Breaking Down the Refugee Application Process
When escaping violence and persecution in your home country, Canada often seems like a safe haven where you can get a fresh start. But during this stressful time, navigating the refugee process can be stressful and confusing.
To help you during this trying time and give you a better understanding of your options, we have outlined the process of coming to Canada as a sponsored refugee or seeking asylum from inside Canada and compare the differences between the two channels.
Refugee Vs. Asylum Seeker
If you are someone who has fled your home country due to a well-founded fear of violence or persecution and are unable/unwilling to return and are seeking protection in Canada, you will be classified as a refugee once your refugee claim is accepted.
An asylum seeker, on the other hand, is an individual seeking international protection whose claim has not yet been decided on by the country they have requested asylum in.
Not all asylum seekers end up becoming officially recognized as a refugee, however, every refugee starts out as an asylum seeker.
How to Come to Canada as a Refugee
In order to obtain refugee protection in Canada, you must first make a refugee claim either in or outside of Canada.
You can make a refugee claim in Canada at any port of entry when you arrive by land, boat, or plane, and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) will decide if you are eligible to make a refugee claim in Canada.
If you are being sponsored by the Canadian government or a private group, you can make a refugee claim outside of Canada.
Private sponsorship is where a private organization such as a church or community group takes responsibility for refugees coming to Canada.
Private sponsors will help refugees throughout the entire asylum process, from filling out paperwork and providing guidance and emotional support to assisting them integrate into Canadian society and finding them living accommodations when they arrive.
Private sponsors will also contribute financially to refugees’ travel, accommodation, food, and other living expenses for either 12 months or until the refugee has become self-sufficient.
Government Sponsorship and Financial Support
In order to be eligible for sponsorship from the Canadian government, you must be referred for resettlement by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) or another organization. You will not be able to apply by yourself.
Once accepted, you will be able to come to Canada as a government-assisted refugee and receive support for up to one year from the date of your arrival, or until you are able to support yourself, whichever comes first.
The support you will receive from the government includes:
- Allowances for food and clothing
- Income support
- Temporary housing
- Help to find employment
- Help to find permanent housing
- Orientation to Canada and your new community
Criteria for Coming to Canada as a Refugee
Canada offers refugee protection to individuals who have been forced to leave their country of origin to fear of persecution or danger. Examples of danger that you would face includes:
- Risk of death
- Risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment
If you feel like you may be at risk of any of the above examples should you return to your home country, you may be eligible for refugee protection in Canada.
However, not everyone is able to make a refugee claim. A person is not eligible for refugee protection if:
- You have made a refugee claim in Canada before;
- You have already been recognized as a refugee in another country that is considered safe for you to return to;
- You arrived in Canada by coming through a designated “safe third country;”
- You were found to be inadmissible on the basis of security, serious criminality, organized criminality, or violating human or international rights.
Safe Third Country Agreement
The Safe Third Country Agreement is an agreement between Canada and the United States that requires asylum seekers to make a refugee claim in the first safe country they arrive in.
So, for example, if you attempt to seek asylum in Canada after first entering the U.S., you will not be eligible for refugee protection and will have to return and file for protection in the U.S.
What Happens After You Apply for Refugee Protection
After applying for refugee protection, if you are found to be eligible for refugee status, you will be referred to the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) to have your case heard at a refugee hearing.
By the end of your hearing, the IRB will have made a decision regarding your refugee status, and you will have your claim denied or accepted.
If your claim is accepted, you will receive Convention Refugee status, and will eventually be able to apply for permanent residency.
If your application is rejected, you have the option of appealing the decision.
Working with An Immigration Lawyer
If you are seeking refugee protection from within Canada, working with an immigration lawyer can be incredibly beneficial to the success of your refugee case.
An immigration lawyer will be by your side to provide guidance and support and help lead you through the refugee claim process. They will also help you prepare for your refugee hearing and gather all the necessary facts, information, and evidence to support your refugee claim.