.  At land borders, the Confirmation of Permanent Residence document can be presented as proof of status. 

PRTD applications can only be submitted to a visa office.  We can’t help clients apply for them until they have left Canada.  The applicant must submit their passport through a Visa Application Centre.  Processing times vary by the visa office.   As such, for individuals who want to make a short trip or won’t be close to a Visa Application Centre, applying for a PRTD won’t be feasible.

There are solutions: allowing an eTA or visa to be used for a certain period after permanent residence is confirmed and allowing PRTD applications from within Canada are two.  Unfortunately, IRCC seems unwilling to provide a remedy.  We are assured that IRCC is doing its best to get through its backlog, but that will be little solace to my clients looking to visit friends and family after long separations caused by pandemic travel restrictions.