Whether you are a permanent resident or a Canadian Citizen, always make sure you know all the rules before travelling. Make sure you don’t get caught unprepared.
Canada has some very strict rules about travel paperwork and depending on your status you may need some additional forms to reenter the country. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter what your story is, border and immigration officers follow protocol to the letter. It is your responsibility to make sure you have all your documentation and that none of them is expired.
An acquaintance of mine travelled to Africa to see her family. She has been a permanent resident who has been living in Canada for over 25 years and doesn’t think twice about calling Canada her home. Upon returning to the country, on a layover in Europe, she was refused re-entry because she was missing her permanent resident card. She filed for an emergency visa, but it didn’t come in time.
Try to imagine what it’s like to be stranded alone in a country you don’t know. She was so filled with emotions. She just wanted to cry herself to oblivion, but you must plough through the emotions and try to figure out what to do next. She never thought she’d be rejected by a country in which she has lived for most of her life. She never thought she’d be told she wasn’t going to be allowed to go home. She found herself stranded away from her home, her boyfriend, her pets, her job. She felt really alone and scared. Luckily, upon sharing her story online, some locals offered their home as a place to stay while she figured it all out. Otherwise, she would have been sleeping in the streets, which brings all kind of other dangers in mind.
I’m using her story as a cautionary tale. Unfortunately, as long as you are not a Canadian Citizen, reentry will be refused without the proper paperwork. I have an aunt who is a permanent resident who has a 5-year-old Canadian Citizen child. She gets questioned at the border every time she travels. Having a French passport while your child has a Canadian passport triggers bells every single time.
Permanent residents of Canada must carry and present their valid PR card or permanent resident travel document when boarding a flight to Canada. Please note that if you are outside of Canada, you cannot apply for a Permanent Resident card. You must first apply for a permanent resident travel document and upon your return on Canadian soil, you can then apply, renew or replace your permanent resident card.
If you are ever stranded, you will need to find the nearest Visa Offices and fill out a lot of paperwork in order to get the proper travel documents and be accepted back into the country. This process can take several days. It is much easier to make sure all your documentation is in order prior to departure than having to deal with paperwork when stranded on another continent. If you are granted emergency status, the process can take between 48h to 3 days, which doesn’t sound bad if you have money and a place to stay, but if you are disabled and staying on the streets, it can be an eternity. If you are not granted emergency status, it takes around 10 business days.
Some helpful resources: