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Travel Options for New Permanent Permanent Residents Without Permanent Resident Cards

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

Recently there has been huge backlog from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in delivering initial Permanent Resident (PR) cards to new Permanent Residents.

The current processing time for initial PR cards is 66 days, according to IRCC’s website.

However, IRCC has advised that if processing time goes beyond 68 weeks, clients should contact IRCC. (Find out how our firm can help if you’ve been waiting a unreasonable amount of time for your initial PR card here.)

A common misconception is that without your PR card, your Permanent Resident status is limited. This is not true. PR cards do not jeopardize your PR status. PR cards are merely travel documents and identity documents used to show airlines that you have the right to enter Canada. PR cards are not required by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

After landing as a Permanent Resident, you will retain that status whether or not you are in possession of a PR card. It is possible, however, to lose your PR status by other means, such as by committing a serious crime or failing to maintain the residency requirement. Our blog available here has more information on the residency requirement.

The currents delays in receiving your Permanent Resident card should not affect your ability to travel outside Canada. There are three options for travelling outside Canada without a PR card.

1. Return across the land border with the United States in a private vehicle

You may book your return flight to the United States near the Canadian border and return to Canada from a land port of entry in a private vehicle without a PR card.

Private vehicles are vehicles not available for public use. Examples include a car, truck, motorcycle or recreational vehicle that you own, borrow, or rent. Examples of a private vehicle would NOT include a coach bus with other passengers.

You will need to prove your identity to Canada Border Services Agency by using other identification documents such as your Confirmation of Permanent Residence (CoPR) document, provincial drivers licence, provincial health card, social insurance number card or letter, vehicle registration, etc. We recommend having more than one identification document ready to prove your identity at the border.

2. United States citizens can return to Canada using their United States passports

If you are a citizen of the United States and a Permanent Resident of Canada, you can freely enter and exit Canada using your valid United States passport. We still recommend having your CoPR document on hand just in case.

3. Apply for a Permanent Resident Travel Document from outside Canada

If the first two options don’t apply to you, you can apply for a Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD). A Permanent Resident Travel Document is a document inserted into your passport at a Visa Application Centre (VAC) or an Embassy to prove your Permanent Resident status and allow you to travel back to Canada without a PR card.

PRTD applications must be made from outside Canada, meaning that you cannot apply for a PRTD before leaving Canada. Applications are either made in person to a Visa Application Centre or online, depending on COVID-19 restrictions.

To be eligible for a PRTD, you must show in the application that you meet or will meet the residency obligation.

If you have been a permanent resident for five (5) years or more, you must have been physically present in Canada for a minimum of 730 days within the five (5) years immediately before you apply for a PRTD.

If you have been a permanent resident for less than five (5) years, you must show that you will be able to meet the minimum of 730 days of physical presence in Canada within five (5) years of the date you became a permanent resident.

If you do not or cannot meet the residency obligation, you may still be granted a PRTD on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Humanitarian and compassionate grounds are exceptional circumstances or hardship beyond your control that have kept you living outside Canada, such as caring for a loved one who has fallen ill outside Canada.

The IRCC application fee for a PRTD is $50. If applying in person to a VAC, your local VAC may charge additional fees. There is no average processing time for PRTDs on the IRCC website, but we estimate they are usually processed within 2 weeks, depending on the country and volume of applications.

We encourage you to contact us by phone at (416) 203-2899 ext. 30 or by email at if you have questions about travelling outside Canada without a Permanent Resident card or if you are interested in applying for a Permanent Resident Travel Document.


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