Almost all immigration programs in Canada require you to become a Canadian permanent resident before becoming eligible for citizenship. Whether you apply through Express Entry, a Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), or some other immigration program, you secure permanent residency, not citizenship. After you have been a permanent resident and have lived in Canada for three out of the last 5 years and have met the other requirements for citizenship, you can apply for citizenship.
This creates a question for many permanent resident (PR) card holders: should I remain a permanent resident or seek to apply for citizenship once I am eligible? While many immigrants to Canada decide to become citizens and see a PR card as a step along this process, there is no obligation to turn your permanent residency into citizenship and you will want to consider this decision carefully.
Advantages of Canadian Permanent Residents
If you decide to stay a permanent resident instead of applying for Canadian citizenship, you will enjoy all the privileges of a PR card. This means you will enjoy:
The ability to study, work, or live anywhere you wish in Canada
The ability to move around Canada freely and to travel to and from Canada
Rights and protections under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Canadian laws
The ability to apply for Canadian citizenship if you wish
Access to the social benefits available to all Canadian permanent residents and citizens, including social services, healthcare, and more
The ability to sponsor some family members to immigrate to Canada
In addition to the benefits of permanent residency, by keeping your PR card and not pursuing your citizenship you will get to keep your home citizenship, which can be especially useful if you want to return home at some point or if your home country does not recognize dual citizenship.
You will also not have to undergo the citizenship process if you decide to stay a permanent resident. This means you will not have to take the test, pay the fees, and take the other steps needed. However, keep in mind that as a permanent resident of Canada you will still need to follow Canadian laws, pay taxes if you reside and work in Canada, and meet the other obligations of permanent residency.
As a permanent resident, you will also need to continue to maintain residency requirements in order to maintain your status and avoid losing your status. You will also need to regularly renew your PR card. Another potential consideration is that if you continue to be a permanent resident and not a citizen you will be traveling with your home country’s passport and will also need a valid PR card or a Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD) to travel to and from Canada. While there are not many restrictions on permanent residency, you will not be able to vote as a permanent resident or run for office. In addition, certain government and high-security jobs are available only to Canadian citizens so you may not be able to pursue them if you maintain your permanent residency.
Advantages of Canadian Citizenship
One of the reasons many permanent residents eventually pursue Canadian citizenship is because they want to participate more fully in Canadian life. Citizenship offers all the advantages of permanent residency, as well as some additional benefits.
Canadian citizens can run for office and vote in the election so they can shape future policies and laws. In addition, citizenship is permanent, so as a citizen your status will not be taken away from you even if you live overseas for some time. You do not have to reapply to keep a card or maintain your status. In general, you will remain a citizen unless you decide to renounce your citizenship.
Canadian citizens also travel on a Canadian passport, which allows for travel all over the world and can mean fewer restrictions than many passports. In many cases, you can travel overseas and remain without a visa in another country for a set number of days, since a Canadian passport is considered among the most powerful in the world.
Canada also allows for dual citizenship, so you do not have to surrender your ties to your home country. If your home country allows for dual citizenship, you can maintain the rights of your home country’s laws, although you will also retain your home country’s obligations.
To become a Canadian citizen, you must meet the requirements for eligibility. You must also go through the application process, which includes filing an application, taking a test or attending an interview, and going to a citizenship ceremony.
Are You Ready to Apply for Canadian Permanent Residency or Citizenship?
Whether you would like to apply for Canadian permanent residency or citizenship, Immigration Direct has resources to help you apply for the Federal Skilled Workers Program and other immigration programs or even Canadian citizenship. We even have useful tips on maintaining your PR status and other free resources to help you every step of the way.