Permanent Resident Travel Documents

Meurrens LawMaintaining Permanent Residency

Since December 31, 2003, Canadian permanent residents have been required to have either a Permanet Resident Card (a “PR Card“), or a permanent resident travel document (a “PRTD“) to return to Canada aboard a commercial carrier.  A PR Card is a “status document” whereas a PRTD is a “travel document.”

The PR card is the preferred document as it is the official proof of permanent resident status of Canada. Permanent residents who do not have a PR Card, are outside of Canada, and wish to travel commercially back to Canada will need to apply for a PRTD before they can board a flight back to Canada. Without proof of permanent resident status, the Canada Border Services Agency’s Interactive Advance Passenger Information system will impede the permanent resident’s ability to board the airplane to Canada.  This is because s. 31(2)(b) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act states that a permanent resident abroad without a PR Card is presumed to not be a permanent resident.

However, if they apply to a Canadian visa office, permanent residents outside of Canada who do not have valid PR Cards may be issued PRTDs to facilitate their return to Canada.  Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) will only issue PRTDs if they are satisfied that the permanent resident complies with the permanent resident residency obligation or if sufficient humanitarian & compassionate grounds apply.

The refusal of a PRTD can result in the loss of permanent resident status, and can trigger appeal rights to the Immigration Appeal Division.  It is important to note that the grounds of such a loss of permanent residence are the failure to comply with the residency obligation and not general non-compliance.


In certain situations an individual can receive a one-year PR Card if their application for a PRTD is refused and they have an appeal at the Immigration Appeal Division.  However, a PR Card cannot be produced or delivered outside of Canada, and there is no legal provision which allows for the issuance of a PRTD on the sole basis that a PR Card has been issued or is waiting to be collected in Canada.  In such situations, the individual can wait for the outcome of the PRTD appeal, withdraw the appeal which would result in a loss of permanent resident status or seek entry to Canada from the United States by non-commercial means.


The following are different scenarios where IRCC will issue a PRTD.

  1. If the permanent resident meets the residency obligation;
  2. If there are suffiicent humanitarian & compassionate considerations to overcome the breach of the residency obligation;
  3. If an officer determines that the permanent resident has not met the residency obligation, that there are insufficient humanitarian & compassionate considerations, but where the permanent resident has been physically present in Canada at least one day within the 365 days before the date of application and has made an appeal ot the Immigration Appeal Division about the loss of status or the deadline for making such an appeal has not expired;
  4. Where an individual has an Immigration Appeal Division hearing and the Immigration appeal Division has ordered that the permanent resident attend the hearing; or
  5. Where a permanent resident has won an Immigration Appeal Division appeal.