Key Information for
Asylum-Seekers

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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

Updates

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 March 18, 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 an asylum 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 themselves 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

The Canadian government has applied border restrictions, effective March 21, 2020. Subject to limited exceptions, asylum-seekers who present themselves at a Canadian official land border post or 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. Exceptions apply to American citizens, parents with American minors, unaccompanied minors and habitual residents of the United States who are not citizens of any country (“stateless persons”). This is a temporary measure that will last until the pandemic ends. Watch the Canadian Prime Minister’s announcement on border restrictions and read section 4 of the Order.

For those who are already in Canada

You can make a claim at an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) inland office. Note however that IRCC will no longer be receiving refugee claims or interviewing asylum seekers in person from March 17 to April 13 inclusively. You are required to send instead your request by email to: IRCC.RefugeeClaim-Demandedasile.IRCC@cic.gc.ca. Please provide a copy of the biographic page of your passport or a copy of another piece of identity (as the case may be). You will be contacted by email for next steps.

Once your request has been received, an Acknowledgement of Claim will be sent to you by email or mail. Once 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

Temporary extensions of time granted for the Basis of Claim form

The Immigration Refugee Board has extended the time for the deposit of the Basis of Claim form. Deadlines during the period from February 15 to April 15, 2020 are extended to May 30, 2020. Read the practice notice on the temporary extension of time limits for filing the basis of claim form on the IRB’s website.

Hearings postponed

For those who have a hearing scheduled before the Refugee Protection Division of the IRB, note that all hearings and appointments are postponed until at least Monday, May 4, 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. 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

Temporary extensions of time granted

The Immigration Refugee Board has allowed time extension for filing a notice of appeal and perfecting an appeal. If the deadline is during the period from February 15 to April 15, 2020, this date is extended to May 30, 2020. Read the practice notice on the temporary extension for time limits for filing a notice of appeal and perfecting an appeal 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. 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:

  • Detained individuals will attend their detention reviews by tele-conference or video-conference to avoid their transportation to the Immigration Refugee Board and limit the risk of virus contamination;
  • Other hearing participants, for example counsel, hearings officers and bondspersons, can take part in hearings by telephone or video-conferencing should they wish to do so.

Find out more about the IRB’s measures related to COVID-19 on the IRB’s website.


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 March 19 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 under a removal order

Suspension of the removals

The removals of people whose asylum claim has been refused by Canada will be paused for 3 weeks as of March 17, 2020.


Medical assistance

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)

Find out the latest information from the Government of Canada on COVID-19.

Latest update: March 27, 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) formin 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.


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