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4 Things to Consider if you are Seeking Refugee or Asylum Status in Canada

1. Who can obtain refugee status in Canada?

In 2022, the Government of Canada accepted over 28,000 asylum seekers, giving them status in Canada as “convention refugees” or “protected persons”. In Canada, the Immigration Refugee Board determines who is a convention refugee or person in need of protection, based on a specific set of criteria. To be a convention refugee, an individual must be outside of their home country and have a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, political opinion, nationality or membership in a particular social group. To be a person in need of protection, an individual must be a person in Canada who would be subjected personally to a danger of torture, risk to their life, or a cruel and unusual treatment or punishment if they were returned to their home country. An individual can make a claim for refugee status at a port-of-entry (such as a border crossing, airport, etc.) or after they have already entered Canada.

2. Can a refugee claimant access any social services?

Besides meeting the criteria as either a convention refugee or a person in need of protection, an individual must be found eligible to make a claim for refugee status. Eligibility factors that are considered include:

  1. whether the claimant has committed a serious crime,
  2. made a previous claim in Canada,
  3. made a claim in another country,
  4. or received a protection in another country.

Although the refugee claim process can take several months or even years, once an individual is found eligible to make a claim for refugee status in Canada and while their claim is pending, they may have access to services such as social assistance, education, health services, and legal aid. In addition, once an individual has undergone the required medical examination, most individuals can apply for a work permit to begin working in Canada while their claim is pending.

3. What if I was in the United States prior to entering Canada?

Canada has an agreement with the United States, the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), which requires refugee claimants to seek protection in the first safe country they arrive in. For the purposes of this agreement, both Canada and the United States are considered “safe countries”. The terms of this agreement apply to all individuals who are making a refugee claim at a land port of entry or who enter Canada between ports of entry and make a claim within 14 days of entry. This agreement does not apply to those who arrive by sea or by airport. There are several exceptions for those who would typically be barred by making a refugee claim in Canada due to the STCA. These exceptions include refugee claimants who have family in Canada, unaccompanied minors under 18, individuals holding a valid Canadian travel document, and those who have been charged or convicted of an offence that could subject them to the death penalty in the US.

4. How can a lawyer help me with my claim?

The process of claiming refugee status in Canada is complex as there are very specific requirements that must be met for a person to obtain status as a refugee or protected person. It is essential that a refugee claimant submits a complete and detailed application that meets all the required criteria, as an individual only has one chance at making a successful refugee claim. A failed refugee claim will lead to a removal order and will prevent you from staying in Canada. In the case of a failed refugee claim, you may be able to make an application for a temporary resident permit, or a pre-removal risk assessment. However, these options will not be available until 12 months has passed since your failed claim. At Sierra Immigration Alliance, our Refugee or Asylum lawyers can assist you in making your refugee claim, including preparing your claim, gathering supporting evidence and representing you at your hearing.


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