Canadian Refugee Protection Program

The Canadian refugee protection program has two main categories:

People seeking protection from outside of Canada

People who can be resettled from outside Canada fall into two classes.

1) Convention Refugee Abroad Class

You may be in this class if you:

  • are outside your home country; and
  • cannot return there due to 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 with a particular sexual orientation.

You must also be:

  • referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or another referral organization, or be sponsored by 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.

2) Country of Asylum Class

You may be in this class if you:

  • are outside your home country or the country where you normally live and have been, and continue to be, seriously and personally affected by civil war or armed conflict, or have suffered massive violations of human rights.

You must also be:

  • referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or another referral organization or be sponsored by a private sponsorship group, and
  • privately sponsored, or have the funds needed to support yourself and any dependants after you arrive in Canada.

You will have to pass a medical exam and security and criminal checks.

People making refugee claim from within Canada

Canada offers refugee protection to people in Canada who fear persecution and who are unwilling or unable to return to their home country

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.

Who is 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 with a particular sexual orientation.

Who is 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.

Some people are not eligible to claim refugee protection in Canada. 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;
  • 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.

In addition, people who are subject to a removal order cannot make a refugee claim.

Safe Third Country Agreement

Canada has an agreement with the United States where people who want to make a refugee claim must do so in the first safe country they arrive in. This means that if you enter Canada at a land border from the United States, you cannot make a refugee claim in Canada. In some cases this rule does not apply (for example, if you have family in Canada).