1. Overview of the Canadian Citizenship Application Process
The Canadian citizenship application process involves several steps and typically takes 12 to 18 months to complete. After obtaining permanent resident status and meeting the residency requirements, eligible applicants must submit a completed citizenship application along with required documents and fees to the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Once the application is reviewed and approved, the applicant must pass a citizenship test, attend an interview, and participate in a citizenship ceremony to take the Oath of Citizenship.
2. Traveling While Your Application is Being Processed
Validity of Your Permanent Resident (PR) Card
While your citizenship application is being processed, you still hold permanent resident status in Canada. You can travel outside the country, provided that your PR card is valid. A PR card is usually valid for five years, and you must ensure that it does not expire while you are abroad. If your PR card is nearing its expiration date, you should apply for a new one before leaving Canada.
Maintaining Your PR Status
To maintain your PR status, you must meet the residency requirements, which involve being physically present in Canada for at least 730 days (2 years) within a 5-year period. When you travel outside Canada, you must ensure that your time spent abroad does not breach this requirement. Otherwise, you could risk losing your PR status.
Potential Risks and Consequences of Traveling
While traveling outside Canada during the citizenship application process is allowed, there are some risks and potential consequences you should be aware of:
Delays in processing: If you are required to attend an interview, take the citizenship test, or participate in a citizenship ceremony, being away from Canada might cause delays in your application process. It’s crucial to stay informed about any updates on your application and promptly respond to IRCC communications.
Lost or expired PR card: If your PR card gets lost or expires while you are abroad, you will need to apply for a Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD) to re-enter Canada. Obtaining a PRTD can be time-consuming and may lead to unexpected delays in your return.
Maintaining residency requirements: As mentioned earlier, you must be physically present in Canada for at least 730 days within a 5-year period to maintain your PR status. Spending too much time outside Canada could jeopardize your citizenship application if you fail to meet these requirements.
Travel advisories: It’s essential to stay updated on travel advisories issued by the Canadian government. Traveling to countries with high-risk advisories may result in additional scrutiny upon your return to Canada and could potentially impact your citizenship application.
To minimize these risks and ensure a smooth travel experience, plan your trips carefully and stay informed about your application’s progress. Keep records of your travels, and always ensure your PR card is valid before leaving Canada.
3. Meeting the Residency Requirements for Citizenship
Physical Presence Requirement
To be eligible for Canadian citizenship, you must be physically present in Canada for at least 1,095 days (3 years) within a 5-year period before submitting your application. This requirement ensures that applicants have a strong connection to Canada and have experienced life in the country.
Calculating Your Days Outside Canada
When calculating your days outside Canada, keep a record of your travels, including departure and return dates. You can use the IRCC’s Physical Presence Calculator to determine if you meet the physical presence requirement. Remember that time spent outside Canada as a permanent resident counts toward this requirement, but you must ensure that you still meet the residency obligations for maintaining your PR status.
Exceptional Circumstances and Exemptions
There are some exceptional circumstances and exemptions to the physical presence requirement:
Crown servants: Time spent abroad as a Crown servant (e.g., working for the Canadian government or the Canadian Armed Forces) or as a family member of a Crown servant can be counted as time spent in Canada.
Humanitarian and compassionate grounds: In very limited cases, the IRCC may grant citizenship on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. However, these cases are rare and are considered on an individual basis.
4. Travel Documents Needed for Your Journey
Valid Permanent Resident Card
A valid PR card is required for permanent residents traveling outside Canada. You must present your PR card to airline staff before boarding your flight to Canada, as it serves as proof of your status in the country.
Valid Passport from Your Home Country
In addition to your PR card, you must also have a valid passport from your home country for international travel. Make sure your passport is valid for the entire duration of your trip and has at least one blank page for entry and exit stamps.
Visas and Entry Requirements for Your Destination
Before traveling to any foreign country, you should research the entry requirements for your destination. Depending on your nationality and the country you are visiting, you may be required to obtain a visa or an electronic travel authorization (eTA) in advance. You can find this information on the destination country’s embassy or consulate website, or by using the Government of Canada’s Travel Advice and Advisories page.
Keep in mind that each country has its own entry requirements, and these may change without notice. Make sure to verify the most up-to-date information before booking your trip and apply for any necessary visas well in advance to avoid delays or complications.
5. Re-entering Canada After Your Trip
Procedure at the Port of Entry
Upon returning to Canada, you will go through the standard procedure at the port of entry. This involves presenting your valid PR card and passport to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer. The officer may ask you questions about your trip, such as the purpose and duration of your stay outside Canada. Answer all questions honestly and provide any requested information or documentation.
Providing Proof of Residency
The CBSA officer may also ask for proof that you have maintained your PR status by meeting the residency requirements. It’s a good idea to carry documents that demonstrate your ties to Canada and your physical presence in the country, such as:
- Employment records
- Tax documents
- Lease agreements or property ownership documents
- Utility bills
- School or medical records
Having these documents readily available can help expedite the re-entry process and avoid potential issues at the border.
