A permanent resident (PR) of Canada might leave Canada for some time. If that person wants to return, they must present their PR card, which confirms their PR status.
Most PR cards last for five years, although some last for less. If a PR card expires, that does not mean a person has lost PR status. However, it means they cannot use their card to re-enter Canada. The only exception is if they are travelling by private car.
A person can only apply for a PR card from within Canada. This means that if a person is outside Canada when their PR card expires, they cannot apply for a new one. Instead, they have the option of applying for a Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD). If the PRTD is approved, the PR can then use the PRTD to re-enter Canada. The PRTD is usually valid for six months after it is issued. It can only be used once. As soon as a person is back inside Canada, they should apply for a PR card.
To apply for a PRTD a person must have Canadian PR status. They must also currently be outside Canada. The cost to apply is $50 CAD.
Normally, a person applies for a PRTD by mail through the nearest Canadian Visa Application Centre (VAC). The government website provides a searchable list of VACs, and other resources for permanent residents overseas.
Due to COVID-19, some VACs are not accepting PRTD applications. Some VACs may even be entirely closed. The government offers a list of VACs and which services are provided here.
If a person is unable to send their application to the VAC, they can apply online.