Making a refugee claim
Are you seeking asylum in Canada?
Photo: ©UNHCR/Andrea DiCenzo
Seeking asylum in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic
Please note that the situation is quickly evolving, and that while UNHCR will endeavour to update the below information regularly, asylum-seekers should also verify the information with Government authorities.
Latest update: November 23rd 2021
For those intending on claiming asylum in Canada
For those coming to Canada through a land border
If you make a refugee claim at an official land port of entry
The refugee process at official land ports of entry remains unchanged. Under the Canada–U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), persons coming to Canada from the U.S. cannot make a refugee claim at official Canadian border posts unless they qualify for an exception to the Agreement. Learn more about who can claim asylum at the border and how to prove your links to family members in Canada.
If you make a refugee claim upon crossing the border in-between official border posts
The Canadian government has lifted the COVID border restrictions in place since 21 March 2020. As of 22 November 2021, asylum-seekers who enter Canada irregularly in-between official land border posts will be admitted to Canada for the purposes of their asylum claim.
Note that asylum-seekers allowed to enter Canada to pursue their claim will be requested to self-isolate for 14 days if not fully vaccinated.
If you crossed between land ports of entry at the Canadian border since March 2020 and were sent back to the U.S
You may now return to Canada at an official port of entry to resume your refugee claim.
What you will need:
- travel documents (such as passport, visas)
- identification documents (such as driver’s licence, birth certificate)
- proof of vaccination against COVID-19 if you are fully vaccinated
If you are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should have a 14-day quarantine plan. A negative COVID-19 molecular test is not required prior to your return to Canada.
For those travelling to Canada by plane
As of September 7, 2021, any foreign national who is eligible to enter Canada will be able to land on Canadian soil for non-discretionary travel if they have proof of being fully vaccinated. Foreign nationals who are not fully vaccinated will need to meet the conditions of an exemption or travel for non-discretionary purposes.
Links to information:
If you fall under one of the exceptions and arrive at a Canadian airport, procedures for making a refugee claim remain unchanged, but quarantine or isolation measures will apply if you are not fully vaccinated or cannot demonstrate that you are fully vaccinated. As of 21 February 2021, all travellers entering Canada, regardless of citizenship, must follow testing and quarantine requirements. Find out more about mandatory quarantine or isolation on the Government of Canada’s website.
Pre-arrival screening requirements for air travel to Canada
Make sure you are taking an approved COVID-19 test for entry to Canada. Check the pre-entry test requirements on the Government of Canada’s website.
All travellers who are fully vaccinated and eligible to enter Canada are exempted from the quarantine measures. Find out more details on COVID-19 vaccinated travellers entering Canada on the Government of Canada’s website.
As of 21 November 2020, you must use ArriveCAN before checking in at the airport to submit your:
- Travel and contact information;
- Quarantine plan and/or vaccination status
- COVID-19 symptom self-assessment.
- Your negative test result within 72 hours or proof of a positive test obtained within 14 to 180 days prior to your trip.
Please bring your ArriveCAN receipt (electronic or paper) with you to show the border services officer upon arrival.
For those who are already in Canada
As of October 6, 2021, individuals who are already in Canada who wish to make a claim for refugee protection can create a secure account in the Canadian Refugee Protection Portal (CRPP), complete a questionnaire and submit supporting documents online, including the completed Refugee Claim Submission Form.
Individuals who have already submitted an application via email or who have started the asylum process through Connexion do not need to resubmit their documents through PCPR. They can continue to use Connexion to submit the required documents.
Claimants may also receive messages through PCPR, such as a notice to appear for an interview with an officer at one of the Refugee Intake Offices in Canada or instructions for the immigration medical examination (IME).
Get more information on how to make a refugee claim in Canada on the IRCC website.
For those who have a pending asylum application before the Immigration Refugee Board (IRB)
Temporary extensions of time granted for the Basis of Claim form
If you claimed asylum at a port of entry (airport, official border post), the IRB has extended the deadline to provide the Basis of Claim (BOC) form, an important document where you explain why you are afraid to go back to your home country:
- If your claim was transferred to the IRB on or after 29 August 2020, you will have 45 days to give your completed Basis of Claim (BOC) form to the IRB.
For all other claims, the usual 15-day time limit applies. Read the practice notice on the temporary extension of time limits for filing the Basis of Claim form on the IRB’s website.
The Refugee Protection Division (RPD) is now scheduling virtual hearings for all refugee protection claims. That said, any claimants who prefer to have their hearing from an IRB office can advise the RPD of this when their claim is scheduled and the RPD will book an on-site hearing for them. The Member presiding over the hearing ultimately retains the discretion to determine the location of the hearing if there are reasons why it may be inappropriate for a given claim to proceed virtually. Find out more about the IRB’s measures related to COVID-19 on the IRB’s website.
Submission of documents
Even though the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada offices resumed operations, in-person correspondence will not be accepted until further notice. You can provide the RDP with documents by mail, by fax, or electronically. Read the instructions on sending correspondence on the IRB’s website.
For those filing an appeal before the Refugee Appeal Division of the Immigration Refugee Board (IRB)
As of 2 November 2020, the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) will now schedule virtual hearings for all appeals that require a hearing. Appellants or their representatives will be asked to confirm their availability for the proposed hearing date and can request an in-person hearing if they have specific concerns with holding the hearing virtually. The RAD will consider these requests on a case-by-case basis. Find out more about the IRB’s measures related to COVID-19 on the IRB’s website.