Impact on Your Citizenship Application
Re-entering Canada after a trip abroad should not have a negative impact on your citizenship application, provided that you have maintained your PR status and met the residency requirements. However, if you have spent a significant amount of time outside Canada or traveled to high-risk destinations, you might be subject to additional scrutiny by the IRCC. In such cases, it’s essential to provide accurate and complete information about your travels to avoid delays or complications with your application.
6. Steps to Take If Your PR Card Expires While Abroad
Applying for a Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD)
If your PR card expires or gets lost while you are abroad, you will need to apply for a Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD) to re-enter Canada. The PRTD serves as a one-time-use document that allows you to board your flight back to Canada. To apply for a PRTD, you should visit the nearest Canadian visa office, embassy, or consulate in the country where you are located. You will need to provide:
- A completed application form
- Proof of your identity and PR status
- Documents demonstrating that you have met the residency requirements
- A recent passport-sized photo
- The required processing fee
Processing Times and Fees
Processing times for PRTDs can vary depending on the location and the volume of applications. It is advisable to check the current processing times on the Government of Canada’s website. As of September 2021, the processing fee for a PRTD is CAD $50; however, fees may change, so you should verify the current fee before submitting your application.
Preparing for Your Return to Canada
While waiting for your PRTD, make sure to gather all necessary documents proving your PR status and residency in Canada, as you may be asked to present these at the port of entry. Keep in mind that a PRTD is a one-time-use document and cannot be used for multiple trips. Once you return to Canada, you should apply for a new PR card immediately to avoid issues with future travels.
7. Tips for a Smooth Travel Experience
Informing the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) of Your Travel Plans
While it’s not mandatory, informing the IRCC of your travel plans can be helpful, especially if you have a pending citizenship application. If there are any updates or requests related to your application, the IRCC can contact you while you’re away. To inform the IRCC about your travel plans, you can use the online IRCC Web form or call their helpline.
Keeping Records of Your Travels
Maintaining detailed records of your travels is essential for calculating your days outside Canada and meeting the residency requirements for both PR status and citizenship. Keep track of the following information:
- Dates of departure and return
- Destination countries
- Purpose of the trips
Additionally, retain any travel documents, such as boarding passes, tickets, or entry/exit stamps, as these can serve as proof of your travels if needed during the citizenship application process or when re-entering Canada.
Staying Informed on Travel Advisories
Before traveling, check the Government of Canada’s Travel Advice and Advisories page for information about your destination, such as safety and security, entry requirements, health risks, and local laws. Stay updated on any changes in travel advisories, as visiting high-risk countries may result in additional scrutiny upon your return to Canada and could potentially impact your citizenship application.
Monitoring travel advisories can help you make informed decisions about your travel plans and ensure your safety while abroad. In case of an emergency or unforeseen circumstances in the destination country, register with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service. This service allows the Canadian government to contact and assist you in case of an emergency during your trip.
By following these tips and staying informed about travel advisories, you can minimize potential risks and enjoy a smoother travel experience while maintaining your permanent resident status and progressing through the Canadian citizenship application process.
8. Summary of Key Points
Traveling outside Canada while your citizenship application is being processed is allowed, but you must maintain your PR status and meet the residency requirements.
Understand the potential risks and consequences of traveling, such as delays in processing, lost or expired PR cards, and maintaining residency requirements.
Ensure you meet the physical presence requirement of 1,095 days within a 5-year period before submitting your citizenship application.
Carry the necessary travel documents, such as a valid PR card, passport, and any required visas or entry permits for your destination.
Be prepared for the procedures at the port of entry when re-entering Canada, providing proof of residency and PR status if needed.
If your PR card expires or is lost while abroad, apply for a Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD) to return to Canada.
Keep the IRCC informed of your travel plans, maintain records of your travels, and stay updated on travel advisories to ensure a smooth travel experience.
Final Recommendations for Traveling While Awaiting Citizenship
Plan your trips carefully to avoid any negative impact on your citizenship application.
Stay informed about your application’s progress and promptly respond to any IRCC communications.
Always ensure your PR card is valid before leaving Canada and apply for a new one if needed.
Follow the tips mentioned above for a smooth travel experience and to minimize any potential risks.
By being well-prepared and informed, you can confidently travel outside Canada while awaiting your citizenship, ensuring you maintain your PR status and progress through the application process.
9. Official Government Websites
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC): The official source for information on Canadian immigration, citizenship, and related services.
Travel Advice and Advisories: The Government of Canada’s website for travel advice, advisories, and information about entry requirements for specific countries.
Physical Presence Calculator: An online tool provided by the IRCC to help you calculate your physical presence in Canada.
Registration of Canadians Abroad: A free service that allows the Canadian government to contact and assist you in case of an emergency during your trip.