Use It or Lose It: Maintaining Canadian Permanent Resident Status

By Author: Admin | February 1, 2010

The often long road to acquiring a Canadian permanent resident visa is often squandered because of the failure to maintain one’s permanent resident status.  The permanent resident who falls into this difficulty is often one who lands in Canada and fails to find employment in Canada and is forced to find work outside of Canada.  There are numerous other scenarios such as a permanent resident who is subject to some legal (or other) obligation that forces them to remain outside of Canada.

Keeping Permanent Resident Status

A permanent resident must, within a five year period spend at least a total of at least 730 days in Canada within that five-year period. Otherwise, one can be outside Canada accompanying a Canadian citizen who is their spouse or common-law partner or, in the case of a child, their parent, or be employed outside Canada on a full-time basis by a Canadian business or the Canadian government, or be the child or spouse of a person who is employed on a full-time basis by a Canadian business or a Canadian governmental entity.

What Happens if the Obligation is Not Met?

If a permanent resident does not fall into one of the circumstances described above, then they will be issued a deportation order. The deportation order usually is issued by a visa office outside of Canada.  This often happens when a permanent resident fails to pick up their permanent resident card from an immigration office in Canada (which they must do personally).  Their old permanent resident card expires and they are unable to board a plane back to Canada.  They apply at a visa office for a travel document to return to Canada, and during the course of that travel document application, it is revealed by the permanent resident that they have been outside of Canada for more than 730 days.

Why Does the Canadian Government Want Permanent Residents to Maintain This Obligation?

The concern of the government is likely related to the collection of tax revenues by permanent residents who remain outside of Canada at a job and do not declare their worldwide income to the Canadian government.  Indeed, at appeals of persons who failed to meet this obligation (at the IRB), I have seen the government lawyer rant to the Judge about how the infrastructure of Canada (schools, hospitals, etc) was financed by the Canadians who worked in Canada their whole lives.  This is true. Indeed, my parents struggled in Canada toiling at blue collar jobs for most of their working lives.  But this fails to acknowledge that much of Canada’s infrastructure was built at a time when immigration to Canada was based on race rather than not merit.  In other words, had Canada’s immigration system been more open in the ‘40s ‘50s, and early ‘60s, you would have had people from more diverse backgrounds who could proclaim their contribution to Canada during those years.

Similarly, the perception of Canada as a great country (owing to a United Nations Survey more than a decade ago) has given the Canadian immigration department (that designed the point system) the impression that Canada will automatically attract the world’s best and brightest.  I disagree with this spurious pretention.

The reality is that there is a form of gridlock between the recognition of professional credentials (which is a Provincial matter), and the Federal bureaucrats who decide which immigrants can enter Canada.  The result is that for example, Federal bureaucrats allow physicians to obtain permanent resident status, but their credentials are for the most part not recognized by the Provincial authorities.

If I was a recent skilled immigrant to Canada I would not like to choose between toiling at a semi-skilled job in Canada unable to provide for my family, or chancing the loss of permanent resident status by returning to my country of origin and working in the field which corresponds with my training.

I would like to see some additional flexibility in the residency obligation to recognize permanent residents who sincerely tried to find work in Canada but could not. If they paid their taxes on their income made outside of Canada, then Canada would not lose.  This is particularly the case where the main bread winner in a family returns to his or her country of origin to work and leaves the rest of the family in Canada.  Of necessity, the family will spend the foreign-earned income of the breadwinner in Canada, which is a boon to the Canadian economy. If the presumption of Canada as hospitable to immigrants is to be made congruent with the current Canadian immigration law, the residency obligation should be made to be more flexible.


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I was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario Canada. I am an accomplished author and lecturer and am consulted by the media and other immigration lawyers and consultants on immigration matters and challenging immigration cases, appeals, and federal court matters.

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