Last updated: September 28, 2022
For someone not familiar with immigration terms, the difference between temporary and permanent residence can seem tricky to comprehend. A residence permit can either be temporary or permanent, and in some cases, long-term. There is the obvious adjective in front of “residence” that can give it away:
These concepts can look relatively easy to comprehend, but when over 200 jurisdictions have residence permits, put beside each other they can be complicated. So, we will try to explain each the best that we can. But first, many foreigners applying for a residence permit in another country require an entry visa to first enter the country.
An entry visa, short-term visa or long-term visa are in relation to your passport and the visa policy it has with different countries. In most cases, in order to apply for a residence permit, you need to be able to physically be in the country to lodge an application. You are therefore required to travel to that country, and whether you are allowed to or not depends on the visa requirement imposed on your country’s passport (you can check your visa requirement here). If you don’t need a visa, you can in many cases land in the country and apply for a residence permit depending on the reasons you have to stay. If not, you will first need to apply for a visa at the nearest embassy or consulate or official representation. In some cases this can be done at the same time that you apply for residence at the embassy or consulate. If you are using the service of a professional, they will take care of that process for you.
Most countries in the world first provide temporary residence to immigrants rather than permanent residence. There are exceptions, like Canada, or if you are applying to a residence by investment program. But in most cases, especially in Europe, you will first get a temporary resident permit that you will need to renew a few months before it expires. These permits can be for 1 year and up to 5 years. In the vast majority of cases, your close family (spouse and children) will be able to accompany you, but each jurisdiction can have different sets of requirements when it comes to spouse (married, common-law) and children (unmarried, physically or mentally dependent, enrolled in higher education, under a certain age). Temporary residence for business activity such as entrepreneur or investor require the applicant to meet certain requirements in order to have their permit renewed, such as continuation of business activity and having a minimum amount of revenue. There is also the regular requirements that are relatively common for most countries such as:
Temporary residence is less secure than permanent residence as it leaves the applicants with uncertainty. There is always a risk that your permit will not be renewed and, for example, if your business starts tanking, you might have to leave the country. This is why applying for permanent residence is important to do as soon as you qualify. When extending your temporary residence the second or third time, the length can be increased in certain cases. For example, in business investment programs, many countries first offer a 1-year residence permit. When the investor has proven that he has successfully set up his business, he then can renew for a 2-year permit.
After a few years of temporary residence, you should look to obtain a permanent residence permit as soon as possible. In Europe, most foreigners receive a temporary residence permit that, after 3 to 8 years of residence, they can exchange for a permanent residence permit. There could be precise requirements in relation to your physical presence in the country, e.g., spending at least 182 days in the country each year. There are usually other requirements to qualify for permanent residence:
Some residence by investment programs provide direct permanent residence or enable participants to obtain PR faster and with fewer requirements than other means. Once you have the permanent residence permit, you are allowed to stay as long as you please in the country, but be aware that there might be requirements in order not to lose your PR. In some cases, the permanent residence permit has a 5-year expiration date. It needs to be renewed, and to renew it you have to show that you have maintained certain conditions. These conditions are usually strictly limited to your presence in the country as they don’t want foreigners gaining PR and then leaving the country. In some cases, if you leave the country for more than 2 years continuously, you can have your PR revoked or not renewed. This is why you need to gain citizenship as soon as possible.
Long-term resident permits are usually given in countries that have no permanent resident permit. After a few years of residence, foreigners can apply for a long-term resident permit of 5 or 10 years. In Europe, there is also the EU long-term resident permit that foreigners (third-countries nationals) can apply to after living in the European Union for 5 years. This permit provides the ability to travel freely in the EU and it’s easier to obtain residence in any country in the union.
Visit the EU website to learn more about the EU Long-term resident permit.
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