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Can I travel outside Canada with an approved CoPR while I am waiting for my PR card to arrive in the mail?

A family travelling

Once your application for permanent residence in Canada is approved, there are a few steps that need to happen before you can finally enjoy all the rights and privileges of a Canadian permanent resident. A particularly important consideration here is the ability to travel outside Canada while your status is being adjusted.

The short answer is that you need to have your PR card with you to return to Canada by plane, train, bus, or boat, or a Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD). If you are crossing the land border into Canada in a private car, you may be able to convince a Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) officer to admit you with your valid Confirmation of Permanent Residence (CoPR) as a matter of discretion. Note that in many cases, the CoPR is only valid for 1 year.

Adjusting to Permanent Resident Status from within Canada

In recent years, the Canadian government has rolled out a “virtual landing” process for individuals already in Canada (on a different, non-immigrant status) whose permanent residency applications have been approved. This is now done through an online Permanent Residence Confirmation Portal.

Once an individual’s permanent residency application is approved, the IRCC will send the individual an email confirming the approval and ask the applicant certain information needed to create the PR Confirmation Portal on their behalf. Once the portal is created, the IRCC will send the applicant the log-in credentials allowing them to access this portal, through which the applicant will submit an electronically signed declaration that they are currently in Canada and that they accept all the terms and conditions of permanent resident status.

Once this declaration is accepted, the IRCC will notify the individual that their “CoPR is available for download.” The CoPR will have been electronically signed by the IRCC officer the same day the CoPR was issued. The CoPR can serve as proof of your permanent resident status for 1 year since the date of issuance. Indeed, the issuance and signature of the CoPR marks the date your status officially changes to that of a permanent resident. Once this change is made, the individual can no longer travel abroad and return to Canada on their previous work permit or study permit as they are no longer valid.

Instead, the individual must now wait for IRCC to mail them their first Permanent Resident Card in the mail. This can take some time, and if the individual leaves Canada during this time, they would unfortunately not be able to board a plane, train, or bus to return to Canada. The only alternative is to apply for a Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD) from outside Canada, which also takes time to be issued.

There is a narrow opportunity to overcome this limitation if the individual attempts to enter Canada through a land border by private vehicle (car). A Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) officer may, as a matter of discretion, allow you to re-enter if they are convinced of your status as a Canadian permanent resident, for example by showing your valid and original CoPR.

Landing in Canada on an Immigrant Visa

If your permanent residency application was approved while you were living outside Canada, you will first need to travel to Canada to complete your “landing” and be admitted as a permanent resident.

To complete the landing, you will need your passport, your Confirmation of Permanent Residence (CoPR) and permanent resident visa, if you are from a country that requires a visa. Once you fly into Canada and meet a CBSA officer, you will present these documents and be interviewed verify your identity and eligibility as a permanent resident. Once those steps are completed satisfactorily, the officer will sign your CoPR and validate your landing.

In this case, the new permanent resident will also need to wait for their first PR Card to arrive in the mail to their new Canadian address which they provide to the border officer at the time of landing. Similarly to the above, they will need to have received this PR Card in order to travel abroad and return to Canada by plane, train, or bus. Otherwise, they would need to apply for and obtain a PRTD (Permanent Resident Travel Document) or try to enter through the land border by private vehicle by using their valid and signed CoPR as evidence of their permanent resident status. CBSA officers have discretion to grant admission in such a case, but the success of this is not guaranteed.

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