Canada Permanent Resident Card

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Canadian immigration and refugee law
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The Permanent Resident card (PR card; commonly and originally referred to as the "Maple Leaf Card") is an identification document for permanent residents of Canada (formerly known as landed immigrants). It was introduced on 28 June 2002 upon the implementation of Canada's Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA). Like Canadian passports, all PR cards are issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and are the property of the Canadian Crown.[1]

It is the primary method by which Canadian permanent residents can prove their status and is the only document that allows permanent residents to return to Canada by air.

Starting from 10 November 2016, all travellers to Canada (except for Canadian citizens, U.S. citizens and nationals, permanent residents and travellers with a valid Canadian visa) are required to have an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) before boarding a flight to Canada. Hence permanent residents, including those from one of the visa-free countries (except the U.S.), need either a PR card or a permanent resident travel document (PRTD) to board a flight to Canada.[2]


There are two types of PR card in circulation: the 2009 version and the 2015 version. As all PR card's lifespan cannot exceed five years, the initial 2002 version is obsolete and no longer in use.[3]

All three versions of the card contain a maple leaf in the front of the card, hence earning the nickname "Maple Leaf Card".

2002 version[edit]

Permanent Resident Card (2002-2009)

The card is an ISO/IEC 7810 ID-1 sized (commonly known as credit-card sized) document. The front of the card contains the holder's photograph, name, an 8-digit ID number, sex, nationality, date of birth, signature and the card's date of expiration. For the back of the card, an optical stripe which contains the holder's information is available on top. Below it are additional information on the holder including their immigration category, colour of eyes and height, country of birth as well as the day the holder became a permanent resident. A machine readable zone is at the bottom. The colour of the card is aqua, with graphs in purple and orange, and a maple leaf can be seen in the front.

2009 version[edit]

Permanent Resident Card (2009-2015)

Comparing to the previous version, the 2009 version of the card, which was introduced on 24 August 2009, contains the same information as the previous version.[4] The design, however, was significantly changed with a white background colour, a transparent window on the right side of the card, a second ghost image located in the transparent window, and the replacement of optical stripe with a 2-D barcode.

PR cards issued after 1 February 2012 no longer contains the holder's signature.[5]

2015 version[edit]

In circulation since 25 November 2015, the 2015 version of the card has a RFID chip which can be used for future land border crossings. Unlike the biometric chips found in Canadian passports, the RFID chip does not store any personal data, but instead a unique identifier. When entering Canada from a land port of entry, the RFID chip in the PR card will be read by RFID tag readers. The unique identifier is then transmitted to a secure database and the permanent resident's information is retrieved by the CBSA officer who will have information even before the vehicle stops at the inspection booth.[3] The design is similar to the 2009 version, although an image of the Peace Tower is shown on the background. The new version also removed immigration category and the 2-D barcode from the back of the card.[6]

Application Process[edit]

New permanent residents[edit]

It is necessary to supply a Canadian residential address at the time of landing. If a Canadian address cannot be supplied at the time, it is necessary to provide one to IRCC within 180 days. Otherwise a new application made to IRCC's processing centre in Sydney, Nova Scotia will be required, at a cost of C$50 to the applicant.[7]

There is no fee for a first PR Card provided that the applicant provides an address during the landing.

Existing permanent residents and renewals[edit]

Permanent residents as of 28 June 2002 and new permanent residents who did not provide a Canadian residential address, or whose PR Card was expired, lost, stolen or damaged, must apply to IRCC's processing centre in Sydney, Nova Scotia for a new card. The applicant must demonstrate he or she has resided for at least 730 days before the five-year period of the card's renewal application. The fee is C$50. In some cases, the PR Card must be collected in person at a IRCC office in Canada.[7]

Validity of a PR card[edit]

The PR Card is normally valid for 5 years. However, it may be valid for 1 year for those whose PR status are being assessed by the IRCC.[1]

As permanent residents must meet the residency obligation (minimum of 730 days in every five years) in order to renew PR Cards, all valid PR Card holders are deemed to have not lost permanent resident status and have the right to enter and remain in Canada during the card's validity. If, however, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer at the port of entry considers the permanent resident may not meet the residency obligation, the person may be reported to IRCC and may be required to attend a hearing to determine his or her PR status.[8]

A PR card's expiration date does not indicate that the holder's status as a permanent resident has expired, or will expire, on that date. It is the date after which the card must be replaced with a new card.

Permanent residents outside Canada[edit]

It is not possible to apply for the PR Card outside Canada. Instead, permanent residents wishing to travel to Canada who do not have a valid PR card may apply for a single use Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD) which allows a journey to Canada as a permanent resident. The application may only be submitted to Government of Canada offices abroad and the fee is C$50.[9] The officers abroad will then determine whether the person still has permanent resident status.

Processing times[edit]

The processing time for a new PR card was 58 days for 80 per cent of the new applications as of June 2016, slightly above IRCC's service standard, which is two months or less for 80 per cent of cases. Before June 2016, the processing time was 95 days for 80 per cent of the applications, and only 43 per cent of the cases were processed in two months or less.[10] IRCC does not have a service standard for PR card renewals.

Proof of status in Canada[edit]

Whether one is a permanent resident or not is determined by the provisions of the IRPA. Under section 31(2)(a) of the IRPA, a person with a valid permanent card is presumed to be a permanent resident unless the IRCC officer determines that he or she is no longer a permanent resident.[11][12] Similarly, under section 31(2)(b) of the IRPA, a person who is outside Canada without a valid PR card is presumed not to be a permanent resident unless proven otherwise.[12]

The IRPA, however, does not specify the requirement for a permanent resident to hold a PR card, so a permanent resident who does not hold a valid PR card continues to be a permanent resident regardless of whether he or she is physically in Canada, if he or she satisfies the residency obligation and the status has not been revoked, although it would be difficult to prove the person's status in many cases.

Requirement to enter Canada[edit]

A Canadian permanent resident has the right to enter Canada under section 27(1) of the IRPA, provided that their PR status has not been revoked, hence legally speaking, a permanent resident do not need a PR card to enter Canada.[13]

Due to the changes in visa policy, however, all permanent residents are required to hold a valid PR card to enter Canada by air unless they hold a U.S passport.[14] As any person can approach one of the Canadian land ports of entry along the Canada–United States border, a permanent resident does not need to hold a valid PR card to enter Canada from the United States, although they may face difficulties when boarding a commercial carrier (bus, ship or train).[2]

Using Canadian PR card as a proof of status and for visa-free travel[edit]

In Canada[edit]

A PR Card is the most convenient way of proving status to authorities within Canada (e.g. provincial governments, employers, schools). Most permanent residents have other documentation (such as original landing papers) which is also acceptable.

Outside Canada[edit]

For visa-free travels, Canadian permanent residents require a PR Card, unless the person's passport in itself is sufficient for exemption. A Canadian PR Card holder may travel visa-free to the following countries if not already exempt:

For non-visa-exempt nationals, UK allows holders of a valid PR card issued after 2002 to transit without visa under TWOV program.[19]

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]