Refugees

Refugees and people needing protection are people in or outside Canada who fear returning to their home country. In keeping with its humanitarian tradition and international obligations, Canada provides protection to thousands of people every year.

Canada offers refugee protection to people in Canada who fear persecution or whose removal from Canada would subject them to a danger of torture, a risk to their life or a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

Groups and individuals can sponsor refugees from abroad who qualify to come to Canada.
Who can apply

Canada offers refugee protection to people in Canada who fear persecution and are unwilling or unable to return to their home country. People who are subject to a removal order cannot make a refugee claim.

Eligibility

Some people are not eligible to claim refugee protection in Canada. Officers receiving your refugee claim will decide whether it is eligible for referral to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB), an independent administrative tribunal that makes decisions on immigration and refugee matters. The IRB decides who is a Convention refugee or a person in need of protection. Your refugee claim may not be eligible for referral to the IRB if:

  • You have been recognized as a Convention refugee by another country to which you can return;
  • You have already been granted protected person status in Canada;
  • You arrived via the Canada-United States border (see Safe Third Country Agreement below);
  • You are not admissible to Canada on security grounds, or because of criminal activity or human rights violations;
  • You made a previous refugee claim that was found to be ineligible for referral to the IRB;
  • You made a previous refugee claim that was rejected by the IRB; or
  • You abandoned or withdrew a previous refugee claim.

Safe Third Country Agreement

Under an agreement with the United States, refugee claimants must seek asylum (protection) in the first safe country where they arrive. For example, if you entered Canada at a land border from the United States, you will not be able to claim refugee protection in Canada. Sometimes there are exceptions (such as those who already have family in Canada).

Definitions

You may find the following definitions useful as you learn more about refugee claims in Canada.

Convention Refugee

Convention refugees are people who are outside their home country or the country where they normally live, and who are unwilling to return because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on:

  • race
  • religion
  • political opinion
  • nationality or
  • membership in a particular social group, such as women or people of a particular sexual orientation.

Person in need of protection

A person in need of protection is a person in Canada whose removal to their home country or country where they normally live would subject them personally to:

  • a danger of torture;
  • a risk to their life; or
  • a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

How to apply

There are two ways to apply for refugee protection in Canada:

  • You can make a claim when you arrive in Canada, at the port of entry. This could be at an airport, a seaport or a Canada-United States border crossing. At ports of entry, claims are received by officers of the Canada Border Services Agency.
  • You can also make a claim from within Canada at a Citizenship and Immigration Canada office.

Make sure you bring all the identification you may have with you, including your passport, driver’s licence and any other documents.

The officer receiving your refugee claim will assess whether your case is eligible to be referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) for a decision.

You will be given a Personal Information Form, which must be completed and sent to the IRB.

If you arrive at a land border, you may not be eligible to make a refugee claim because of an agreement between Canada and the United States known as the Safe Third Country Agreement.