Canada: Residency Obligations

Last Updated: October 3 2006
Article by Guidy Mamann

Originally published in Canadian Newcomer Magazine #10", Summer 2006

One of the first questions newcomers to Canada ask is "How much time do I have to stay in Canada to apply for citizenship?’

Some are confused because they have heard two different things. "Is it ‘2 out of 5 years’ or is it ‘3 out of 4 years’?"

The confusion lies in the fact that these figures refer to two completely different things.

The first deals with the amount of time a person must live in Canada to maintain their status here as a permanent resident. If they are not here for this minimum period they can lose their status as a permanent resident.

The second refers to the amount of time a permanent resident needs to live in Canada in order to qualify for Canadian citizenship.

On June 28, 2002 Canada’s new immigration legislation, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) came into effect. This legislation included a new "residency obligation" which requires permanent residents to be physically present in Canada for 730 days (i.e. two years) in every five-year period. This replaced the previous rule which required that permanent residents reside in Canada for at least 183 days (i.e. about 6 months) in each twelve-month period.

A permanent resident can include in this 730-day period any time that they were outside of Canada:

- accompanying a Canadian citizen who is their spouse or common-law partner or, in the case of a child, their parent;

- employed on a full-time basis by a Canadian business or in the public service of Canada or of a province; or

- accompanying a permanent resident who is their spouse or common-law partner or, in the case of a child, their parent and who is employed on a full-time basis by a Canadian business or in the public service of Canada or of a province.

Our legislation also contemplates other forms of compliance being enacted.

Individuals who cannot meet this requirement because they were landed in Canada less than five years prior to their attempted re-entry can meet this requirement by proving that, if permitted re-entry, it is still mathematically possible for them to meet this obligation for the five-year period immediately following their landing.

Every time a permanent resident seeks to re-enter Canada he/she may be asked to prove that he/she has met this residency obligation for the five-year period immediately preceding the examination.

Newcomers to Canada can get into trouble when they spend extended periods of time outside of Canada without fully understanding how to calculate this five-year period. The easiest way to do this is by estimating your probable date of return to Canada following a trip abroad. Let’s say you plan on being outside of Canada and plan on returning here on October 3, 2008. All you do is subtract 5 years from that date which takes you back to October 3, 2003. Now you have to count up all your days inside of Canada, including qualifying time abroad as described above, between October 3, 2003 and October 3, 2008. You are fine if you have 730 days of residency in Canada during that period. You must repeat this calculation for every planned re-entry to Canada.

A port-of-entry officer could excuse a failure to comply with this requirement if he/she were to find sufficient "humanitarian and compassionate" grounds. However, if it is determined that no such grounds exist, a removal order may be issued by the immigration department or by a member of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). This removal order can be appealed to the Appeal Division of the IRB.

The permanent resident can win the appeal if he/she can prove that they have met the residency obligation or that there are sufficient humanitarian and compassionate grounds to excuse the appellant of this requirement.

There are separate rules in Canada’s Citizenship Act relating to the acquisition of Canadian citizenship.

To qualify for citizenship a permanent resident has to accumulate 1095 days (i.e. three years) of "residency" in Canada in the four-year period immediately preceding the application for Canadian citizenship.

The Federal Court of Canada has ruled on numerous occasions that, for the purposes of a citizenship application, "residency" does not necessarily mean "physical presence" in Canada. It can include time spent outside of Canada during a period when the applicant’s mode of living was centralized in Canada, i.e. where the applicant’s spouse, children, home, bank accounts, or major assets etc. are in Canada and not abroad.

Once a person acquires Canadian citizenship they may remain abroad as long as they wish without ever risking their right to return here.

In our immigration and citizenship system a person must simultaneously keep an eye on two time periods to ensure that they don’t lose their permanent residency status and/or that they are accumulating enough time in Canada to obtain Canadian citizenship.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.