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How To Travel Outside Canada With An Expired Permanent Resident Card

This topic has been top of mind for us lately considering my husband’s permanent residency card pending renewal and plans to travel abroad. In the time we have been waiting for his new card to come through, we have traveled internationally three times. How we have been able to do so, and still be allowed back in Canada is what I’ll be explaining in today’s post. Before I go any further though, I have to explicitly state that in no way is this to offer legal advice, since I am not a lawyer. I encourage you to speak with an immigration lawyer or Canadian Immigration Services for official information, as things may change or update without notice.

My husband has had permanent residency status for the past five years. Originally from Australia, he came to Canada as a young twenty-something to live and work in beautiful British Columbia for a little while. He never expected to stay, but then again, he never expected meet me 😉 Fast forward five years later, his permanent resident card was coming up for renewal. Even though you have six months before the date of expiration to apply for a renewal, we (my husband) waited until two months before. Given the CIC website said that they were processing applications from a month earlier, he figured he would have his renewal before his next international flight almost two months away. Nope. Not only did his renewal get processed in time for his trip, he still currently does not have it (almost 4 months since the date of submission). If you’re not aware (or perhaps you are, and this is the reason you’re reading this post), if you have an expired PR card, you will not be allowed to board a commercial flight headed back into Canada. So we can easily leave the country with an expired PR card, but not enter with one…on a commercial flight. There is another way to enter Canada, as I discovered.

Another way to enter Canada with an expired PR card is to enter by private vehicle. What this means that instead of flying back into Canada, you need to cross the border in your own or rented car. Not by bus, boat or train. It must be through a car. Also, make sure you bring documents that prove your permanent residency status, such as your expired PR card. We also brought along documentation that my husband had applied for a renewal (receipt of payment for the renewal). We have used this method of getting back into Canada after visiting Japan, Italy and Germany in the past month. However, this has meant that we’ve had to take the extra, often inconvenient step of traveling through the closest US airport, which is Buffalo Niagara International Airport. We’ve  driven across the border to park our car at the Buffalo Airport, flown out and back into this airport, then driven back through the border, all to ensure we can get back into Canada. Obviously, we’re glad this method exists since most of this travel was necessary for work, however it’s certainly added many hours to travel, as well as inconvenient flight times and costs (there are many more options to fly out of Toronto Pearson International Airport).

There is also ANOTHER way if you have time on your side at your visiting destination. While abroad, you can apply for a Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD), which is sort of like a temporary one-time use PR card to get you back in Canada via plane, train, bus or boat. Each time my husband was out of the country with his expired PR card, he was only in the visiting country for no more than a week. While the processing time for the PRTD varies per country, expect to wait at least two to three weeks at the very least to receive your travel documents back. Keep in mind that when you apply for a PRTD, you need to send away your passport to the visa processing office in the country you’re visiting, or sometimes even a neighboring country, thus you are pretty much unable to travel once you apply.

We actually just used this method this past month when we visited Australia. This is a trip we have been planning for months (far before we thought we wouldn’t have my husband’s PR card back), so our flights were booked in and out of Toronto. The first thing we did when we arrived in Brisbane was apply for a PRTD. We had actually looked at the documents needed (photos, proof of residency in Canada via pay stubs, bank statements, etc.) before our trip and had it all prepared before we left for our trip. Once there, we paid the fees online and couriered it to Sydney, Australia. The wait time is 10-12 business days. We were going to be in Australia exactly 10 business days, so we were cutting it close. The game plan was to wait until the second week of our trip to get an update on the PRTD, then decide if we should extend our trip or not. We have family to stay with in Australia so accommodations weren’t an issue. However, canceling and re-booking three international flights, plus an infant seat is both a hassle and costly, so we were hoping it wouldn’t have to come to that. Each day, we got an update via the Canadian visa website, and we could see things were moving along. On the Monday of our second week in Australia, we called the visa processing office in Sydney who told us we should have the PRTD by Wednesday end of day. Phew! This was a relief. Now I know that not all visa processing centres aren’t this quick and efficient, but you can trust that the Sydney based office is. We hopped on a plane two days after receiving the PRTD and came home to Canada to my husband’s official PR card waiting for us in the mail. Thank you Jesus!

It took almost five months to receive the PR card from the day we applied. Even though, the CIC website said there was a two months estimated wait time, this was clearly only an estimation. Never depend on this to book future travel since it’s not guaranteed. All this has taught us that my husband really ought to apply to be a Canadian citizen. Having to go through the PR renewal process every five years is really an ordeal, given how much he travels. Let me know if you have any tips for us as we start that process!


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