How long do permanent residents have to stay in Canada in order to maintain their legal immigration status? The answer is 2 years or 730 days within 5 year period. Those 730 days could be accumulated consecutively or cumulatively meaning you can stay in Canada for two years straight, then leave the country for 3 years and you still will keep your PR status. Or, you can travel for short periods of time, as long as the total amount of days absent from Canada is no more than 730 days within the last 5 years before calculating the period of your legitimate residency in Canada.
There are some exceptions to this rule however which will allow you to travel overseas without losing days spent in Canada. This includes: accompanying your Canadian spouse for an overseas trip, working for the Canadian government, or working for an eligible Canadian business outside of the country. In these cases, your days spent overseas would not be deducted from residency.
A permanent resident should still remain careful when travelling outside of the country and should refrain from travel if their card is about to expire and hasn’t been renewed. I am frequently asked, “Do I need to renew my PR Card” and the answer is that if you intend to remain in Canada, then you don’t need to renew as only actual residence and time spent in Canada is a legal confirmation of status. However if you do intend to travel, you need to make sure your card is valid. You can not apply for a renewal of the card and leave Canada in hopes that your PR Card will arrive to your Canadian address and you will be able to return safely, with no immigration troubles. The renewal application must be done while you are in Canada. Some people who have foreign citizenship are of the opinion that they can travel outside Canada and use their native country passport. This is a grave mistake because, if you are a permanent resident of Canada, you must cross the Canadian border as a permanent resident with your PR Card.
If permanent resident must travel to their home country because of an urgent family situation and they don’t have a valid PR Card or it is about to expire at the time of the travel, then they should approach a local Canadian consulate or embassy in their country before their return to Canada and apply for a Travel Document. The officials will look at your circumstances including the humanitarian and compassionate grounds of your situation and decide whether to issue you the document for your return. If you are refused, you have rights to appeal the negative decision at the Immigration Appeal Division (IAD) in Canada. There is no appeal process that can be done in your country.
What are the chances of success in the appeal of residency breach at the IAD? This all depends on how long a permanent resident was outside of Canada, the reasons of their absence, their family ties in Canada, their country of their citizenship, and a number of other factors that are unique to their situation.
As an immigration counsel with years of experience, I would urge those who approach our officials to not be discouraged by the negative decisions. Appeal it, get an advice and, if you have grounds, you will win.
A note on the differences between PR Card and Confirmation of Permanent Residence
Very often, permanent residents of Canada have confusion with two documents they receive after successfully applying for PR which are their Confirmation of Permanent Residency and Permanent Residence Card (PR Card). When travelling outside of Canada, they must use their PR Card at the border as one of their travel documents. A Confirmation of Permanent Residence paper is given for a purpose of confirming an immigration status, whereas a PR Card serves as a document for travels.