The Government of Canada has a history of welcoming refugees to Canada. UNHCR Canada, an agency committed to protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, reports that most refugees come to Canada with limited or no resources, despite adverse challenges, refugees embrace the opportunity to become important contributors to Canada.
If you are seeking refuge because you fear persecution and your country is unable to provide protection, you may be eligible to seek asylum in Canada. There are other requirements you will have to meet for eligibility, as well.
If you are currently living in Canada, and fear for your life, or are afraid that you would be subjected to extreme punishment, cruel treatment, or torture if you returned to your home country, you may be able to claim protection and become a permanent citizen of Canada.
How To Apply For A Refugee Status In Canada
You have to follow specific rules and submit a Canada Refugee Application. Your application will be reviewed and may be referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB).
This board helps refugees who are considered to be in need of protection and handles any related issues.
You can claim refugee protection if you:
- meet the definition of Convention Refugee or Person in Need of Protection.
- did not come into Canada through the Canada-United States border as this contravenes the Safe Third Country Agreement.
- don’t have a criminal record.
- haven’t had a previous application denied
- don’t have a removal order
- cannot get protection from your home government
- don’t have any safe place alternative in your home country
- are personally affected by the risk, and it is not an issue faced by others in your country, such as famine
- A lack of medical care does not count unless you are refused care because of persecution or discrimination.
Fear of punishment for committing a crime does not count unless the laws violate international standards.
Immigration and Refugee Board
The IRB will be responsible for determining whether you meet the United Nations (UN) definition of a Convention refugee, or are a person in need of protection.
Convention refugees are those who are living outside of and cannot return to their country of origin, because of possible persecution based on race, nationality, politics, religion, and membership in a specific social group.
People Who Need Protection
To be defined as a person in need of protection you need to demonstrate that you would probably face torture, cruel and unusual treatment or punishment, or that your life would be at risk if you were forced to return to your original country.
Resettlement is the process of accepting refugees from outside Canada. You cannot apply directly under this, but instead, you need a reference from the United Nations Refugee Agency, a private sponsorship group, or an approved referral organization.
Claimants vs. Resettled
Refugee claimants are different from resettled refugees. Asylum seekers make a claim in Canada at a port of entry, in person or online. Resettled refugees are screened for security and medical purposes before being issued a visa for entry into Canada.
What You Need To Know
The Safe Third Country Agreement
The Safe Third Country Agreement remains in effect. Individuals entering Canada at a land port of entry cannot make a refugee claim and will be returned to the U.S. unless they meet a relevant exception.
The Safe Third Country Agreement states that claimants must seek protection in the first safe country in which they arrive. It applies if you make an asylum claim in the U.S. / Canada land border port of entry. The asylum system in the U.S. meets international standards the U.S. is considered a safe third country.
There are some exceptions:
- If you have a family member in Canada
- If you are an unaccompanied minor under the age of 18
- You have a valid Canadian visa
- You have been charged with or convicted of an offence that could subject you to the death penalty in the U.S. or in a third country
- If you have entered Canada at a location that is not a port of entry
You need to have specific, legitimate reasons why you need asylum. There is a rigorous rules-based process to determine if a claim is legitimate and valid.
Health and Security Screening
All claimants undergo health and security screening, including biographic and biometric checks.
Irregular Crossings Into Canada
Some individuals enter Canada irregularly between designated ports of entry. This can be dangerous and is a violation of the law. Only enter Canada at designated ports of entry. Those intercepted face detention while their case is addressed.
Refugee Status Process
Once you have started your claim, you will need to fill out a Basis of Claim Form (BOC Form) to give details about yourself and why you are seeking protection in Canada. There will be other supporting documentation you will need.
In order to make a decision the IRB will hold a hearing where they will question you in detail about your refugee claim. They will also analyse the proof you have submitted to the board and address any concerns with your claim.
Prepare For Hearing
Next, you will need to prepare for a hearing. Collect and submit all relevant evidence that supports your claim. Review the Country of Origin Information (COI) and National Documentation Packages (NDPs) that is given to you by the IRB.
You must show evidence of your identity with official, original documents with your name and date of birth on them. You should also collect any available documents that are relevant to justify your claim, including evidence that the risk you face in your country is personal, and the government in your country is unable to protect you. Any evidence to indicate the conditions you were facing personally is important. Witness statements may also be useful, or you may request a witness at your hearing.
Waiting For Hearing
You must keep your contact information up to date with the IRB while waiting for your hearing. You will receive a Notice to Appear by mail when your claim is ready to be heard, with the date of the hearing.
Hearings take place in private to protect you and your family.
At The Hearing
At your hearing, there will be an impartial decision-maker who will ask you questions. This person is called the Member. A Minister’s Counsel may be there. If you have a lawyer or immigration consultant, this representative for you will be there. You may also request an interpreter, at no cost to you. You may also have a family member with you.
The member will introduce everyone and explain the process to you. You will make a solemn affirmation, to promise to tell the truth. The member will go through all the documents that were submitted.
You will have to testify to tell your story and be asked questions by the member, your counsel, and the Minister’s counsel if there are one. Witnesses will also then give their testimony.
Next, the member will ask you or your counsel to explain why your claim should be accepted.
The member may decide on your claim and advise you immediately, or they may wait and send you the decision by mail.
Waiting For A Refugee Status Claim Decision
If you are waiting for your decision, you may have access to services, including social assistance, education, health services, and others, while waiting for a decision. You can also apply for a work permit after a medical examination.
A decision is usually made in about four months. You aren’t eligible for federal settlement refugee services until your claim has been approved, but you may be eligible for some provincial refugee services.
If your refugee claim has been accepted, you receive protected person status and are eligible for federal settlement services. This means you can stay in Canada and apply for Permanent Residency. In most cases, after some time, you will be able to apply to become a Canadian citizen.
Some refugee services you may receive are:
- a needs assessment and referrals to refugee programs
- information and an orientation to help you
- language assessment and training
- support for finding employment, including referrals to assess foreign credentials
- connections to meet people and integrate into communities
To become Canadian citizens, refugees must live in the country for at least three years, pay a fee, and pass a Canadian knowledge test; 89 percent of refugees become citizens.
If you get a negative decision, you may be able to appeal the decision to the Refugee Appeal Division, or in some cases, the Federal Court. You may not be eligible for social assistance, depending on your province, and if the appeal still results in a negative decision, you are expected to return to your country of origin.
Refugee Programs In Canada
There are some important programs in Canada to help you. These include UNHCR Canada, part of the global UN Refugee Agency, which is committed to “saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people” according to the Red Cross.
Help With Your Process
If you need help with navigating legal requirements for your situation, Oro Immigration Services can help. We are experienced, professional consultants, with diverse professional backgrounds and qualifications. Our dedication and caring have made us one of the best immigration companies in Canada.