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Permanent Residency Canada

Canadian Permanent Residency Basics

Permanent Residence in Canada

This article covers the basics about Canadian Permanent Residency, including the rights and responsibilities of permanent resident visa holders. If you have recently attained permanent residence status but are unsure about what it entails, you will find some general information below, but you should consult a Canadian immigration lawyer for further details.

A permanent resident…

  • has been issued a permanent resident visa by the Canadian government
  • has arrived in Canada but does yet have Canadian citizenship
  • is still technically a citizen of another country
  • is not only staying in Canada temporarily for school, work, or visiting purposes


Canadian permanent resident visa holders have the following rights:

  • health care and the majority of other social benefits enjoyed by Canadian citizens
  • the right to live, study, or work anywhere in the country
  • protection under federal law
  • all of the democratic rights and fundamental freedoms granted by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
  • the right to apply for citizenship after permanently residing in the country for a designated period of time

Permanent residents have the following responsibilities while residing in Canada:

  • to abide by all federal, provincial, and municipal laws
  • to face conviction for any serious criminal offences, for which the permanent resident visa may be revoked


To maintain permanent resident status, you must fulfil the residency obligation, which requires you to accumulate 730 residency days within each 5-year period. You must normally spend your residency days inside Canada, but you may spend them outside the country under any of these conditions:

  • You are accompanied by Canadian citizen who is your spouse, common-law partner, or parent.
  • You are a full-time employee of a Canadian business.
  • You work full-time in federal public administration or provincial public service.
  • You are accompanied by a spouse, common-law partner, or parent who is a permanent resident and full-time employee of a Canadian business, or who works full-time in federal public administration, or provincial public service.


Status does not normally need to be renewed. After you have been granted your permanent resident visa and arrived in Canada as a permanent resident, your status continues indefinitely unless

  • you successfully apply for Canadian citizenship, or
  • you lose your permanent resident status (e.g., for failing to meet the residency obligation).


A Permanent Resident card is…

  • not to be confused with permanent resident status
  • constructed of plastic and contains biometric data
  • voluntarily acquired
  • required in the absence of travel documents when boarding an airplane or other common carrier to Canada if you are not a Canadian citizen, and do not have citizenship in a country that requires a temporary resident visa for you to visit Canada
  • not obligatory for permanent residents to carry, but advised for the sake of convenience

Differences from a Green Card

Sometimes people will refer informally to Canadian permanent residence as a “Canada Green Card,” in reference to the green card authorizing immigrants to live and work in the United States. However, a Canadian “green card” is actually a misnomer. The difference in terminology underscores the fundamental differences between the permanent residence systems in the two countries:

  • American green card holders have permission to live in the US.
  • Canadian permanent residents have the inherent legal right to live in Canada.
  • American permanent residents should have their green card at all times and be prepared to show it to the authorities if requested.
  • Canadian permanent residents are not obligated to carry their permanent resident card at all times, although it may be convenient to do so.

Programs through which foreign nationals may acquire Canadian permanent resident status:

  • family sponsorship programs, which allow current permanent residents to sponsor close family members (including spouses)
  • Canadian Experience Class program for foreign citizens with work or study experience in Canada
  • Federal Skilled Worker Program
  • Federal Skilled Trades Program
  • Provincial Nominee programs, which allow the individual provinces to nominate new permanent residents
  • business and investor programs
  • Quebec’s skilled worker and experience programs
  • Refugee sponsorship programs

To speak with a Canadian immigration lawyer about Canadian permanent residency, contact First Immigration Law Firm toll-free in North America @ 1-855-360-4333