How to apply for asylum in Canada?

You can apply for asylum in Canada at the airport, or any port of entry, upon arrival or online if you are already in Canada.

How to apply for asylum in Canada?

You can apply for asylum in Canada at the airport, or any port of entry, upon arrival or online if you are already in Canada.

Official people from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) or the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will determine your refugee claim eligibility. They will then move your application to the Immigration and Refugee Board for a hearing.
CBSA or IRCC people may refuse your claim if they think

  • you have committed a serious crime,
  • you have already made a previous claim in Canada, or
  • you have received protection in another country.

You need to seek legal advice to appeal this decision if necessary.

Irregular crossings into Canada

Some individuals enter Canada outside of recognized entrance points. That is dangerous. This behavior can also be deemed not legal by Canadian authorities. The Canadian government firmly asks anyone to enter the country exclusively at specified entry points.
After crossing the border, people apprehended by law enforcement are transported to the nearest CBSA port of entry or inland CBSA or IRCC office, whichever is closest. That is where officials conduct an immigration assessment and determine whether detention is necessary. At this step, people can file for asylum. Persons also undergo health tests to address immediate health needs, security screenings to ensure they do not constitute a security threat to Canada, and refugee claim eligibility assessments to determine if they are entitled to file a claim. These exams involve biographical and biometric evaluations, for example, fingerprinting.

People not apprehended by law enforcement frequently make their way to the nearest IRCC or CBSA office to request refugee status.
If their claim is admissible, they are referred to the Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) for a hearing. In most cases, the foreign national will be freed on conditions pending their hearing.

Individuals whose claims are determined to be ineligible will be issued a removal order and released with conditions requiring them to appear for a future removal proceeding. CBSA may provide foreign nationals who are obliged to leave Canada a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA). Although the CBSA initiates the procedure, IRCC conducts the PRRA prior to the removal of an individual from Canada. A PRRA evaluates the risk of a person’s return to their native country.

The Safe Third Country agreement

According to the international refugee convention, it is irrelevant how a person enters a country to claim asylum.

Canada and the United States signed the Safe Third Country agreement, mandating that refugee claimants seek asylum in the first safe country in which they arrive. The Agreement applies to people claiming asylum at a land border crossing between Canada and the United States.

The Safe Third Country agreement does not apply to those who enter from the United States

  • by sea,
  • between ports of entry, or
  • at an inland port such as an airport.

What happens after you claim asylum?

You will obtain a fair hearing before an impartial tribunal, Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). Each case is decided based on the provided evidence and arguments.

Read more on the asylum process in Canada.

How to apply for asylum in Canada from outside?

You need to get a referral to enter Canada as a refugee. You can be referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a certified referral agency, or a private sponsoring group.
You cannot apply for asylum with the Canadian authorities directly from outside Canada.

You can be referred if your living conditions belong to one of two refugee profiles. Canadian officials name these refugee profiles as refuge classes, the “Convention Refugee Abroad Class” and the “Country of Asylum Class”.

Convention Refugee Abroad Class

You may be in this refugee class if you:

  • don’t live in your country,
  • cannot return to your country because you are afraid of persecution based on
    – race
    – religion
    – political opinion
    – nationality, or
    – membership in a particular social group. A social group can be defined by gender, sexual orientation, or else.

The Government of Canada, a group or an organization, or a mix of the two can sponsor this class of refugees.

You may also qualify if you come to Canada with sufficient finances to maintain yourself and your family. You will still require a reference from the UNHCR, a referral organization, or a private sponsoring group.

Country of Asylum Class

You may be in this refugee class if you:

  • do not reside in your country or the nation where you typically reside, and
  • a civil war or armed conflict severely affects you, or if someone consistently denies your basic human rights, and your country’s authorities do not protect you.

A group or an organization can sponsor this class of refugees.

You may qualify if you have sufficient finances to maintain yourself and your family in Canada. You will still require a reference from the UNHCR, a referral organization, or a private sponsoring group.

Travel to Canada

You can come to Canada and claim asylum once you are in Canada.

If you need a visa to travel to Canada, read more on how to apply for a visa to Canada.


Source: Government of Canada – Claiming asylum in Canada, Government of Canada – Resettle in Canada as a refugee

The cover image above was taken in Guelph, Canada. Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash