What Is A Canadian Permanent Resident Visa & How To Get One?

Individuals who are not born in Canada can enter the country in many ways; one of these is through permanent residency.

This is usually the next step for people who have arrived in Canada (as a successful Permanent Resident applicant) and have stayed in the country for quite a long time as a temporary worker (although those who are outside Canada can still apply for the program).

However, many aspiring immigrants still do not fully understand what it means to be a permanent resident.

It is important to note that a permanent resident, while being different from a temporary foreign worker, is also different from a Canadian citizen.

Who is a Permanent Resident and Who is Not

Permanent residents are those who are issued a permanent resident card or visa. They are different from temporary workers or foreign students in that they have a ‘right’ of resident in Canada. However, they are not Canadian citizens; they are recognized as citizens of other countries.

The Rights and Responsibilities of a Permanent Resident

Permanent residents enjoy a wide range of rights in Canada. They can work, live, and study anywhere in the country. They also receive social benefits similar to many of those received by Canadian citizens – such as health benefits. They are protected by Canadian law, and they can apply for Canadian citizenship once they meet the required minimum length of stay in Canada.

In return for enjoying all these rights, permanent residents are required to adhere to and respect Canadian laws in all levels – from municipal and provincial to the federal level. If ever they commit a crime, they are subject to punishments in accordance with the law in Canada, and their permanent residency status might also be revoked.

Permanent Residency Renewal

Contrary to what most people think, a permanent resident doesn’t need to renew his status. This status will remain indefinitely unless:

(1) The individual applies for and is granted Canadian citizenship

(2) The individual loses his permanent residency status due to:
       a. Criminal offense
       b. Failure to meet the required length of stay in Canada as a permanent resident

To elaborate on the latter point, all permanent residents in Canada are required to ‘reside’ in Canada for 730 days in each five-year period. There is an exception to this, however. It is possible for a permanent resident to stay outside Canada and have that length of stay counted towards the required 730 residency days. How?

(a) The person must be accompanying a Canadian citizen outside Canada – must be either the spouse or parent of that citizen

(b) The person must be employed by a Canadian business (full-time) or must be working for the federal or provincial government

(c) The person must be accompanying a permanent resident who meets any of the two criteria mentioned above

Permanent Resident Card

A PR card is like an ID that contains the information of a permanent resident. Permanent residents are not required to have this card, but it is useful in certain circumstances. For instance, if a permanent resident is traveling to Canada (from overseas, the US or Mexico), it can be used in place of travel documents when boarding the plane (Update: Passport together with the Permanent Resident card is now required by the airlines and also at the US/Canada border).

Some people like to think of the permanent resident card like a greencard (US). But, that is not necessarily true; they are not really equal. Greencard holders have permission to stay in the US while PR card holders have a ‘right’ to stay in Canada, so to speak. And while the actual greencard (ID) is required in the US because authorities may ask for it anytime, permanent residents are not required to have a PR card.

Applying for Permanent Residency

There are many programs through which one can apply for permanent residency. Some of these are the following:

* Federal Skilled Worker Program (to become part of the Express Entry program in 2015) – this is for those who have the skills needed in accordance with the list of occupations issued by the Canadian federal government.

* Provincial Nominee Program – this is for those who have the skills needed in accordance with the list of occupations issued by the different Canadian provinces. The province can nominate an applicant to the federal government for faster processing.

* Federal Skilled Trades Program – this is for experienced trades person.

* Canadian Experience Class – this is for those with study and work experience in Canada.

* Family Sponsorship – this is for those who have close family members in Canada who are Canadian permanent residents and can sponsor them.

There are as many as 60 different programs in Canada that an interested applicant can choose from.