Whether you're already in Canada on a temporary basis as a student or worker, or you're abroad hoping to immigrate to Canada permanently, understanding the requirements to obtain permanent residency in Canada is an important step in your immigration journey.
Why become a Canadian permanent resident?
Being a Canadian permanent resident comes with its own benefits, including the ability to live, work, and study anywhere in Canada, access to universal healthcare and social services, the ability to sponsor certain family members (i.e. your spouse and dependent children) to join you in Canada, protected rights under Canadian law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the ability to eventually become a Canadian citizen.
What are the pathways to permanent residency?
There are a number of pathways to permanent residency in Canada:
1. Express Entry
Express Entry is an online system that Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) uses to manage immigration applications from skilled workers. If you are chosen, you receive an Invitation to Apply for Permanent Residency. There are 3 immigration programs managed through Express Entry: i) Canadian Experience Class (for skilled workers with Canadian work experience); ii) Federal Skilled Worker Program (for skilled workers with foreign work experience); and iii) Federal Skilled Trades Program (for skilled workers who are qualified in a skilled trade). If you're eligible for one of the above programs, you can also apply through Express Entry for the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). If you're nominated for PNP, you'll get extra points on your Express Entry profile so you may be invited to apply sooner.
2. Family Sponsorship
There are various relationships that may qualify for family sponsorship. These include spouse, common-law partner, conjugal partner, dependent children, parents, and grandparents. A person can use the family sponsorship programs to sponsor individuals to become permanent residents of Canada.
3. Federal Start-Up Visa (SUV) Program
The SUV program encourages foreign nationals to build innovative and internationally competitive companies that will create employment opportunities for Canadians. Entrepreneurs who are eligible for the program will receive funding, guidance, and expertise for opening and operating their companies in Canada. Investors in the start-up business will also be eligible for Canadian permanent residence.
4. Self-employed Persons Program
The Self-employed Persons Program allows people to immigrate to Canada permanently if they have relevant experience in cultural activities or athletics, and are willing and able to make a significant contribution to the cultural or athletic life of Canada.
5. Caregiver Program
As a caregiver, you have options to come to Canada permanently, including through the Home Child Care Provider Pilot and Home Support Worker Pilot program.
6. Quebec-selected Skilled Workers
This is the application process for skilled workers who want to become permanent residents of Canada and live in Quebec. Quebec has a special agreement on immigration with the Government of Canada. The province has its own rules for choosing immigrants who will adapt well to living there.
7. Atlantic Immigration Program
The Atlantic Immigration Program is a pathway to permanent residence for skilled foreign workers and graduates from a Canadian institution who want to work and live in 1 of Canada's 4 Atlantic provinces. The program helps employers hire qualified candidates for jobs they have not been able to fill locally.
8. Selected Pilot Programs
This includes the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot program, which creates a path to permanent residence for skilled foreign workers who want to work and live in one of the participating communities. This also includes the Agri-Food Pilot, which helps address the labour needs of the Canadian agri-food sector.
9. Humanitarian and Compassionate Application
Most people who apply for permanent residence in Canada must do so from their home country. A humanitarian and compassionate application can be used for those individuals already in Canada, who need an exemption from one or more requirements of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) or Regulations in order to apply for permanent residence from within Canada. These applications are discretionary, and you must demonstrate that sufficient humanitarian and compassionate considerations justify granting the exemption(s) you need.
10. Less Common Pathways
Other less common pathways include special programs for Hong Kong residents, Ukrainians fleeing the war, and others.
What is the Permanent Residence card?
The permanent residence card is an important identity document the confirms your permanent resident status. You will need to carry this card with you whenever you leave Canada and plan to re-enter Canada. If you are a permanent resident, you do not need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA).
If your permanent resident card has expired, it does not mean that you are no longer a permanent resident. However, you are required to apply for a new card from within Canada. You may apply to renew your permanent resident card up to six months before it expires. Because card renewal applications take many months to process, we recommend you apply as soon as you are eligible.
Please note that if your permanent resident card expires, you cannot fly into Canada on your passport. In this situation, you may require a Permanent Resident Travel Document to return to Canada by plane, or you may wish to arrive via commercial vehicle and apply at the border to renew your permanent residence card.
What is the residency requirement for permanent residence?
Once you obtain your Canadian permanent residence status, you must renew your status every five years and meet residency requirements in order to maintain your status.
To keep your permanent resident status, you must have been physically present in Canada for at least two of the last five years (730 days). These 730 days do not need to be continuous, and in specific scenarios, your time abroad may count towards the 730 days. For example, if you are required to work abroad full-time for a Canadian business or government, or you are travelling with a spouse who is a Canadian citizen or permanent residence who is working full-time for a Canadian business or government, you may be eligible to count your time abroad toward your residency requirement when it comes time to renew your status.
To be prepared for this renewal, we recommend you keep detailed track of your entry and exits into Canada in a travel diary. When it comes time to renew your permanent residency card, you will be required to show supporting documentation that outlines how you have met the residency obligation, such as:
- employment records or pay stubs;
- bank statements;
- Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Notice of Assessment for the five (5) years immediately before the application
- evidence that you received benefits from Canadian government programs;
- rental agreements;
- club memberships;
- or any other documents that prove you met your residency obligation.
Once you have lived in Canada for three out of the last five years, you may be eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship.
Can you lose your permanent resident status?
Although you should always apply to renew your permanent resident card as soon as you are eligible, you do not lose your permanent residence status if your card expires and you have been a resident within Canada.
You can lose your permanent resident status if:
- you do not satisfy the residency requirement of at least two of the last five years;
- an adjudicator determines you are no longer a permanent resident after an inquiry or appeal;
- you become inadmissible to Canada, such as for being convicted of a serious criminal charge;
- you voluntarily renounce your permanent resident status;
- a removal order is made against you and comes into force; or
- you become a Canadian citizen.
Even if you do not meet the residency obligation, you are still technically a permanent resident until an official decision is made on your status.
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.