My Permanent Residence Card Application has been approved but I have not received my PR card. Can I travel outside of Canada?
So your permanent residence card application has been approved. Congratulations! But, you have been waiting for your Permanent Resident card to arrive in the mail for weeks. Can you leave the country or do you need to wait for your Permanent Resident card to show up?
The PR Card Process
Once your application for permanent residence card is approved, you need to complete the landing process. The landing process consists of a simple interview with an immigration or border officer to confirm a few details and present some documents. You can schedule an appointment and do this inside Canada or at a Canadian port-of-entry (land or air). If everything checks out, the officer will stamp your Confirmation of Permanent Resident (“CoPR”) document and you will officially be a Canadian permanent resident. But, there is still one more step.
After your CoPR has been stamped, the officer will help you complete an application for a PR card. They will confirm your current mailing address with you at this time. It is very important that you list an active and accurate address where someone will be able to receive the card by mail. Otherwise, you could experience significant delays in obtaining the card and your travel plans may be impacted.
It can take two months, or more, for you to receive your first PR card from the date you complete the landing process.
Can I Use my Confirmation of Permanent Residence Document?
Your CoPR is proof that you are a Canadian permanent resident; however, it is not a travel document and is not recognized for re-entry by airlines or other commercial transportation carriers.
For this reason, you should always have either your PR card or travel document on hand when you are re-entering Canada by plane, train, bus or boat. It is important to note that all family members need their own PR card or travel document, including children.
If you are driving, you can use your CoPR to re-enter at a Canada-US border crossing.
What do I do if I don’t have my PR card and I need to travel urgently?
If you are waiting for your PR card to arrive and have an urgent travel need, you do have a couple of options.
1. Re-enter by land through the US. You are not required to have a PR card to re-enter Canada from the US if you are driving back in a private vehicle. If you need to travel to the US, you can fly there and drive back. If you are leaving North America, you can fly back to the US and then drive back through a Canadian border crossing.
2. Obtain a Travel Document. If you are unable to drive back to Canada through the US, you can apply for a travel document. This is a temporary travel document for Canadian permanent residents. It is important to note that you will need to apply after you exit Canada and make your application to the visa office responsible for the region where you are traveling. Processing times for travel documents vary significantly depending on which country you are visiting, so it is important to plan ahead and have everything ready to submit if this is the option you choose. You will need to complete forms and provide documentation proving your permanent resident status and outlining the reasons why you do not have a PR card and why you needed to travel. In addition, you will need to submit photos and your original passport. Letting go of your passport, even if temporarily, can be tricky when you are traveling internationally, particularly if you have multiple stops on your trip. This option should be avoided whenever possible.
These options also apply to permanent residents who are waiting for a PR card renewal application and have urgent travel needs.
Your best bet is to plan ahead and avoid needing a travel document. When your PR application is nearing approval, or you have been invited to complete the landing process, take a moment to think about the timing of the process. If you have a few months without any need to travel, go ahead and complete the landing process and wait inside Canada for your PR card to arrive.
If you have upcoming travel plans, and you still have valid temporary Canadian status, you can postpone the landing process. You will remain a temporary resident of Canada as long as your temporary status is valid up to the point when you land as a permanent resident. Don’t forget to check the expiry date on your CoPR (it is generally one year from the date you completed your medical exam). You do need to land before that date or you will need to apply all over again.
If you choose to postpone the landing because of travel plans, you can complete the landing process when you re-enter. When you arrive at the Canadian airport, let them know that you are a Canadian temporary resident (and ensure you bring your visitor record, work permit or study permit with you) and that you would like to complete your landing as a permanent resident. Once your CoPR is confirmed, your PR card application will be submitted and you can then wait inside Canada for your PR card.
Tips for PR Card Renewals
PR cards are valid for five years from the date they are issued. Make sure you understand what you need to demonstrate when you renew your PR card. Start saving your documents and keep track of travel dates outside of Canada. Being proactive will save you a headache down the road.
It is recommended that you apply to extend your PR card at least 4 months before it expires. This way, you are more likely to avoid disruptions to any planned or urgent travel.