For many who immigrate to Canada, they soon become familiar with a very Canadian phenomenon: piles and piles of paper records!
Immigration officers and various government offices begin to give you documents. You accumulate documents when you open bank accounts, apply for credit cards, sign a lease or buy a home. And the piles of paper just keeps getting higher each month as you receive new bills and statements. But the key question is: which of these documents should you keep and which will be required as proof of your immigration status or as part of any future applications you make to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)?
1. Confirmation of Permanent Residence or Record of Landing
The Confirmation of Permanent Residence or Record of Landing is the document that is processed and issued to you when you land in Canada for the first time as an immigrant. It is an important proof of your status as a landed immigrant in Canada and you will need it to apply for your Social Insurance Number, provincial health card and driver’s licence.
However, long after you become a citizen of Canada, you may still need your Record of Landing and therefore you should make sure to keep the original in a safe place. If you lose your Record of Landing you must apply for a “Verification of Landing” document. Currently it takes on average 6 months to process your request so you should plan carefully if you need a replacement document.
2. Copies of Application Forms and Courier Tracking Records
I often meet with applicants that want me to follow up the status of their application with IRCC.
Whether it is an application for a particular visa, renewal of a PR Card or application for citizenship, the first step is to review the application forms that you have submitted. Therefore it is critical that you keep a copy of all application forms that you submit to IRCC for any kind of application. If your representative or lawyer submits an application on your behalf, you can ask them to provide you with a copy of the application forms for your records.
Equally important is the record of the courier and the courier confirmation of delivery for packages that you send to IRCC. In some cases we must prove that you submitted documents and that those documents were submitted within the deadline provided and the best evidence is the courier records.
With the increasing use of electronic submissions and emails, you should also make sure that you keep your e-records and email accounts in case you need to refer to documents submitted online or by email.
3. Record of all Your Trips for PR Card Renewal and Citizenship Applications
Canada does not always stamp your passport when you enter the country and never stamps your passport when you leave. This presents a serious challenge if you have taken trips and want to apply to renew your PR card or apply for citizenship because you have to provide details of all your trips for the preceding 5 years.
The best advice is to create a table and record all of your trips, the dates you left Canada, where you went, and the dates you returned to Canada as well as any special notes about the trip. Trying to remember everything accurately after 5 years is very difficult and this table will save you much time and stress, especially since many countries do not stamp your passport to record your entry and exit.
In case of trips taken by plane you can also keep copies of your tickets or boarding passes. And in all cases you should keep your old passports as IRCC requires copies of your old passports at the time you apply to renew your PR Card, apply for a Permanent Resident Travel Document or apply for Canadian citizenship.
Other important documents that you should keep as evidence of your physical residence in Canada include school records for your children, work records for yourself and copies of lease agreements and title deeds.
4. Tax Filings and Notice of Assessments
Whether you prepare your own taxes or use the services of an accountant, you should keep copies of your tax filings and any supporting documents that you provide such as T4s or T5s.
Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has specific rules for how many years you must keep your records and you can ask your accountant about this.
In addition to your tax filings you should keep copies of your Notice of Assessments issued each year as well as documents demonstrating that you have paid any amounts outstanding to the CRA.
5. Keep Originals Safe and Copies Accessible
Just like other important documents such as marriage and birth certificates, you need to keep your original immigration documents such as your Record of Landing or PR Card in a safe place.
When you have to use your documents while you travel, you should make copies of your important documents and if possible leave copies with family members in case your original documents are lost or stolen.
And remember your copies need not be physical copies and can be electronic copies that you store safely on a portable device or online.
Zeynab Ziaie is a graduate of the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto and a lawyer licensed to practice in Ontario and New York. Her legal practice focuses on immigration and business law. She often works with clients to find suitable solutions in complex immigration and citizenship cases and represents clients at all levels of court.