Northern Exposure

Keeping Permanent Resident Status in Canada

By Gilda Villaran

In our December 20, 2010, article, we discussed the ways to become a permanent resident of Canada. In this article we will briefly explain how to keep this status.

In contrast with Canadian citizenship, which in principle lasts for life, permanent resident status can be lost if the person doesn’t meet the residency requirements established by Canadian law. The requirements aim at ensuring that immigrants make Canada their home. Policymakers have drafted the rules in order to avoid people obtaining permanent resident (PR) status as a matter of convenience without making a commitment to a life in Canada.

To maintain PR status, it’s necessary to have accumulated 730 days of “presence in Canada” within the past five years. The residency requirements to maintain PR status are different from those to obtain citizenship.

Generally, “presence in Canada” requires physical presence in the country, but the law lists a few exceptions, including:

  • Being outside Canada accompanying one’s Canadian spouse or parent; and
  • Being outside Canada while employed full time by a Canadian business, the federal government, or a provincial government and assigned to a position outside Canada.

The assignment-abroad exception is popular among immigrants to Canada. According to the immigration regulations, it’s possible to have an assignment abroad to a foreign affiliate of a Canadian company or to a client of the Canadian business or public service. A contract concerning the assignment should be prepared and signed by the Canadian employer.

It’s preferable for the employee to remain on the Canadian company’s payroll during the assignment and continue to pay taxes in Canada. Immigration Canada requires pay slips, Canadian income tax notices of assessment, and T4 slips to prove that the employee was employed by a Canadian business.

During the first three years after becoming a permanent resident, the individual doesn’t have to prove anything concerning residency. After three years abroad, however, the person will need to prove, when asking for admission to Canada, that the time spent abroad is time deemed to have been spent in Canada. Subsequently, the same proof will be needed when applying for a new permanent resident card (which has a validity of five years).

Note that Immigration Canada doesn’t examine future intentions but rather the facts about the past. Therefore there is no way of obtaining assurance from Immigration Canada on whether a certain future scenario will satisfy them in meeting the residency requirements.

Employers must be very cautious when they assign a permanent resident abroad if the employee will use this assignment to claim days of presence in Canada for residency purposes. More and more, Immigration Canada scrutinizes these arrangements to make sure that they correspond to reality. They must not be “favors” to somebody who in fact isn’t working for the benefit of a Canadian company. Make sure that anyone who is on your payroll and is being assigned abroad really works in the interests of the Canadian company and that this can be justified if Immigration Canada reviews the arrangement.