VisaGuide » Canada Visa » Refugee Program
Guide to seeking asylum in Canada for refugees.

People who have to flee their country (and are not able to return) because of the fear of prosecution, a war, or natural disasters are refugees.

Many countries have programs in place to help refugees, Canada included.

The Canada refugee system is divided into two programs: one for people wanting to resettle to Canada from abroad, and one for those who are already in Canada but cannot return to their home country.

Which Are The Canada Refugee Protection Programs?

The two refugee protection programs for Canada are:

  • The Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program. This program is aimed at the protection of people who are outside Canada at the time of application.
  • The In-Canada Asylum Program. This program offers protection to people who are already in Canada when they make their refugee protection claims.

The Canada Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program

Through this program, refugees living abroad can be resettled into Canada.

How does the Canada Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program work?

In order for a refugee to be eligible to enter Canada as a refugee, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), another referral organizations, or a private sponsor has to identify them for resettlement. This means that the refugee cannot apply for his own resettlement directly to Canadian authorities.

United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) or other referral organizations

The (UNHCR) identifies refugees for resettlement based on priority levels: Emergency (if they have a medical or security issue that requires immediate attention), Urgent (if they have a medical risk that requires resettlement within six weeks), or Normal (if there are no medical or security risks). The speed through which their application is processed depends on the priority level.

The UNHCR selects individuals from countries where they have asked for refuge in and resettles them to a third country which has agreed to accept refugees, Canada included. Canada has accepted 7,700 refugees through UNHCR in 2018 alone.

Private Sponsors or Sponsor Groups

There are private sponsor groups within Canada who can identify refugees for resettlement. They are:

The Sponsorship Agreement Holders

These are organizations (religious, ethnic, community or service organizations) that have signed agreements of sponsorship with the Canadian Government to support refugees. They either sponsor the refugees themselves or work with other members of the community.

Groups of Five

This is a group of at least five adult Canadian citizens/permanent residents who gather in order to sponsor a refugee become resettled in their local community. This group provides the refugee with a settlement plan and sponsors them financially for up to one year.

Community Sponsors

This group includes organizations, associations, or corporations which sponsor refugees. Like the Groups of Five, they also give the refugee a settlement plan and can financially support them for up to one year.

These types of private sponsorship group can find refugees to sponsor through one of two ways.

  • Through the Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) Program, which partners refugees that the UNHCR has identified with a sponsor in Canada.
  • Or, they can find refugees through people in their local community, churches, community groups, or ethno-cultural groups.

What are the requirements for the Canada Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program?

In order to qualify for permanent residence in Canada as a refugee, the applicants have to meet certain conditions:

  • They have to be referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or a private sponsor group.
  • They have to qualify as a Convention Refugee Abroad Class or Country of Asylum Class. They qualify if:
    • They’re scared to be prosecuted due to their race, religion, nationality, political standing, or their membership in a certain social group (Convention Refugee Abroad Class); or
    • They are affected personally and seriously from a civil or armed conflict, or have had their human rights violated (Country of Asylum Class); and
    • They are not at the time of application in Canada
    • They are not in their country of nationality and cannot get their country’s protection/are afraid to do so.
    • They do not have a nationality country and cannot return to the country they formerly lived in/are afraid to do so.
  • They do not have another durable solution. Durable solutions are:
    • Voluntary repatriation. If the refugee cannot voluntarily repatriate, it means the situation in their country has not improved in a way that lets the refugee return there safely.
    • Local integration. If local integration is not possible, it means the refugee cannot become locally integrated into the country they seeked asylum in.
    • Resettlement in a country other than Canada.
  • They have to pass medical and criminality checks. The IRCC offices abroad have professionals who can conduct the checks for any applicant and their family members.

How to apply for the Canada Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program?

There is an application package available on IRCC’s site with the necessary forms to apply for refugee resettlement as a Convention Refugee or as a Humanitarian-Protected Person Abroad.

The forms include:

  • A Generic Application Form for Canada.
  • A form for Additional Dependents.
  • A form about the refugee’s background.
  • Refugees Outside Canada form, inquiring about the reasons behind the refugee claims.
  • A form on whether the refugee used a representative.

