What is a Permanent Resident Card?

A Permanent Resident Card (PR Card) is the most common status document for permanent residents in Canada. Though it is intended as a travel document for permanent residents returning to Canada, the PR Card is best proof of status within Canada too.


History of the PR Card – Why it Exists

The Permanent Resident Card was introduced in 2002 as an ID card to allow Canadian Permanent Residents to conveniently prove their status in Canada. Prior to the introduction of the PR Card, Permanent Residents relied on printed immigration documents – landing papers – to prove their status. Landing papers were often old, damaged or illegible, and there were various formats issued from time to time. The introduction of the PR Card standardized proof of permanent resident status in Canada in an easy-to-carry, wallet-sized format, that also acts as a photo ID.

The benefit for the government is that it is the way Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) can see whether or not permanent residents are meeting their residency obligation, the amount of time you must spend in Canada to retain status. When you renew your PR Card, IRCC checks on whether or not you are meeting this obligation. With landing papers, there was no such process.

Originally, some people nicknamed the PR Card the “Maple Leaf” card, however this name is not so popular any more.


Purpose of the PR Card

The Permanent Resident Card is intended as the primary means with which Canadian permanent residents can prove their status upon entry to Canada. However, it has also become the primary way permanent residents can prove their status within Canada, as it is much easier to show a photo ID than a crumpled landing paper.


Returning to Canada with a PR Card

When a permanent resident of Canada wishes to travel outside of Canada, they need a PR Card in order to return in nearly all circumstances. A PR Card is mandatory on “commercial carriers,” that is, on busses, trains, planes and boats that are operated by companies, and not hired privately. If you do not have a PR Card, operators are not supposed to let you board the vehicle or vessel. If you are driving back to Canada, or if you have a private bus, plane or boat, you do not need a PR Card to return to Canada.


Using Your PR Card Within Canada

Using the PR Card within Canada is the simplest way of proving your status in Canada. Provided your card has not yet expired, a PR Card is a familiar document that automatically identifies you are a permanent resident, entitled to all the privileges that entails. Proving your status in Canada without a PR Card (or with an expired PR Card) can be difficult, as not everyone is familiar with all the different forms of landing papers Canada has issued over the years.


How Do I Get a PR Card?

PR Cards are issued automatically to all new permanent residents of Canada since 2002. If you landed in Canada as a permanent resident, you will have been issued a PR Card. At landing, you need to provide your address in Canada (if you cannot, you have 180 days to inform IRCC of that address) and the PR Card is mailed to the address you provided. PR Cards are valid for 5 years from the date of issue. Click here if you never received your PR Card.

If you landed in Canada before the issuance of PR Cards you have to apply for one using the renewal application process. The card is valid for 5 years.


What is the PR Residency Obligation?