How to Renew your PR Card: Beware of PR Card Kits

For those of you who are permanent residents of Canada (PRs), you know that your Permanent Resident Card (PR Card), is your “travel ID”.

What is a PR Card? What does it do?

The PR card allows you to return to Canada on a commercial carrier like an airplane, identifying you as a legal permanent resident of Canada. Without a PR Card in hand, you would have trouble boarding an airplane or another commercial carrier en route to Canada and convincing a customs officer at the Canada border that you are legally entitled to remain in Canada as a PR. So, needless to say, PR Cards are important documents to have for Canadian Permanent Residents.

Do you need to renew your PR card?

Now not all PRs need a PR Card. If you don’t intent to travel outside of Canada, there is really no need to carry one. Your status as a Permanent Resident remains as such. And as a PR, your are one forever unless of course you become inadmissible for serious criminality or misrepresentation. But these days most people including Canadian permanent resdidents are very mobile and need to travel outside Canada for business or for pleasure. And this means that, like a passport, your PR Card is a must.

PR Cards expire after 5 years.

Like all good things, PR Cards come to an end… this case after 5 years. So it is important that if you intend to travel outside of Canada as a permanent resident, you should be mindful of your card’s expiry date. If it is coming up, you better consider renewing it or you may have to cancel your travel plans.

Renewing your PR Card

If your PR card is going to expire or has already and you plan to travel outside Canada, you can renew your PR card by applying to Canada Immigration. Applications for PR Card renewal are usually strait forward especially if you have remained in Canada the whole time or most of the time during the 5 year period prior to applying. But if you have been away from Canada for a substantial time, say, more than 3 years in that 5 year period, you could have some difficulties getting your PR Card renewed.

Now depending on the circumstances, renewing your PR Card even if you have been absent from Canada, can be achieved but  you have to be very careful about including the proper documentation clearly showing your residency in Canada and the circumstances surrounding your absence.

If you have not met the residency requirements for renewing your PR card which basucally is remaining in Canada for 2 years in the 5 year period proceeding your application (with some excpetions), you can still get approved for a renewal. But again it is about evidence and explaination.

Help Getting your PR Card Renewed

If you wish to get help getting your PR Card renewed, you can consult with an immigration lawyer who has experience in such matters. The lawyer will consult with you in person or over the phone,  take down all the facts, help you complete the forms, and collect the necessary documents plus prepare submissions to Canada immigration promoting you as a good candidate for approval.

What about PR Card Kits?

Self Help PR Card kits are also an option. These can be found online promoted usually by immigration consultants. The problem with these immigration kits is that they are somewhat misleading. Despite that they usually include disclaimers against guarantees, they way they are promoted is quite different. Often you get the impression that all it takes to get your PR card renewed is to download a kit online, pay a nominal fee and voila!

I just can’t emphasize enough the danger in using them. PR Card Kits are just no substitute for professional assistance. These kits are generic in nature; they do not know you, can’t know you and your circumstances. And as they say “the devil is in the details”. What this means is that when applying for a PR Card renewal, immigration officers look at the circumstances of your case and often make a judgment call on whether to approve or deny your application. And if you think that getting a renewal can be achieved by just following the instructions of some PR Card kit that tries to be everything to all people,  you are in for a rude awakening. If only life or immigration were that simple!

Bottom line: If you feel you need assistance with your PR Card case, then get proper assistance. Don’t cut corners. Your travel plans depend on it.

Michael Niren

About Michael Niren

Michael is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. He is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Canadian Bar Association’s Citizenship and Immigration Section and the Associate Member of the American Bar Association. Read more

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