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Refugee Claim

How do I know if I could be accepted as a refugee in Canada ?

  A refugee is a person who fears persecution if they go back to their country of nationality. Fear of persecution usually means a serious chance of physical harm, detention or some other form of cruel and unusual punishment. In some cases, discrimination or harassment could be considered serious enough to amount to persecution.

Must I have already experienced persecution?

No. The standard is whether or not there is a serious possibility that you would be persecuted if you go back to your country.

What are typical examples of refugee cases that are accepted?

  • Women who fear beatings from their husbands, violence or other serious forms of punishment from other family members.
  • Women who refuse to conform to expectations such as arranged marriages, dress code or genital mutilation. In fact,Canada is a world leader in recognizing gender-based persecution and has issued guidelines to ensure that these claims are dealt with in a fair and sensitive manner.
  • Members of religious or ethnic minority groups who fear persecution from the general population or from non governmental organisations where the police are unable or unwilling to protect them.
  • Members of religious or ethnic minority groups who fear persecution from the general population or from non governmental organisations where the police are unable or unwilling to protect them.
  • Homosexuals who are persecuted simply because of their sexual orientation.
  • People who are persecuted by a powerful criminal gang or mafia such as drug traffickers.

Can my family members be protected with me?

  Yes. In most cases, Canada respects the principle of family unity so that an immediate family will have one hearing and one decision.

Can anyone who fears persecution be accepted?


  There is no pre-determination to guarantee the acceptance of your case. The approval or refusal of your case is the result of a single decision maker of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board who, after hearing your testimony and examining the supporting evidence, decides whether your claim is credible. That is why it is essential to provide documentary proof of your story, be well prepared for your hearing and, to ensure the proper preparation of your case, hire a lawyer who is an expert in refugee law to assist you throughout the process.


  Since June 28th 2002, Canada accepts refugees who fear cruel and unusual punishment, a risk to their life or torture. However, your claim will not be accepted if your fear is one of generalized violence faced by everyone in the country, if it is based on a need for medical treatment, or if you are able obtain protection from the authorities
in any part of your country. Furthermore if the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board believes that you are a member of a terrorist group, have participated in human rights violations or committed serious non-political crimes, you can be excluded from refugee protection.


  If you are a citizen/national of more than one country, then you must explain why you cannot obtain protection in any of your countries of citizenship/nationality. If you are able to automatically obtain protection in a country different from your current country of residence, you could be denied protection in Canada .

How long do I have to wait until I have a decision?

  Processing times now average between 4 to 8 months.

What can I do if I am refused?

  You would have the right to remain in Canada while you apply for an appeal to the Federal Court, and make submissions for a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment. You may also make an application for Permanent Residence in Canada based upon humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Do I have the right to work while waiting for the decision?

  YES, almost from the beginning of the refugee process.

Are my children allowed to attend school?

  Yes. Children of refugee claimants may attend public elementary and high schools free of charge.

Are we eligible for medical coverage?

  The federal government guarantees free emergency medical coverage for those who cannot afford to buy their own medical insurance. Some medical clinics also offer free check ups to refugee claimants.

Is it true that Canada has closed its borders to refugees coming form the USA ?

  Since the end of 2004, many asylum seekers located in the United States have not been able to make refugee claims at the U.S-Canada land border. This is what is commonly referred to as the "Safe Third County Agreement". However, there are many exceptions to this agreement.


This law does not apply to

  • Refugees claimants who make their claim  from inside
  • Canada regardless of how they initially entered the country,
  • Refugee claimants arriving at Canadian airports even if they first transited through the U.S.A.

For claims made at the US-Canada land border, the law does not apply to

  • Children under 18 who are not accompanied by their parents and whose parents are not in the U.S.A.,
  • Refugee claimants who have extended family members in Canada , including parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, uncles and aunts.
  • Refugee claimants from the following countries currently under a moratorium: 
    Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Burundi, Haiti, Iraq, Liberia, Afghanistan , and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • Refugee claimants (such as Mexicans) who are required to obtain a visitor visa to the USA but not to Canada
  • All claimants who meet these exceptions are eligible to apply for refugee status in Canada,



What are the exceptions to the safe third country rule?