If the refugee is referred by the UNHCR or another referral organization, the IRCC abroad lets the refugee know how to submit the application into their office.

Once the IRCC receives the application, they email the refugee a letter of confirmation along with an assigned file number. If the application is accepted, the IRCC decides which city/province they will be resettled to.

If the refugee is referred by a private sponsor group, then the group handling their referral has to submit the application in their place to the Resettlement Operations Centre in Ottawa (ROC-O) of IRCC. if the application is accepted, the refugee will resettle to the area where their sponsor is from.

There are no application fees for refugees.

In both cases, the IRCC, along with select partners, arrange for the refugee’s travel and settlement arrangements. They inform the refugees about the arrangements after they are completed.

The In-Canada Asylum Program

The In-Canada Asylum Program allows people who are already in Canada to apply for refugee status. This program provides refugee protection to people who cannot return to their country of nationality due to fear of prosecution or because they may be tortured or punished.

What are the In-Canada Asylum Program requirements?

To qualify for the In-Canada Asylum program a person has to be:

  • A conventional refugee – meaning they are outside their country because they may be prosecuted due to their race, religion, political stance, or because they belong to a particular social group.
  • A person in need of protection – meaning they cannot return to their country because they could be torture, have their lives at risk, or face other forms of unusual and cruel punishment.

Whether or not a person meets these conditions is decided by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The Canadian officers who review the application for the In-Canada Asylum Program decide if it is eligible to refer it to the IRB.

A claim may be not eligible to be referred to the IRB if the refugee:

  • Has been recognized as a Convention refugee by another country and they can return there.
  • Has arrived through the Canada-United States border.
  • Cannot be admitted to Canada because of criminal activity or the security risks they pose.
  • Made another refugee claim in the past and it was not found eligible for referral.
  • Made another refugee claim in the past and it was rejected by the IRB.
  • Withdrew/abandoned a past refugee claim.
  • Is subject to a removal order.

How to apply for the In-Canada Asylum Program?

The refugee has to download the application package on IRCC’s website. The package includes an instruction guide, the  necessary forms and a list of documents that the applicant has to submit. These are:

  • The original copies of all identity and relationship documents, including:
    • Birth certificate
    • Passport
    • Travel document
    • Marriage certificate
    • Identity cards
    • Baptismal record
    • Four passport-sized pictures taken in the last six months for the applicant and all family members.
  • Optional: Other documents that support the refugee claim. For example:
    • Membership card for a political or social organization.
    • Medical/police reports.
    • Business records.
    • News articles or human rights reports from the condition in the country of the applicant.

All the documents that are not in English or French have to be translated into the language the refugee chose for the proceeding. The translator has to give a declaration stating their name, the language translated, and that the translation is accurate. This statement has to be included in the application.

The applicant and their family members also have to undergo a medical examination.

Submission of the application

After the refugee has completed all the forms as well as gathered the documents, they have to submit it in person to an IRCC office.

If the applicant is an adult, they must date and sign the forms where it is required.

If the applicant is a minor, their parent has to date and sign on their behalf.

If the IRCC officers handling the application deem that the refugee has met all the eligibility criteria, they send him/her to enter an eligibility interview. There, the officer assesses whether the refugee claim is eligible to be referred to the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) of the Immigration and Refugee Board.

The IRCC will make a decision within three days.

If the refugee meets the eligibility criteria

If the refugee is found eligible and the IRCC refer them to the IRB, then the refugee will receive a package containing:

  • An appointment for appearing at the Refugee Protection Division of the IRB and make a case for refugee protection.
  • A Refugee Protection Claim Document (RPCD) confirming that the case has been referred to the IRB.
  • Interim Federal Health coverage, covering the refugee as long as they are a refugee claimant.
  • A Medical Report to be submitted to a doctor for completion.
  • A list of conditions.
  • Other immigration-related documents.

Once the IRB receives IRCC’s referral, they send the refugee a Notice to Appear, which lets them know when they should appear for the hearing.a Notice to Appear.

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