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How to claim refugee status in Canada

There are two main parts to Canada’s refugee system. If you are seeking protection from outside of Canada, then the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program applies. If you are applying for protection within Canada, then you have to make a refugee protection claim.

Refugee protection claim within Canada

If you have just entered Canada through an airport, seaport or land border and you want to make a claim, you can do so to an officer at your port of entry. That officer decides, based on the information you have provided, whether you are an eligible to be a refugee claimant.

If you are deemed eligible, you will be given a date for a hearing at the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) right away. The officer will give you a Notice to Appear for a Hearing. The notice will contain the time, date and location of your hearing.

The officer will also give you an application package called the Basis of Claim form (BoC). This is a very important form upon which your entire refugee case will be based and the IRB will heavily rely on this form during the hearing.

It’s very important to know that you will only have 15 days to fill out the forms and file them with the Immigration and Refugee Board.

As this form is the most important basis of your refugee claim it must be filled out properly, be complete and as error-free as possible. Any errors in the forms could have serious repercussions to your claim.

Therefore it’s always best to have the assistance of an immigration lawyer when filling out these forms. If you are unable to afford a lawyer, you can apply to the legal aid agency of the province or territory in which you are making your claim.

After you have submitted the BoC, then you need to wait and prepare for your IRB hearing date. Even if you filled out the BoC on your own it is rarely a good idea to prepare for or go to the hearing without representation by an immigration lawyer.

Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program

If you are trying to come to Canada as a refugee you must be:

  • Referred by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) or another designated referral organization, or
  • Be sponsored by a private sponsorship group.

There are two classes of refugee claims for people making looking to be resettled in Canada:

  • Convention Refugee Abroad Class: this class may apply if you are outside your home country and have a well-founded fear of persecution due to race, religion, political opinion, etc.,
  • Country of Asylum Class: you are likely in this class if you are outside your home country or the country where you normally live and have been, and continue to be, seriously and personally affected by civil war or armed conflict, or have suffered massive violations of human rights.

Refugees are resettled into Canada in three ways:

  • Government-Assisted Refugees (GARs): initial resettlement (up to one year) is supported by the Canadian government or the government of Quebec;
  • Privately sponsored refugees (PSRs): belong to one of the classes of refugees referred to above. A private Canadian sponsor agrees to provide financial and other support for one year; and
  • Blended Visa Office-Referred refugees (BVORs): referred to by the UNHCR and matched with a private sponsor. Six months of support is provided by the Canadian government and six months through a private sponsor.

Note: Be aware Quebec has their own rules and procedures in selecting refugees.

Read more:

Refugees and Asylum

The refugee system in Canada