What Is A Canadian Permanent Resident Visa?

CIC News
Published: October 15, 2014

What does it mean to have permanent residence in Canada? Immigration to Canada is, and has always been, a changing process. With over 60 Canadian immigration programs that lead to permanent residence in Canada, it is understandable that a degree of confusion arises from time to time. New programs open, old programs close, criteria for existing programs are modified, and definitions change. Some newcomers to Canada who have successfully attained permanent residence status remain unsure about precisely what it is. This article will deal with some common questions surrounding permanent residence in Canada.

Who is a permanent resident of Canada?

A permanent resident is someone who has been issued a permanent resident visa by the Canadian government and has landed in Canada, but is not a Canadian citizen. Permanent residents are citizens of other countries. A person in Canada temporarily, such as a student, foreign worker or visitor, is not a permanent resident.

What rights does Canadian permanent residence confer on the holder?

Permanent residents of Canada 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 after spending a certain amount of time as a permanent resident in Canada.
  • protection under Canadian law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

What are a Canadian permanent resident’s responsibilities while in Canada?

Permanent residents of Canada are required to respect all Canadian laws at the federal, provincial and municipal levels. A conviction for a serious criminal offence may result in the loss of permanent resident status.

Does Canadian permanent residence need to be renewed, and if so, when and how?

Once a permanent resident visa is granted and the holder lands in Canada as a permanent resident, that status does not have to be renewed. It remains indefinitely unless the holder applies for and is granted Canadian citizenship or the holder loses his or her permanent resident status.

An individual may lose permanent resident status for failure to meet the residency obligation. That obligation requires a permanent resident to accumulate 730 residency days in each five-year period. Residency days may be accumulated inside or outside Canada. To accumulate residency days while outside Canada, a permanent resident must be:

  • with an accompanying Canadian citizen who is their spouse or common-law partner or, in the case of a child, their parent;
  • employed on a full-time basis by a Canadian business or in the federal public administration or the public service of a province; or
  • accompanying a permanent resident who is his or her spouse or common-law partner or, in the case of a child, his or her parent and who is employed on a full-time basis by a Canadian business or in the federal public administration or the public service of a province.

What is a Permanent Resident Card?

Do not confuse a permanent resident card with permanent resident status. The card is a piece of plastic that contains biometric data. The acquisition of a PR card is voluntary. It is, however, required in the absence of a travel document to board a common carrier (such as an airplane) to Canada if an individual is not a Canadian citizen and not a citizen of a country that requires a temporary resident visa to visit Canada. So, while it is not obligatory for a permanent resident to carry a PR card, it certainly is convenient.

Is permanent residence the same as a Green Card in the United States?

Perhaps because of the size and scale of Canada’s neighbour to the south, the United States, the term "Canada Green Card" is a term that has been used figuratively to describe permanent residence in Canada. This is because individuals who have been given the right to live and work in the United States used to be given an actual green card that confirmed their status.

“In reality, there is no such thing as a ‘Canada Green Card’, and distinctions between the American and Canadian systems of permanent immigration should be highlighted,” says Attorney David Cohen.

“A United States green card grants the holder permission to enter and live in the United States. In contrast, Canadian Permanent Resident status grants an individual the right to enter and live in Canada. This reveals a fundamental contrast in philosophy. True, both privileges and rights have limits, and both may be revoked under certain circumstances, but that is not to say that they confer equal status. Permanent residence in Canada is a legal entitlement, inherent to its holder. A simple example demonstrates this point. Permanent Residents of the United States must, in theory, be in possession of their U.S green cards at all times and must be prepared to show them to U.S. authorities upon request.  Permanent Residents of Canada have no such obligation.”

How does an individual become a permanent resident of Canada in the first place?

Canada is a vast, multicultural nation with changing immigration goals, and there are many ways in which a foreign person may become a permanent resident of Canada.

To find out if you are eligible for any of over 60 Canadian immigration programs that lead to permanent residence in Canada, please fill out a free online assessment today.

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