Carrying identification and traveling outside of Canada

Identity documents

Official documents that state who you are and where you come from are very important and can be hard to replace if you lose them. These include health records, birth certificates, driver’s licences and passports.

You will need these identity documents to apply for important government services and benefits, and to get a Social Insurance Number (SIN) card and a health insurance card.

Do not to lend your important identity documents to your friends or let anyone else use them. You could lose your benefits if you give your personal identification to someone else.

What you should carry with you

It is important to have two pieces of identification with you at all times and at least one piece of identification with a photo. Common pieces of identification that you may be asked to show to prove your identity include: a driver’s licence, a photocopy of your permanent resident papers (the original should be kept in a safe place or in a safety deposit box at the bank), a health insurance card and a credit card.

It is not necessary to carry your Confirmation of Permanent Residence form or your permanent resident card around with you.

What you should not carry with you

You should not carry your birth certificate, SIN card or passport with you unless you need them for a specific purpose. If you carry these documents with you and your wallet or purse is lost or stolen, they will be difficult to replace. If they are stolen, there is a risk that someone could use your identity.

If your identification is lost or stolen

You should telephone the police to report it lost or stolen. You should also contact any credit card companies or banks to cancel your cards in case someone tries to make purchases using your cards.

If you have lost any government-issued identification such as a driver’s licence, SIN or health insurance card, you should contact the appropriate federal or provincial/territorial organization to report them lost or stolen and to request replacements.

Find out more about what you should do if you lose your identification and how to replace your cards and identification.

Traveling outside of Canada

Permanent resident status gives you the right to live in and move freely around Canada. However, if you visit another country you will need proof that you are a permanent resident to return to Canada. The permanent resident card (PR card) is the official proof of your permanent resident status in Canada.

If you become a citizen, a citizenship certificate is your proof of Canadian citizenship. It is not a travel document. Any Canadian citizen wanting to travel outside Canada should obtain a Canadian passport.

Obtaining a Permanent Resident Card

If you are planning to travel outside Canada but do not have a valid PR card, send your application well before you plan to leave. See the processing times page for how long it usually takes to get your card.

Keeping your permanent resident status

You can leave and return to Canada, but there is a limit on how long you can live outside the country. You must live in Canada for at least two years within a five-year period. If you live outside Canada for longer than that you might lose your permanent resident status. Find out more about the residency obligations for permanent residents.

If you're planning to travel

If you plan to visit another country, bring your PR card and make sure it will not expire while you are outside Canada. However, there are steps you can take to return to Canada without a PR card.

Traveling to the United States

For information about who can enter the United States, see the Discover America website.


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