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Residency Requirements for Canadian Permanent Residency and Citizenship

Whether you are a Permanent Resident (PR) of Canada or someone who is looking to get your PR status planning accordingly for your residency requirements, then this article is for you.

We have received many queries about this very topic over the years and we are happy that people are asking these questions in advance, as opposed to having issues with a Border officer because they “did not know” what is required of them. There are many questions regarding residency requirements that people have.

“What are some ways I can ensure I keep my status?”

“Can I leave Canada without risking my PR status?”

“How can I keep track of my days inside and outside of Canada?”

Or more recently, “what if I cannot keep my residency status as I was unable to travel due to COVID travel restrictions or having the deal with an issue that is related to COVID?”

These are a few of the common questions that people ponder, and these will be addressed in this post.

First, we would like to lay out some basic principles that need to be looked at.

What is “Physical Presence” in Canada?

When you are a PR of Canada, you are either trying to maintain your residency requirements to keep your status or meet the requirements to apply for Canadian Citizenship. Physical Presence refers to the place where a person is physically located. In the Canadian immigration process, physical presence in Canada is required for a certain amount of time, depending on your status and what you are trying to achieve.

Physical Presence requirements are extremely important to meet. Although it is essential to meet for your immigration status, it is also important for the applicant to become integrated within Canada as a new member of Canadian society. Residency requirements force applicants to spend time and start their lives in Canada without leaving the country for long periods of time. The government wants to see that you are integrated into the fabric of Canadian society and there is an assumption that you want to comply, as well.

Permanent Residency Requirements

How long do I need to stay in Canada to keep my Permanent Resident status?
Becoming a PR in Canada does not mean you cannot leave the country. As a PR, you have the right to leave the country to travel or work abroad if you wish. But you should know that there are obligations as a PR to keep your status in Canada. As a general rule, to keep PR status, you must stay in Canada for two years, or 730 days, within a five year period. When assessing your PR residency obligations, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (commonly referred to as IRCC or “The Immigration Department) will look at the past five years.

The 730 days do not need to be a continuous amount of time and can be spread out as you wish. If you are looking to rent for living purposes, or stay in hotels, motels, or Airbnb’s for weeks at a time, for example, you can do so. As long as you can prove that you have been physically present in the country for the required amount of time, you have the ability to spend up to three years outside of Canada while keeping your PR status. Ensuring you spend the minimum number of days in Canada is so important; you may be subject to losing your PR status if you do not follow these residency guidelines.

Situations where time outside of Canada counts for residency requirements
So, you’ve spent some time outside of Canada and are wondering if any of this time can be counted towards your residency requirements. Well, there are a few situations where it can! These are situations where time spent outside of Canada can be counted as days required for residency obligations.

The first situation is accompanying a Canadian citizen outside of Canada. Accompanying a Canadian citizen may count for your days if this citizen is your spouse, common-law partner, or your parent. You must provide documents to prove that the person is a Canadian Citizen and that you are indeed the spouse, common-law partner, or child of that person.

The second situation is accompanying a Permanent Resident outside of Canada. Accompanying a PR may count for your days if the PR is your spouse, common-law partner, or parent, and the PR was employed by a Canadian business or public service when you accompanied them. You must provide documents to prove that the person is a PR, you are the spouse, common-law partner, or child of that person, and that the PR you are accompanying meets their residency obligations. With that said I would suggest that you need to be careful here as many people try different ways to exploit this loophole and the requirements are quite well defined.

The last situation is employment outside of Canada. If you have worked outside of Canada, you may count the days if you are an employee of a Canadian business or the public service, you were assigned to work outside of Canada by the business, and you will continue working for the employer in Canada after the completion of this assignment. You must provide a letter signed by the business stating your position, the nature of the business, and details about the assignment outside of Canada.

Can I Lose my PR Status?
A common question we get deals with the concern of losing PR status. If you have not followed the residency obligations and did not stay in Canada for at least 730 days during the last five years, you may be subject to losing your status.

Besides residency obligations, there are other ways you may lose your status under section 46(1) of the IRPA. You may lose your status if:

  • you become a Canadian citizen
  • you voluntarily give up your PR status
  • you become inadmissible to Canada.
    • For example, if you commit a serious offence in Canada as a PR, you could be subject to a very long and difficult process where your life will be taken away from you as you will not be inadmissible.

Another common concern about losing PR status is if you lose your status when your PR card expires. This is NOT the case. Your PR Card is only a travel document and is required when you are using commercial carriers. Losing status does not happen automatically and there is an official process to do so. There must be an official decision regarding your PR status for one of the reasons above. If your PR card expires, you are still a PR, but it is recommended to renew your card and keep this updated, as it will be required for travel. You will also need your PR card for various services or identification purposes in the country and if you want to travel in and out of Canada.

