There are two things all Canadian Permanent Residents must do to maintain status: obey Canadian laws and meet the Residency Obligation.
What is The Residency Obligation?
In order to maintain your status in Canada, you are required to be physically present in Canada for 730 days (i.e. two calendar years) out of every five years you are a Canadian Permanent Resident. You must demonstrate that you meet this requirement when you renew your PR Card or apply for a Permanent Resident Travel Document abroad. If you do not meet this obligation, your status may be revoked, though revocation is a long process.
If you have been a Permanent Resident of Canada for less than five years but need to replace your PR Card because it was lost or stolen, you will have to prove that you will meet the residency obligation.
Meeting the Residency Obligation
In order to meet the Residency Obligation, the Government of Canada requires that you be physically present in Canada for 730 days every five years. This means that you aren’t just maintaining a residence in the country.
However, in our experience, PR Card holders who merely meet the residence requirement by staying in Canada for less than 1,000 days, are likely to get a Residency Determination request as part of your PR Card renewal.
We strongly recommend that you spend at least 1,095 days (3 years) physically present in Canada for every five years you are a Permanent Resident to avoid any hassles.
Exceptions to the Residency Obligation
There are four possible ways you may be allowed to not technically meet the Residency Obligation but still maintain your status. Three of them relate to living and working overseas voluntarily. The final option is an appeal around circumstances beyond your control
Accompanying a Canadian Spouse/Partner (or Parent) Overseas
If you are a permanent resident, and your spouse/partner is a Canadian citizen (or you are under 19 and your parent is a Canadian citizen), you may be able to maintain your permanent resident status by counting the days you spent outside of Canada with your Canadian spouse/partner (or parent). Your Canadian citizen spouse/partner (or parent) must be able to prove their citizenship to IRCC’s satisfaction and you must be able to prove your relationship (through a marriage certificate, statutory declaration of common law union, etc.).
Accompanying a Canadian Permanent Resident Overseas
If you are a permanent resident, your spouse/partner is also a permanent resident and is employed full-time by a Canadian business or the Canadian public service while you are living with them overseas, you can count the days spent abroad with your spouse/partner towards the Residency Obligation. This also applies if you are under 19 and your parent, who is a permanent resident, works for a Canadian company or a federal or provincial government overseas.
In this circumstance, you will have to prove your relationship but you’ll also have to prove that your spouse/partner (or parent) was employed by a Canadian business or the government while you were abroad. The requirements your spouse/partner needs to meet to qualify are the same as the requirements below.
Working for a Canadian Business or the Canadian Government Overseas
If you are working either for a Canadian business or for the public service for either the federal government of Canada or the government of one of the provinces or territories you can count the days spent outside of the country toward the Residency Obligation if the following are true:
- you are a full-time employee of a Canadian business, the federal public service or a provincial or territorial public service AND
- you are assigned overseas full-time AND
- your employment by this business or public service will continue when you return to Canada.
If any of the above is not true, you cannot count the time spent overseas towards the Residency Obligation. So, for example, business trips may or may not count, depending on the circumstance.
Humanitarian and Compassionate Grounds Exemptions to the Residency Obligation
In certain extenuating circumstances, IRCC may allow you to keep your status even if you failed to meet the Residency Obligation. An example would be: two children are taken overseas by one their parents for long enough to lose their status but the children did not understand they would lose their status. The parent who remained in Canada might be able to petition IRCC to allow the children to keep their status.