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Traveling Outside Canada Without Your Permanent Resident Card

Blog posted on by Evelyn Ackah in International Travel and Permanent Residence

Traveling Outside Canada Without Your Permanent Resident Card

This article describes the experiences of someone who had to travel without their Canada Permanent Residence Card. Your situation may be different, so consult with your attorney to create a plan so you are not denied entry to Canada.

Can you travel without a Permanent Resident card?

The IRCC requires that all Canada Permanent Residents who are returning to Canada by commercial carrier - airplane, boat, train or bus - must show a valid Permanent Resident Card (PR card) or Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD) before boarding. Failure to carry a Permanent Resident Card permits the commercial carrier to deny you passage to Canada.

If you are traveling outside of Canada and you have lost or do not have your Permanent Residence card, you should option apply for a PR Travel Document at the nearest Canadian Consulate or immigration office. You can only apply for a PRTD from outside of Canada.

What if you are nowhere near a consulate that can issue a travel document? What are your options?

Travelers from countries that do not require temporary resident visas

If you are a citizen of a country that does not require a temporary resident visa, you may be able to travel without a Permanent Resident card or a Travel Document.

A Canada Permanent Resident who is a U.S. citizen was recently overseas and his Permanent Resident Card had not been issued yet. The nearest consulate that could issue a PR Travel Document was hundreds of miles away. He contacted an immigration lawyer for advice.

This is what his lawyer advised:

1) Book a refundable airline ticket to Seattle, Washington

If you drive across the border from the United States into Canada and are not on a commercial carrier, you are not required to show your Permanent Resident Card. This was his back-up plan, as he is an American citizen and he could easily travel to the U.S.A.

IRCC allows that if you are traveling in a private vehicle such as a truck, motorcycle or recreational vehicle that you own, borrow or rent, you can use your PR card or other documents to return to Canada.

2) Attempt to board the flight back to Canada

It is not an immigration offence to travel without a Permanent Residence Card – the rule is for commercial carriers. In this situation, the airline would decide whether or not he could travel to Canada.

3) Enter Canada as a Permanent Resident

At the airport, the person simply entered as a Permanent Resident. All his information was in the immigration computer system, and he was allowed into Canada without any issue.

Caution – this may not work for you

If you are from a country that requires you to have a Temporary Resident visa to travel to Canada, then this won’t work. The commercial carrier will ask for your Travel Visa. As a Permanent Resident, you won’t likely have one. At that point, they will ask for your PR card, and you won’t have that either, so you will be denied boarding.

Some commercial carriers are stricter than others. Some may request a Permanent Resident Card on a routine basis, and if that happens you won’t be allowed to board.

It is always best to have your PR Card or a Travel Document when you travel outside of Canada. If you need to travel outside of Canada and your Permanent Resident Card is expiring, you can apply for urgent PR card renewal. However, if you are overseas and do not need a Temporary Resident Visa to enter Canada, you may be able to travel to Canada without an issue.

It’s a good idea to consult an immigration lawyer if you need to travel without your Permanent Resident Card, if it expires while you are traveling, or if you lose your PR card.

This post does not constitute legal advice – you should consult with a lawyer so he or she can evaluate your unique circumstances and application materials.


Evelyn L. Ackah, BA, LL.B.

Founder/Managing Lawyer

Ms. Ackah is passionate about immigration law because it focuses on people and relationships, which are at the core of her personal values. Starting her legal career as a corporate/commercial ...

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