It’s not a very unusual scenario. A Canadian permanent resident panics and calls a Canada immigration lawyer upon deciding he has to leave the country to attend to a very urgent matter overseas. Their problem – his Permanent Resident (PR) Card has expired and it takes 46 days to renew it through the Case Processing Center (CPC) located in Sydney, Nova Scotia.
There are processes in place that allow CPC Sydney to expedite processing for PR card renewals, and even promises to give feedback to requests within two business days. Within these two days, it will be known whether or not expedited processing is possible, depending on the immigrant’s circumstances.
It is not enough to show travel itineraries and there is no guarantee that the application for renewal will be processed fast, or that any specific time frame for the renewal will be given. It all actually depends on the unique elements behind each request for PR card renewal. Sometimes, ‘expedited’ renewals are not processed fast enough or with any amount of certainty that renewal will, indeed, be granted.
In any case, it is possible for permanent residents to travel outside of and return to Canada without their PR card. However, it is not necessarily a risk-free decision.
The Canadian Permanent Resident Card confirms your legal resident status in Canada
First off, there is no legal requirement for a permanent resident to have a valid PR card just as Canadian citizens are not required to have a valid Canadian passport. True, both documents prove a person’s status in this country, but not carrying any or the two of them at any given time does not change such status in any way.
For example, even if a Canadian citizen’s birth certificate were torn into pieces by an innocent child, that person’s Canadian citizenship does not change. Just because his birth certificate has landed in the trash doesn’t mean he is no longer a citizen of Canada. The same thing goes for permanent residents. Even if they travel without their PR card, they remain permanent residents, although there is no doubt in the world that such PR card would have served as the best evidence of their Canadian status.
Second, neither is there a legal requirement for Canadian permanent residents and even citizens to leave the country with their passport or PR card. The problems with traveling without a passport or a PR card, however, begin upon these residents’ or citizens’ return to Canada.
Third, a permanent resident must have a PR card when coming back to Canada from an overseas trip. But even if the person does return to Canada without a PR card, he would still have committed no violation of any Canadian immigration law.
Fourth, a Canadian permanent resident who has left the country without PR card can always get a permanent resident travel document at any Canadian visa post abroad. Yet again, if, for some reason, this document could not be secured abroad, the person can still return to Canada. There may be problems along the way, but most certainly, a Canadian permanent resident can return to the country from an overseas trip without a PR card.
So what “problems along the way” exactly are we talking about?
Remember that transportation companies are legally obliged to ensure that people they transport to Canada have the right documentation to prove that they should be allowed to enter the country in the first place.
If a passenger, for example, could not produce such documentation, the airline will most likely refuse to have him board the Canada-bound plane. Otherwise, the airline could get in trouble with the Federal government for transporting an individual who may turn out to be inadmissible to Canada.
Permanent residents who come from countries where citizens are required to get a visa to enter Canada, it is very important that they travel with the PR card, or at least, get a permanent resident travel document abroad prior to their return flight to Canada. This is because they will definitely be denied boarding on the aircraft unless they can supply the required documentation.
On the other hand, permanent residents who come from visa-exempt countries such as the US, etc., may be able to re-enter Canada from an overseas trip without a PR card with not much hassle.
In lieu of Canadian Permanent Resident Card, a travel document from Immigration Canada can be a substitute for travel outside Canada on emergencies
Airline staff are actually supposed to ask for a PR card from all travelers claiming to be Canadian permanent residents, but they usually don’t go through the trouble when they are shown a passport issued by a visa-exempt country.
Basically, the problem of a permanent resident arriving back in Canada without a PR card is how to prove legal resident status. Because there is likely to be no other option other than the card as evidence of this status, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officials will check into their computer files to confirm the claimed status. The most that this resident will get for traveling without a PR card is probably a verbal reprimand, but even then, no laws will have been violated by the erring resident.
This is no doubt a situation anybody would want to figure in, but all the frenzy about having to leave Canada urgently with an expired PR card is surely unnecessary.