You can still make a refugee claim in Canada at a land border point:

o   A spouse or common-law partner*
o   A legal guardian
o   A child
o   A father or mother
o   A brother or sister
o   A grandfather or grandmother
o   A grandchild
o   An uncle or aunt
o   A nephew or niece

         and that family member is:

o   A Canadian citizen
o   A permanent resident
o   A protected person (i.e. determined to be a refugee or a person in need of protection)

o   Accepted in principle on humanitarian and compassionate rounds (removal order stayed under

Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations 233)

o    18 years of age or over and is a refugee claimant (and the claim has not been rejected, withdrawn,

found abandoned or ineligible)

o    18 years of age or over and is in Canada on a work permit or study permit (but check the exceptions)

  * a common law partner is a person (of the same or opposite sex) with whom you are cohabiting in a conjugal relationship and have cohabited for at least a year.

  • If you are under 18 years, you are not accompanied by your father, mother or legal guardian, you are unmarried and neither your mother, father nor legal guardian is in Canada or the US.
  • If you are a national of a country to which Canada has temporarily suspended removals (currently, Afghanistan, Burundi , Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Iraq, Liberia, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe). This exception does not apply if you are inadmissible to Canada on criminality grounds.
  • If you have been charged with or convicted of an offence punishable with the death penalty in the country where the charge or conviction was made. (However, you may be ineligible to make a claim on grounds of criminality).
  • If you have a valid visa to enter Canada, other than a transit visa.
  • If you come from a country for whose nationals Canada does not require a visa but the US does (currently Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Botswana, Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Mexico, Namibia, Papua New Guinea, Republic of (South) Korea, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Solomon Islands, Swaziland, Western Samoa.)


How can I prove that I meet one of the exceptions?
  If you arrive at a border point and make a refugee claim, an immigration officer will interview you to see if you meet any of the exceptions. The officer will take into account what you say and will look at any documents you provide.  The officer may also do some research: For example, if you say you have a family member in Canada, the officer will look for that person in the immigration databases and may try to speak
to them on the telephone.  You should try to bring with you documents that show you meet an exception.  If you have a family member in Canada , you should know how to contact that person on the day you make your claim in Canada .

  What will happen if an immigration officer decides I meet an exception but later it turns out not to be true?

Deliberately giving false information to an immigration officer can have very serious consequences.  If you falsely claim to meet one of the exceptions and the Canadian government later finds out that you did not answer the questions truthfully, the Canadian government can take away your right to make a refugee claim (Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (104(1)(c)).

  Does the Safe Third Country rule apply to all refugee claimants arriving from the US ?  

No, the rule applies only if you make a refugee claim at a land port of entry

The rule does not apply if you arrive by air or by water; claims made at an airport, port or ferry landing are not affected by the safe third country rule, even though you arrived from the US

The rule does not apply to claims made inside Canada . If you enter Canada from the US and later make a refugee claim at an immigration office within Canada , you are not affected by the Safe Third Country rule.

If I have made an asylum application in the US , does this affect my right to make a claim in Canada ?

No.  If you meet one of the exceptions to the Safe Third Country rule, you can make a claim in Canada whether or not you have applied for asylum in the US .

How can I get advice on my own case?

Vermont Refugee Assistance:
Tel. 802-223-6840
vtrefuge@together.net or jenness@accessvt.com

Freedom House, Detroit
Tel. 313-964-4320 ext*833,
VIVE, Buffalo, Tel. 716-892-4354

Committee to Aid Refugees, Montreal,
Tel. 514-272-6060, ext 5
carmtl@cam.org (for people destined to Montreal or elsewhere in Quebec)

FCJ Hamilton House, Toronto
Tel. 416-469-9754
fcjhamilton@on.aibn.com (for people destined to Toronto),

*Note: for documents of the Canadian Council for Refugees opposing the Safe Third Country Agreement and analyzing its likely impacts, go to http://www.web.net/ccr/

Can we apply for Refugee protection from outside Canada?

  Yes, if you are outside your country, but this is a very long and difficult process in most cases. You must first apply to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). You usually have to show that you will be economically successful in Canada . Also, the refugee definition is more restrictive.  You do not have the right to a lawyer at your interview, and the waiting period could be many years. You must also show that you cannot be settled in your country of present residence.

To discuss your case in all confidentiality, we invite you to call or email us. Please be informed that a consultation fee is applicable.


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