Ask LH: Which Passport Should I Use For Canada?

Dear Lifehacker, You recently discussed travelling with multiple passports, and I have a particular version of that issue. I have an Australian passport and Canadian permanent residency, which I obtained in September 2006. The permanent resident (PR) card expired in October 2011. I lived in Australia from November 2006 to April 2011 before going back to Canada. But I recently travelled to the US and found it difficult to return to Canada.

As my PR card had expired in October, a single-entry travel document (which I could apply for, at a fee of $50) would have allow me to return to Canada and continue to live and work there as a permanent resident. However, this might not be necessary as Australian citizens are not required to have a visa to enter into Canada. Thus, I also have a choice of presenting my Australian passport at the border crossing.

I wonder if anyone in similar circumstances has been refused entry back to Canada at the border? Has there been any cases where a single-entry travel document was not granted to the applicant? I plan to visit my relatives in the US on major public holidays. Is there a multiple-entry travel document which I can apply for? And does it mean that in the 2 years which a PR is required to stay in Canada to fulfill his/her residency obligations, he/she cannot freely travel outside Canada? Thanks, Maple Madness

Picture by Alex Indigo

Dear Maple Madness,

I’m not a lawyer and I’m not an expert in Canadian immigration law, but I will say this: I don’t think your problem is as complex as you make out. If your PR card has expired, you should pull your finger out and get a new one. Firstly, because then you should be able to cross the border into the US without any problems or additional fees. But secondly (and more importantly), it seems to me likely that you’re breaking Canadian law by not having an up-to-date PR card. The Citizenship And Immigration Canada site makes it quite clear that you should get a new one when the old one expires. In practice, your employer and government agencies might not have noticed that you’re working there while your card has expired, but that doesn’t mean it’s a sensible thing to do.

There’s no doubt that you could cross the border using your Australian passport. As we’ve noted before, for people on holidays, using the simplest and cheapest passport you have makes sense. But when you’re living and working in a country, you should make sure your residency is legal. If you use your Australian passport and are asked at the border if you’re on holiday, life will get complicated.

If any readers have more specific experience of crossing the Canadian border with an Australian passport while residing in Canada, share it in the comments. But if I were you, I’d be properly sorting my residency status right now.


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