Am I Still a Permanent Resident If My PR Card Expires?

by Ronalee Carey Law

March 2023

I frequently get inquiries from individuals who want to re-apply for permanent residence because they have let their permanent residence card expire and live outside of Canada. However, these individuals haven’t lost their permanent residence status just because their permanent residence card has expired.

Permanent residence status is not tied to the expiry date of a permanent resident card, just like citizenship is not tied to the expiry date of a passport. If your passport expires, you don’t stop being a citizen of the country where you were born or naturalized. Similarly, failing to apply for a new permanent resident card before your old one expires doesn’t mean you’ve lost your permanent residence in Canada.

There are only two ways to lose your permanent residence status. The first is to voluntarily relinquish it. The second is to have it taken away from you, either because you have not met the residency requirement or because you have become inadmissible, most often for having committed a serious criminal offence.

Individuals who voluntarily relinquish their permanent residence status typically have not met the residency requirement and wish to reapply for permanent residence or visit Canada without dealing with issues at the border or airport related to their non-compliance with the residency requirement.

There are exceptions to the residency requirement, such as living outside of Canada with a spouse who holds Canadian citizenship. One may also present humanitarian and compassionate factors to avoid the removal of status. In the last year, I successfully had two elderly individuals enter Canada to join their Canadian citizen children. Both had lived outside Canada for decades (one in Germany and one in the USA). One had their original permanent residence document; for the other, I obtained a Verification of Status document. Though they clearly had not met the residency obligation, border officials allowed them to enter Canada without penalty.

Obtaining permanent residency in Canada is becoming increasingly challenging. Those who lose status in Canada may find that they cannot reapply. Therefore, I always encourage my clients to apply for Canadian citizenship at the earliest opportunity.

And finally, keeping track of your permanent resident card expiry date is still advisable, even if letting it lapse doesn’t mean you lose your status. Proof of immigration status in Canada is required in many instances, such as applying for a provincial driver’s license or health insurance.