Key Information for
Are you looking for help? In this section, you will find helpful resources to help you navigate the Canadian asylum system – from learning more about who can get refugee protection in Canada to finding out what happens when you claim asylum at the border.
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.
For those intending on claiming asylum in Canada
For those travelling to Canada by plane
The Canadian government has applied restrictions to air travel, effective 18 March 2020. Subject to limited exceptions, air carriers are required to deny boarding to any person who is not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, unless that person has resided in the U.S. for the past 14 days.
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. Certain quarantine or isolation measures may apply following a medical screening. All persons entering Canada from another country, including the U.S., are currently asked to self-isolate for 14 days. Find out the latest travel advice from Health Canada for travellers arriving 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 remain 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 are considering coming through the Southern Ontario region, this map of refugee support agencies located on both sides of the border (in the U.S. and in Canada) may be of assistance to you. While we try to provide only links to useful, reputable and safe websites, we have no control over the information provided by this site. This link does not imply a recommendation by UNHCR for all the services referenced on the site. Content may change without notice and may happen before we have the opportunity to remove a link. UNHCR assumes no responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided.
If you make a refugee claim upon crossing the border in-between official border posts
The Canadian government has applied border restrictions, effective 21 March 2020. Asylum-seekers who enter Canada irregularly in-between official land border posts will temporarily be sent back to the United States and be able to come back at the Canadian border once the measure is lifted.
The above-mentioned restrictions do not apply to asylum-seekers who are:
- American citizens;
- Unaccompanied minors who do not have a parent (father, mother or legal guardian) in the United States and have neither a spouse or a common-law partner; and
- Habitual residents of the United States who are not citizens of any country (“stateless persons”).
Read section 5 of the Order for the list of exceptions regarding asylum claims made at the border. Note that asylum-seekers allowed to enter Canada to pursue their claim will be requested to self-isolate for 14 days.
For those who are already in Canada
You can make a refugee claim at an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) inland office. Note however that IRCC is no longer receiving refugee claims or interviewing asylum-seekers in person until further notice. You are required to send instead your request by email to: IRCC.RefugeeClaim-Demandedasile.IRCC@cic.gc.ca. You will receive an automated reply requesting additional information (copy of the biographic page of your passport or a copy of another piece of identification, proof of entry or presence in Canada, etc.).
Once your request has been received and processed, you will receive an Acknowledgement of Claim document by email. This document serves as proof that you have made a refugee claim and that you have medical coverage (Interim Federal Health Program coverage). When the office re-opens, you will be scheduled to return for fingerprinting and an interview.
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
For asylum claims made at a port of entry (airport, official border post), the IRB has extended the time for the deposit of the Basis of Claim (BOC) form to 19 July 2020 in the following two cases:
- If your deadline to file the Basis of Claim (BOC) form falls between 15 February 2020 and 4 July 2020;
- If your claim was referred to the IRB between 20 June 2020 and 3 July 2020.
For port of entry claims referred to the IRB on or after 4 July 2020, 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 of the IRB has issued a resumption notice on 19 June 2020. If your hearing at the Refugee Protection Division was cancelled due to the pandemic, the IRB will reach out to you to re-schedule your hearing. For those based in Vancouver, in-person hearings will resume the week of 20 July 2020. For all other IRB locations, in-person hearings will resume the week of 3 August 2020. Find out more about the IRB’s measures related to COVID-19 on the IRB’s website.
Submission of documents
The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada front offices are closed. Effective immediately, in-person correspondence (hand-delivery) is no longer accepted. As of 15 June 2020, the Vancouver office of the IRB resumed mail and registry support functions. Mail services will restart in IRB offices in Montreal and Toronto on 22 June 2020, with partial registry resuming in those same cities on 29 June 2020. Full ‘in-person’ reception services for the Refugee Protection Division will reopen only with the resumption of in-person hearings. 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)
Temporary extensions of time granted
Effective 19 August 2020, the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) of the IRB reinstates the time limits for filing a notice of appeal or perfecting an appeal that were temporarily suspended on 15 March 2020. This means that a notice of appeal or appellant’s record due between 1 January 2020 to 18 August 2020 inclusive, must be submitted to the RAD by 19 August 2020. Read the practice notice on resumption of time limits at the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) on the IRB’s website.
