If you are a Canadian Permanent Resident currently outside of Canada without a PR Card or with an expired PR Card you need to apply for a Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD) to return to Canada if you are travelling by airline, cruise-ship, train or bus. You can normally only apply for a PRTD at a Visa Application Centre and the processing time is solely determined by the local visa office. There is no way to speed up this application.
How to Avoid Applying for a PRTD
Here are the exceptions:
Living Outside of Canada while Maintaining Your PR Status
If you meet one of the exemptions to the Residency Obligation, you should travel back to Canada to renew your PR Card before it expires. To not have your days outside of Canada counted against the Residency Obligation, the time you’ve spent outside of Canada as a permanent resident must have been:
- while accompanying your spouse or parent, who is a Canadian citizen; OR
- while accompanying your spouse or parent, who is a Canadian Permanent Resident and is working for a Canadian employer, the federal government of Canada or a government of a Canadian province or territory; OR
- you must be working for a Canadian employer, the federal government of Canada or a government of a Canadian province or territory.
Even if you meet one of these exceptions, you’ll still need to apply for a PR Card from within Canada. So if your card has expired and you have not applied for a new one, you will still need to get a Permanent Resident Travel Document.
Travelling to Canada by Private Vehicle with a PR Card
- If you are currently in the United States and can drive to Canada (or, if you can travel to the United States and then drive to Canada), then you do not need a PR Card to travel to Canada. You will, however, need a copy of your Record of Landing or Confirmation of Permanent Residence or some other proof of your status in Canada (such as your expired PR Card plus a copy of your current PR Card application which is in processing). And you can expect to be questioned at length and possibly lectured. (You can also travel to Canada in a private boat or plane without a PR Card if you have that luxury.)
What to bring to the Canadian Border When You Don’t Have a PR Card
In order to successfully travel to and re-enter Canada you will need to bring proof of your status as a Canadian Permanent Resident. Here’s what to bring in addition to your passport:
- a copy of your IMM 100 Record of Landing OR your Confirmation of Permanent Residence OR your Verification of Status
- your expired PR Card
- a copy of your application you submitted to renew your PR Card (if applicable) OR a printout from cic.gc.ca showing your PR Card application in process (if applicable)
- a valid ESTA, US visa or Green Card for entry into the United States prior to entry into Canada (if you are not a citizen of the US and are not currently in the US), provided you are driving to Canada, rather than flying by private plane.
If you do not have any of the above Canadian documents, you will have to hope the CBSA officer decides to let you in. Without these documents, it is very likely you will be sent to a Canadian consulate in the US to apply for a PRTD.
Visa-Free Travel To Canada without a Valid PR Card
You can no longer travel to Canada without your PR Card if nationals from your country do not need visas.
That’s because Canada introduced something called an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) in 2016. Anyone from a country that does not require a visa to come to Canada must now apply for an eTA in order to come to Canada.
If you are a Permanent Resident and apply for a eTA, your eTA application should be rejected.
Instead, apply for a Permanent Resident Travel Document:
How to Apply for a PRTD
In order to apply for a Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD), you will have to complete the application and submit it to the relevant Visa Application Centre (or, where applicable, Canadian diplomatic mission).
To see a complete guide on completing the IMM 5524 Application for a Travel Document (Permanent Resident Abroad), click here.
Once you have completed the application, you will have to pay the fee, either online at cic.gc.ca or by the method of the office you are applying through.
Then you will have to submit the application according to the rules for the particular country you are currently in. Learn more.