Submission of documents
Currently, you are able to provide the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) with documents by mail, fax, email or ePost Connect. In-person correspondence will not be accepted until further notice. The RAD will use Canada Post’s epost Connect to exchange documents electronically with registered users. Read the instructions on sending correspondence on the IRB’s website.
For those applying for a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA)
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is still accepting Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) applications at this time. You also have now the option to submit and communicate about your application online. Find out more about PRRA application deadlines on IRCC’s website.
For those awaiting a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) hearing, your hearing may be held either:
- On site at an IRCC office;
- Remotely, via videoconference.
An IRCC officer will determine if a remote hearing is appropriate in your case.
In regards to detained individuals
Precautionary measures have been taken to limit the risk of virus contamination.
Please note the Immigration Division’s (ID) intention to resume in-person hearings on 14 September 2020. Detention reviews and detained admissibility hearings will continue to be conducted primarily by teleconference until further notice due to ongoing health-related restrictions on the transportation of detainees and limitations on access to detention facilities. Read the practice notice on the resumption of in-person hearings on the IRB’s website.
For those who lost their income due to COVID-19
The Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) gives income support to employed and self-employed individuals who are directly affected by COVID-19 and are not entitled to Employment Insurance (EI) benefits. The CRB is administered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). If you are eligible for the CRB, you can receive $1,000 ($900 after taxes withheld) for a 2-week period. Find out more about the eligibility criteria and the application process on the Government of Canada’s website.
Processing of refugee claims and appeals for individuals applying under the Government of Canada’s special measure
The Government of Canada announced that, starting 14 December 2020, it will be accepting applications for permanent residence from pending and unsuccessful refugee claimants who worked in Canada’s health care sector and provided direct care to patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read the practice notice on Refugee Protection Division (RPD) and Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) processing for individuals applying under public policies from the Government of Canada.
Access to COVID-19 clinics for free contagion testing is open to all people regardless of immigration status.
The Interim Federal Health Program coverage covers all diagnostic tests and treatments for COVID-19, as well as any other medical situation (with rare exceptions).
For medical assistance about COVID-19, you can reach the following numbers:
- 1-833-784-4397 (federal information line)
- 1-877-644-4545 (Québec)
- 1-866-797-0000 (Ontario)
- 1-888-268-4319 (British Colombia)
- 1-888-315-9257 (Manitoba)
- 1-811 (Alberta)
- 1-811 (Saskatchewan)
For more information on additional supports and up-to-date resources in your local community, please refer to your local Public Health Units or municipal information sites.
Seeking asylum in Canada
If you are seeking asylum in Canada, you will find in this section resources to help you understand the Canadian asylum system – from learning more about how to make a refugee claim to finding out what happens when you claim asylum at the border.
If you fear persecution in your country, you may seek protection once in Canada by presenting an asylum claim to the Canadian authorities. Find out who can get refugee protection in Canada.
How to make a refugee claim
You can make a refugee claim either upon arrival in Canada at a port of entry (airport or land border) with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) or inside Canada at the nearest Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) office. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is Canada’s law enforcement agency responsible for border control. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is the department of the Government of Canada responsible for matters dealing with immigration to Canada, refugees, and Canadian citizenship.
Arriving at the border from the United States
Note that the Canadian government has put restrictions on refugee claims made at official land ports of entry. Under the Canada–U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), persons coming to Canada from the U.S. cannot make an asylum claim at official Canadian border posts unless they qualify for an exception to the Agreement. Learn more about who can claim asylum at the border and how to prove your link to family members in Canada.
If you make a refugee claim upon crossing the border in-between official border posts, you will be arrested by the police and questioned about your irregular entry. You will then be brought to the nearest official border post to have your asylum claim processed. Find out what happens when you claim asylum at the border.
The process of claiming asylum in Canada
Once you have made an asylum claim, CBSA or IRCC officials will first conduct an interview to verify your identity, perform a security screening and determine if you are eligible to have your asylum claim referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), an independent administrative tribunal responsible for making decisions on refugee matters. It is a federal institution that operates at arm’s length from the Government of Canada. Learn more about proving your identity and find out who will decide whether your asylum claim is accepted or rejected.
If your claim is eligible to be referred to the IRB, you will be given a very important document called the Basis of Claim form, in which you will explain why you are seeking protection in Canada. You must fill out the Basis of Claim form within the specified timeframe. The IRB will consider the information you provide in the Basis of Claim form, your testimony at a hearing and other related evidence to decide if you qualify for refugee protection. If you are a refugee claimant preparing for your hearing, get ready with the Refugee Hearing Preparation Guide, a collaborative initiative developed in 11 languages for each region of Canada.
If your claim is not eligible to be referred to the IRB, you may have access to another process called the Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA), which will be conducted by an immigration officer from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Regardless of whether your refugee claim is assessed by the IRB or through a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) by IRCC, the authorities will evaluate your fear of persecution and decide whether or not to grant you international protection.
Please note that in Canada, UNHCR is not involved in the various processes related to individual cases. UNHCR Canada does not offer direct services for asylum-seekers and will refer you to other available services in Canada for assistance should you contact our offices. For more information on where you can ask for help, how to apply for asylum, and what rights and duties you have as a refugee or asylum-seeker in Canada, please visit UNHCR’s Help section.
Please help refugee families in need.