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

In order to maintain PR status, it is necessary to have accumulated 730 days of presence in Canada within the past 5 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. However, the law lists a few exceptions. These include:

  • 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, assigned to a position outside Canada.

The latter (assignment-abroad) exception is very popular among immigrants. According to the immigration regulations, it is 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 is preferable for the employee to remain on the payroll of the Canadian company during the assignment and to continue to pay taxes in Canada. Immigration Canada requires payslips, 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 resident does not 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 does not examine intentions about the future, 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 as 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 "favours" to somebody who in fact is not 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.