There are several steps to Canada's refugee application process.

Eligibility for Canada Refugee Status

Not everyone is eligible to make a refugee claim. A person is not eligible if:

  • the claimant has ever before made a refugee claim in Canada;
  • the claimant has been recognized as a refugee in another country and can be returned to that country;
  • the claimant came to Canada through a designated "safe third country";
  • the claimant has been determined to be inadmissible on the basis of security, serious criminality, organized criminality, or violating human or international rights.

Note: Canada has signed an agreement with the United States designating the U.S. as a "safe third country". Claimants coming from, or even just passing through the U.S., are ineligible to make refugee claims at a Canadian border crossing by land. They will be turned back to the U.S.

A Canada immigration official initially decides if a refugee claim is eligible. If the claim is made at a border crossing, a quick decision can be expected as to eligibility. It takes considerably longer for a decision with respect to eligibility if the refugee claim is first made at an immigration office inside Canada.

Referral to the Immigration and Refugee Board

If an immigration official considers the claimant to be eligible, then the file is transferred to an independent administrative tribunal called the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). The IRB determines whether the claimant is a genuine refugee and deserving of protection in Canada. The claimant is required to first complete a Personal Information Form (PIF) and submit it to the IRB. About 12 months later the claimant attends a hearing before a member of the IRB. In rare cases, where the evidence is exceptionally clear, a claimant may be accepted without a hearing.

Refugee status decision

If the IRB determines that the claimant is a genuine refugee, the claimant becomes a protected person and can apply for Canadian permanent residence inside Canada.

If the IRB refuses the claimant, an application for judicial review can be requested from the Federal Court of Canada. If the claimant does not succeed in Federal Court, then removal from Canada becomes probable.

Before removal, the claimant can ask for a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA). The same grounds for protection are assessed as in a refugee claim, but the decision is made by a Canada immigration official instead of the IRB. In cases that have already been considered by the IRB, only changes in circumstances that have occured since the IRB decision will be taken into account. In some instances, even claimants who are ineligible to make a refugee claim are entitled to a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA).

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