Travelling to Canada as a permanent resident

Updated: Jan 08, 2024 | Tags: Permanent Resident, Canada eTA Application Form

For many people, travel to Canada means getting either a visa or an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), which demonstrates that you are exempt from the visa requirement. The main exceptions to these rules are Canadian citizens and permanent residents. Permanent residents can prove their status by showing a valid permanent resident card (PR card) when entering the country. However, not having a PR card doesn't mean that you are no longer a permanent resident. If you're a Canadian permanent resident, but you don't have a PR card, you have two main options for travelling to Canada.

Travelling to Canada without a Permanent Resident (PR) card is a situation that many individuals find themselves in, whether due to the card being lost, stolen, or expired. Understanding the alternative routes and the necessary steps to take can alleviate stress and confusion associated with this process.

Understanding the PR Card

The Role of a PR Card in Canadian Travel

A PR card is the official proof of your status as a permanent resident in Canada. It is typically required when re-entering Canada on a commercial carrier, such as an airplane, boat, train, or bus.

Why you might not have a PR Card

Situations where you might not have a PR card include new immigrants who haven't received their card yet, current residents whose card has expired or been lost, or those who left Canada without their card.

Alternative Documents for Travel

Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD)

The most common alternative to a PR card for re-entering Canada is a Permanent Resident Travel Document. This is a one-time use document that proves your status as a permanent resident.

Applying for a PRTD

To apply for a PRTD, you must contact the nearest Canadian visa office while you are outside Canada. The application process involves submitting proof of your permanent resident status and explaining your situation.

Single Journey Travel Document

In rare cases, such as refugees or stateless individuals, a Single Journey Travel Document may be issued. This document also allows for a one-time entry into Canada.

Preparing for Your Journey

Check Your Eligibility

Before starting the application process for a PRTD or other document, ensure that you are still eligible for permanent residency. This typically means having been physically present in Canada for at least 730 days within the last five years.

Gather Necessary Documentation

Prepare documents that prove your permanent resident status, identity, and Canadian connections. These may include copies of your expired PR card, identification documents, and proof of ties to Canada.

Application Process

Step-by-Step Guide for PRTD

  1. Find the Nearest Visa Office: Locate the Canadian visa office that serves your region.
  2. Complete the Application: Fill out the application form for a PRTD, which is available on the website of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
  3. Submit Supporting Documents: Provide the necessary documents to prove your status and identity.
  4. Pay the Fee: Pay the processing fee for the PRTD application.
  5. Wait for Processing: Processing times can vary, so plan accordingly.

Considerations for Processing Time

Processing times can be lengthy, depending on the visa office's workload and your specific case. It's crucial to apply well in advance of your planned travel date.

Travelling to Canada

Upon Arrival

When you arrive in Canada with a PRTD or other travel document, you'll go through the standard customs and immigration process. Be prepared to present your documents and answer questions about your absence from Canada.

After Arriving in Canada

Renewing or Applying for a New PR Card

Once back in Canada, if you still don't have a PR card or it's expired, apply for a new one as soon as possible. This process involves a separate application and different documentation.

Special Situations

Travelling with Children

If travelling with children who are permanent residents, ensure they also have the necessary travel documents.

Lost or Stolen PR Cards

If your PR card is lost or stolen while outside Canada, report it to the local police and the nearest Canadian visa office. This will be an important step in your application for a PRTD.

What if I don't meet the residency requirements?

If you haven't satisfied the residency obligation, you won't be able to enter Canada as a permanent resident. However, you may still be able to enter Canada using a visa or eTA, in the same way as any other traveller from your country.

In order to do this, you'll need to renounce your permanent resident status. This is a voluntary procedure in which you declare that you don't want to remain a permanent resident of Canada. You don't need to visit a Visa Application Centre; you can download the forms and submit them by mail. Once you've confirmed that you are no longer a permanent resident, you can go about applying for an eTA or visa just like anyone else who wishes to travel to Canada.

Renouncing your permanent residency status is a big step, but it's the best choice if you don't satisfy the residency requirement or no longer wish to live in Canada long-term. You can't travel to Canada without either applying for a PRTD or giving up your permanent resident status, and the renunciation process is simpler, faster and cheaper than applying for a PRTD, receiving a rejection and waiting for the appeal period to expire.

Whether you're a permanent resident who no longer has a PR card or one who's decided to settle permanently somewhere else, there are methods available for you to travel to Canada. To ensure worry-free future travel, you just have to choose the path that's right for you.


Travelling to Canada without a PR card can be a complex process, but it's manageable with the right information and preparation. Understanding your options, such as applying for a PRTD, and the necessary steps involved are key to a successful return to Canada. Remember to plan ahead, particularly regarding application processing times, and ensure that you meet the requirements for maintaining your permanent resident status. With careful planning and adherence to the guidelines, your journey back to Canada can be a smooth one.