Understand permanent resident status

A permanent resident is someone who has been given permanent resident status by immigrating to Canada, but is not a Canadian citizen. Permanent residents are citizens of other countries.

A person in Canada temporarily, like a student or foreign worker, is not a permanent resident.

Refugees who are resettled from overseas become permanent residents through the Government-Assisted Refugee Program or the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program.

Someone who makes a refugee claim in Canada does not become a permanent resident at that time. To become one, the Immigration and Refugee Board must first approve their claim. Then, they must apply for and get permanent resident status.

The permanent resident card (PR card)

If you travel outside Canada, the permanent resident card is your proof that you are a permanent resident of Canada. If you leave Canada, you will need this card to re-enter the country on a commercial vehicle, like an airplane, boat, train or bus.

If your permanent resident card expires, it does not mean you have lost permanent resident status.

What permanent residents can do

As a permanent resident, you 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,
  • protection under Canadian law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

You must pay taxes and respect all Canadian laws at the federal, provincial and municipal levels.

What permanent residents cannot do

You are not allowed to:

  • vote or run for political office,
  • hold some jobs that need a high-level security clearance.

Time spent living in Canada

When you are a permanent resident, you can live outside of Canada, but must live in Canada for at least two years in a five-year period. If you live outside of Canada for longer, you may lose your permanent resident status.

For more information on how long you have to live in Canada, see Appendix A: Residency obligation of the PR card application package.

Losing your permanent resident status

Your permanent resident status can be taken away if:

  • you do not live in Canada for two out of five years.
  • you are convicted of a serious crime and told to leave Canada.

You do not lose your permanent resident status if your PR card expires.

When you become a Canadian citizen, you are no longer a permanent resident.

Travelling abroad

Information for Canadians travelling or living abroad
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