Traveling Without A Permanent Residence Card


In this post, I’m going to describe the recent experience of a client who had to travel without a permanent residence card.  However, your experience may be different, so never rely on this method – always have a backup plan.

Can you travel without a PR card?

Generally speaking, all permanent residents traveling aboard a commercial carrier (such as an airline, bus or ship) must always have their permanent residence card along with their passport.  Failure to have a permanent residence card allows the commercial carrier to deny you passage to Canada, and there’s nothing you can do at that point.

If you are outside of Canada and you do not have a permanent residence card, your best option is to apply for a Travel Document at the nearest Canadian Consulate or immigration office.

However, what if you are nowhere near a consulate that can issue a travel document?  What are your options?

Travelers from countries that do not require temporary resident visas

If you are a citizen of a country that does not require a temporary resident visa, you may be able to travel without a permanent resident card or a travel document.

A client of mine who is a US citizen was recently overseas and his permanent resident card had not been issued yet.  The nearest consulate that could issue a travel document was hundreds of miles away.  He contacted me, anxious to know what could be done.

This was the plan I laid out:

1) Book a refundable airline ticket to Seattle, Washington

Why? Because if you drive over the border into Canada (not on a commercial carrier) you do not require your permanent resident card. This was the back-up plan, as this individual was an American citizen and he could easily travel to the USA.

2) Attempt to board the flight back to Canada

Why? Because it is not an immigration offense to travel without a permanent residence card – the rule is primarily for commercial carriers.  In this case, it was the airline that would decide whether or not he could travel.

3) Enter Canada as a permanent resident

How? At the airport, this person simply entered as a permanent resident.  All his information was in the immigration computer system, as he was allowed in without an issue.

Cautions – this may not work for you

If you are from a country that would normally require you to have a temporary resident visa to travel to Canada, then this won’t work.  The commercial carrier will ask for your travel visa.  As a permanent resident, you won’t likely have one.  At that point they will ask for your PR card, and you won’t have it either, and you’ll be denied boarding.

As well, some commercial carriers are stricter than others.  Some may request a permanent resident card on a routine basis, and if that happens you won’t be allowed to board.

It is always best to have your PR card or a travel document.  However, if you are overseas and do not need a temporary resident visa to enter Canada, you may be able to travel to Canada without an issue.

Nonetheless, it is always a good idea to consult a Canadian immigration lawyer before traveling anywhere without a PR card.


About the author

Gianpaolo Panusa Gianpaolo Panusa is a Canadian immigration lawyer, writer, and founder of the PanCanadian Immigration Law Group based in Vancouver, Canada. Google+ Profile