Prospective newcomers often inquire about the distinction between Canadian permanent residents and citizens.
Permanent residence refers to individuals who have immigrated to Canada and have been granted permanent resident status, while citizenship refers to being a legal member of a country.
Many individuals aspiring to move to Canada are interested in obtaining Canadian citizenship. However, before one can become a Canadian citizen, they must first acquire Canadian permanent residency. In fact, obtaining permanent residency is the ultimate goal of every Canadian immigration program, including provincial pathways like Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) or Quebec Immigration.
Upon becoming a permanent resident, individuals are automatically issued a permanent residence (PR) card, which can be likened to a United States green card. This card serves as proof of their status as a permanent resident in Canada.
As Canadian permanent residents, individuals enjoy several rights and privileges, including access to social benefits like healthcare coverage, the freedom to live, work, and study anywhere in Canada, protection under Canadian law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the eligibility to apply for Canadian citizenship.
However, there are key differences between Canadian permanent residents and citizens, which include:
- Ability to Vote or Run for Office:
While permanent residents share many of the social responsibilities of Canadian citizens, such as paying taxes and abiding by Canadian laws, they are not allowed to vote or run for public office. Additionally, certain government positions that require high-level security clearance may be restricted to Canadian citizens.
- Canadian Passport vs PR Card:
Canadian permanent residents do not possess Canadian passports. Instead, they can travel outside the country using a valid PR card or a Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD), along with their passport from their country of citizenship. PR cards have a validity period and need to be renewed regularly. However, the expiration of a PR card does not automatically result in the loss of permanent resident status, although certain residency requirements must be met to maintain the status.
- Ability to Live Outside of Canada:
Permanent residents are allowed to live outside of Canada, but they must meet specific residency requirements. Generally, permanent residents should reside in Canada for at least two years within a five-year period to maintain their status. However, exceptions exist, such as accompanying a Canadian citizen spouse or parent or being assigned to a position outside Canada by a Canadian business. Failure to meet residency requirements does not automatically result in the loss of permanent resident status; a formal process is required.
Permanent residents can apply for Canadian citizenship once they have fulfilled certain residency requirements. As naturalized citizens, they can obtain a Canadian passport and actively participate in Canadian politics. In terms of rights and privileges, there are no differences between naturalized citizens and citizens born in Canada.
The most significant difference between permanent residents and citizens lies in the maintenance of status. Permanent residency must be maintained, while citizenship does not require any specific actions to retain it. Canadian citizenship can only be lost if an individual chooses to renounce it.
In summary, while Canadian permanent residents and citizens share some rights and privileges, there are notable distinctions in terms of voting rights, travel documents, residency requirements, and political participation. Obtaining Canadian citizenship through permanent residency provides individuals with additional benefits and the freedom to fully engage in Canadian society.