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.
There are two types of refugees; Convention refugee and persons in need of protection.
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:
- political opinion
- nationality or
- membership in a particular social group, such as women or people of a particular sexual orientation.
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.
Refugee claims in Canada
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.
You may or may not be 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.
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.
Refugee claims from outside Canada
Resettlement is the term used by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to describe the legal process of bringing a refugee to Canada to live as a permanent resident.
CIC relies on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), other referral organizations and private sponsorship groups to identify and refer refugees for resettlement in Canada.
Private sponsoring groups are groups or corporations that have signed an agreement with Canada's Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. In this agreement, they promise to provide funds and carry out certain duties to sponsor refugees who come to Canada.
CIC uses three legal processes, which are divided into refugee classes, for resettling refugees in Canada. The three refugee classes are:
Convention Refugees Abroad Class
You are a Convention Refugee if you are outside your home country, or the country where you normally live, and can't return to that country because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on:
- political opinion
- nationality or
- membership in a particular social group, such as women or people with a different sexual orientation.
You must also be:
- outside Canada, and want to come to Canada
- referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), another referral organization or a private sponsorship group and
- selected as a government-assisted or privately sponsored refugee, or have the funds needed to support yourself and any dependants after you arrive in Canada.
Canada relies on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), other referral organizations and private sponsorship groups to identify and refer Convention Refugees Abroad to be resettled in Canada.
The UNHCR identifies refugees to be resettled in Canada when there is no other solution or no effective protection available to them.
A Canadian visa officer then decides whether the person identified meets the requirements of Canada's Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program, and if the person will be admitted to Canada.
Country of Asylum Class
The Country of Asylum Class is for people in refugee-like situations, who do not qualify as Convention refugees.
You are eligible for the Country of Asylum Class if you:
- are outside your home country or the country where you normally live
- have been, and continue to be, seriously and personally affected by civil war or armed conflict, or have suffered massive violations of human rights
- cannot find an adequate solution to your situation within a reasonable period of time and
- will be privately sponsored or have the funds required to support yourself and your dependants.
Canada relies mainly on private sponsorship groups to identify and refer refugees who meet the criteria of the Country of Asylum Class.
A Canadian visa officer then decides whether a person meets the requirements of Canada's Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program, and if the person will be admitted to Canada.
Source Country Class
You are in the Source Country Class if you:
- live in a country that has been named a source country of refugees
- live in your home country
- have been, and continue to be, seriously and personally affected by civil war or armed conflict
- have lost the right of freedom of expression, the right of dissent or the right to engage in trade union activity, and have been detained or imprisoned as a result
- fear persecution because of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion
- cannot find an adequate solution to the situation within a reasonable period of time and
- will be assisted by the Government of Canada, be privately sponsored or have the funds needed to support yourself and your dependants after you arrive in Canada.
If you live in one of the following countries, you can apply directly for resettlement to Canada. Contact the Canadian visa office serving your region.