For those who have a hearing scheduled before the Refugee Appeal Division of the IRB, note that hearings are postponed until further notice. You will receive a resumption notice 30 days before your new hearing date. Find out more about the IRB’s measures related to COVID-19 on the IRB’s website.
Submission of documents
As of 15 June 2020, the Vancouver office of the IRB resumed mail and registry support functions. Mail services will restart in IRB offices in Montreal and Toronto on 22 June 2020, with partial registry resuming in those same cities on 29 June 2020. From these dates forward, you will be able to provide the Refugee Appeal Division with documents by mail, fax, email or ePost Connect. Reception desks will not be open to receive in-person deliveries. Read the instructions on sending correspondence on the IRB’s website.
For those awaiting a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) hearing
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has suspended all PRRA hearings until further notice.
In regards to detained individuals
Precautionary measures have been taken to limit the risk of virus contamination.
Detention reviews are only being held by teleconference only.
For persons released from detention on reporting conditions
For people in Quebec released from detention with reporting conditions, the office where you had to report is closed from 19 March 2020 for an indefinite period.
As a temporary alternative measure, the persons concerned must now report by calling at 438-340-7985 or 438-340-8117.
Please note that if the phone line is busy, you must call back until you reach an officer. Please note that no voice message will be accepted and that the usual hours must be respected, that is to say from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm and from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
Please note that all other release conditions still apply.
For those who lost their income due to COVID-19
Asylum-seekers may benefit from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. The federal government will provide a taxable benefit of $2,000 a month for up to 4 months to eligible workers who have lost their income due to COVID-19. Find out more about the eligibility criteria and the application process on the Government of Canada’s website.
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 the COVID-19, as well as any other medical situation (with rare exceptions).
For medical assistance about COVID-19, you can reach the following numbers:
- 1-877-644-4545 (Québec)
- 1-866-797-0000 (Ontario)
- 1-888-268-4319 (British Colombia)
- 1-204-788-8200 (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.
Latest update: 29 June 2020
Are you seeking asylum in Canada?
If you fear persecution in your country, once in Canada you may seek protection by presenting an asylum claim to the Canadian authorities. Find out more about who can get refugee protection in Canada.
You can make a refugee claim either upon arrival in Canada at a port of entry (airport or land border) with the Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) or inside Canada at the nearest Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) office.
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 links 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 by CBSA. Find out more about what happens when you claim asylum at the border.
For any entry in Canada, 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 tribunal that makes decisions on immigration and refugee matters. Learn more about proving your identity and find out who will process your claim.
If your claim is eligible to be referred to the IRB, you will be given a very important document called the Basis of Claim (BOC) form, in which you will explain why you are seeking protection in Canada. You must fill out the BOC within the specified timeframe. A decision-maker at the IRB will consider the information you provide in the BOC, your testimony at a hearing and other related evidence to decide if you qualify for refugee protection.
If your claim is not eligible to be referred to the IRB, you may have access to another process called Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) which will be conducted by an IRCC immigration officer. Regardless of whether your refugee claim is assessed by the IRB or through a PRRA, the authorities will evaluate your fear of persecution and decide whether or not to grant you international protection.
For a better understanding of the asylum procedure, have a look at our flowchart on the asylum process in Canada.
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.
Consult our documents in other languages:
- The asylum system in Canada (Français) (Español) (عربي) (Kreyòl)
- Who will process your asylum claim? (Français) (Español) (عربي) (Kreyòl)
- Asylum claims: proving your identity (Français) (Español) (عربي) (Kreyòl)
- What is a Basis of Claim form? (Français) (Español) (عربي) (Kreyòl)
- What happens when you claim asylum at the border? (Français) (Español) (عربي) (Kreyòl)
- How to prove your link to family members in Canada? (Français) (Español) (عربي) (Kreyòl)
- Who can claim asylum at the border? (Français) (Español) (عربي) (Kreyòl)
- Who can get refugee protection in Canada? (Français) (Español) (عربي) (Kreyòl)
- Winter in Canada (Français) (Español) (عربي) (Kreyòl)