Canadian Citizenship Residency Requirements

How do I become eligible for Canadian Citizenship?
Before we recognize the residency requirements for citizenship, let us refresh on all eligibility requirements to apply for citizenship. There are several requirements for eligibility to become a Canadian citizen. You must:

  • Be a permanent resident;
  • Have lived in Canada for three of the last five years;
  • Have filed your taxes, if required;
  • Pass a citizenship test; and
  • Prove your language ability.

How long do I need to stay in Canada as a Permanent Resident to apply for Citizenship?
Let’s dive into an essential requirement: residency obligations. Generally, a permanent resident wanting to apply for Canadian citizenship must have been physically present in Canada for three years, or 1,095 days, during the past five years before you apply. When calculating days spent in Canada, you may be able to include time spent in Canada as a temporary resident or protected person, or outside Canada as a Crown servant.

Residency Requirements for a PR wanting to apply for Canadian Citizenship are bound by Canadian legislation, the Citizenship Act (the “Act”). Section 5(1)(c) of the Act notes that citizenship shall be granted to any person that, “is a permanent resident and has been physically present in Canada for at least 1,095 days during the last five years immediately before the date of his or her application”, among the other requirements listed above.

Residency requirements for minors
You should also recognize the different requirements if you are applying for Canadian citizenship for a minor. There are different residency requirements depending on the situation. Minors (under age 18) who have a Canadian parent or a parent who is applying for citizenship at the same time are exempt from the residency requirement of spending three of the last five years in Canada. Minors (under age 18) who do not have a Canadian parent or parent who is applying for citizenship at the same time must follow the residency requirement of spending three of the last five years in Canada.

Time spent in Canada as a temporary resident
When calculating your physical presence, you can include time spent in Canada as a temporary resident. This is time spent as a valid visitor, student, worker, or temporary resident permit holder who has the authority to be in Canada. A protected person is someone who was found to be in need of protection or a convention refugee by the Immigration Refugee Board or has received a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment. Days may also be counted if you or a family member were a Crown servant outside of Canada. A crown servant is employed with the Canadian Armed Forces, the federal public administration, or a provincial, or territorial public service.

Each day spent in Canada as a temporary resident or a protected person counts as one-half day during your calculation. These half days can add up to a maximum of 365 full days to be put towards your residency requirements for Canadian citizenship. “Half days” for temporary residents are also bound by the Act under Section 5(1.001)-(1.03).

Half days are important to keep track of, if you are in Canada temporarily and then decide to apply for PR. Most people are not aware that these days also count, as this was a law that was in place in a previous iteration of the Citizenship Act and then brought back after it was repealed under the Act previous! This can make a difference in your residency requirements when applying for Citizenship in Canada.

COVID-19’s effect on residency obligations
An emerging issue will be the effect of COVID-19 and the various issues that surround this situation on residency requirements for both Permanent Residency Obligation and Canadian Citizenship.

It is worth noting that the Canadian government has already addressed the issue of residency obligations for Canadian Citizenship on the website under a header regarding the effects of COVID-19, stating that any extra days spent outside of Canada due to COVID-19 do not count as days in Canada. The PR must still meet all physical presence requirements to be eligible for citizenship. 

With respect to Permanent Residency, this situation is a little less clear and is an issue that has yet to unfold for PRs, who are not able to meet their obligations due to the COVID-19 situation. While it is expected that this will be considered, it is suggested that people who are/were “trapped outside” of the country as they are unable to travel or whom have had family issues due to COVID outside of Canada, make sure that they keep their records now. Documentation and intent on these matters are always key.

Should you find yourself subject to a residency review or worse, find yourself in front of the IRB arguing to keep their residency, this will make all the difference in support of your case.

How can I keep track of my time inside and outside of Canada?

One of the best pieces of advice is to keep a travel journal to keep track of your time, especially any time you have spent outside of Canada. This will make it easier for you to ensure you are meeting all residency requirements. You’ll need any information regarding leaving the country when you apply for a new permanent residency card or when you apply for Canadian citizenship. When applying for a new PR card or citizenship, the government will not need your travel journal, it is just for you to keep to personally keep track of your travel history.

A travel journey also makes the calculation process easier. The physical presence calculator can be used to determine if you have met your residency requirements. The calculator is for permanent residents who are applying for Canadian citizenship. The calculator will tell you if you have met the requirements and can apply, or if you do not meet the requirements, the calculator will tell you when you will be eligible to apply. The Government of Canada provides the calculator on their website for your use. You will be required to fill in all required information, enter all dates, list your time spent serving a sentence in Canada, if applicable, and list your time outside of Canada. The calculator collects your residency within the last five years before your application.

Conclusion

This blog posted was dedicated to simplifying residency requirements for both permanent residency status and Canadian citizenship. I sincerely hope that it is helpful and should you have any questions about residency requirements or you are ready to dive into getting a Second Passport to Canada, feel free to reach out to us and we will surely get you started to understand the options that are available to you!


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